For the sixth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, there are two goals this season: Win the SEC and earn a BCS bowl bid. While the first isn't at stake when the team opens its season with a home tilt against the Buffalo Bulls, the latter most certainly is.
For Buffalo, the goal is simple—don't get embarrassed. Sure, a win would be nice, but the team hasn't exactly fared well against SEC competition in the past. To be fair, most teams from around the country don't do too well against the powerhouse conference.
But with Georgia potentially without four starters to suspension, Buffalo might keep things closer than you think. Let's preview this SEC-MAC showdown.
When: Saturday, September 1 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
Watch: SEC Network
Listen: Sirius 137
Live Stream: ESPN3 or WatchESPN app
Betting Line: Georgia (-38), according to Bovada.
DE Ray Drew, Concussion, Probable
What's at Stake
For Georgia, a loss would virtually end all hopes of a National Championship. For Buffalo, just showing up and playing the Bulldogs tough should give them the confidence to battle for the MAC title.
Georgia Player to Watch: Jarvis Jones, Linebacker
Jones is good enough that he could be a top-5 pick in next year's draft, and he will absolutely terrorize this Buffalo offense. The 2011 Butkus Finalist (as a sophomore) finished with 70 tackles (19.5 for loss), 13.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Like I said—expect him to terrorize Buffalo.
Buffalo Player to Watch: Branden Oliver, Running Back
The junior set a Buffalo record by rushing for 1,395 yards last season, scoring 13 touchdowns along the way. He'll probably struggle against a stout Georgia defense and excellent front seven, but if Buffalo can break him loose early, they stand a chance in this one.
If not, it could be a very long day for the Bulls.
What They're Saying
Perhaps we should call this segment "What They Aren't Saying."
With defensive back Sanders Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser already suspended to start the season, Georgia's head coach, Mark Richt, has been tight-lipped in regard to two other major pieces on Georgia's team that may face suspension.
From the Associated Press (via FOX Sports South):
Richt still won't confirm whether linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo will be suspended when the No. 6 Bulldogs open their season Saturday against Buffalo.
And Richt seems to be enjoying keeping everyone in suspense. When asked Tuesday what he expected Saturday from the two defensive leaders, Richt said "I just think we'll just have to wait and see."
Richt then smiled and said "Time will tell."
With such key players potentially missing on the defensive side, taking the points with Buffalo may be a more appealing play than you think.
Key Matchup: Ken Malcome vs. Buffalo's Linebackers
Sophomore Ken Malcome has been thrust into the starting running back role for Georgia after last year's leading rusher, Isaiah Crowell, was booted from the team. A strong early showing could separate him from freshman Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley and give him a stranglehold on the starting job.
He'll face a Buffalo defense and linebacker corps that will be without its top player, Khalil Mack, who is suspended for the game. The Bulls will find a way to replace his presence. That's no easy task—Mack had 5.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss a year ago.
I can't imagine Georgia dropping this game, but with four defensive player possibly unavailable for this game, it may not be the crazy blowout people expect. Still, look for the Bulldogs to pull away in the second half and win comfortably, 42-21.
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