The Bulldogs enter the 2009 Football season with a lot of changes from the early rumors of a National Championship a year ago. Even with the loss of key players on offense, Georgia looks to reload and compete for an SEC title.
Looking at the schedule they have a much easier road than the daunting stretch of play that haunted them in ’08. Here is a look at the Top 5 games for the Bulldogs in 2009.
Right out of the gate the Bulldogs have a big hurdle to clear in a visit to Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys were overshadowed by other big names in their conference last year but they come back from a very successful season in '08.
Led by quarterback Zac Robinson the offense is dangerous both through the air and on the ground. Statistically, last year Robinson's numbers were comparable to those of Matthew Stafford. He threw 25 TDs and 3064 yards with 8 additional rushing TD to back up his arm.
The big scare of the offense lies in the rushing attack which led the Big 12 in yardage last year. They can beat defenses with so many different weapons but their leader is Kendall Hunter who ran for over 1500 yds and 16 TD last season.
Their weakness is on the defensive side of the ball which is what exposed them in their losses last year. In wins, they held opponents to only 19.8 points per game but gave up 46.8 in losses.
So how can the Bulldogs put up points on the Cowboys D? Look for Georgia to make some big plays in the passing game which was a struggle for Oklahoma State last year. They gave up a lot of yardage through the air and only got to opposing QBs six times total last season.
Georgia's defense doesn't have to shut out the Cowboys because the Dawgs will be able to get some points on the board but it will be up to the offense and Joe Cox to have a productive day through the air to get out of Stillwater with a "W".
While the Gamecocks are coming off a mediocre season in 2008, Georgia fans know better than to look beyond this game; one that has historically been a defensive battle. Five of the last seven games between these two teams have been decided by a touchdown or less. Look for more of the same this year.
The South Carolina offense will most likely be led by sophomore Stephen Garcia who was in over his head most of last year. He was highly recruited out of high school a year ago but so far he has not lived up to the hype. Last season the young man didn't get much help from his running backs either as USC sat at the bottom of the SEC in total rushing yards.
The Defense has been somewhat inconsistent and shaky in the past season. Last year they led the SEC by allowing the least passing yards but also gave up the second most rushing TD.
To win Georgia will have to run the ball effectively and create points off of a balanced attack.
One name sums up fully the importance of this game...Lane Kiffin; the man who hasn't shut his mouth since he arrived in Knoxville. He has already started taking shots at the University of Florida head coach Urban Meyer so look for some bulletin board material for the Dawgs the week before the game.
Coming into the 2009 season there is a lot of uncertainty to who exactly this Vols team is. They were horrible last year on the offensive side of the ball coming in last in the SEC in 1st downs and second to last in scoring. While Kiffin has brought in some highly talented play-makers it may be a few years until they can get the new system in sync.
Last year Tennessee relied heavily on their defense. They put up impressive numbers holding opponents under 17 points per game and coming in fourth in the nation in yards per game allowed.
Although on paper the Bulldogs will have many advantages in this game the rivalry is still strong and pride will be on the line in Knoxville that Saturday.
By far the most important game for the Bulldogs in 2009 will come on Halloween day against the hated Gators. We all remember the 49-10 loss last year as Georgia fell apart on defense and the offense failed to get off the bus.
The Bulldogs defense should improve this year with many injured players back. Florida will be their biggest test of the secondary they will see as former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow returns for his senior season.
He has been extremely efficient for the Gators passing for 30 TD last season and adding another 12 on the ground. Tebow's biggest strength lies in his decision making as he threw only two interceptions through the entire regular season in '08.
The biggest weakness for him is when he is pressured and sacked. In the last three losses Florida has suffered in SEC play Tebow was taken down 11 times, most notably his six sacks in the 2007 game against UGA. The key for Georgia to slow down Tebow and the offense is to rattle him early.
On defense the Gators bring a very balanced attack being very good against both the pass and the run. The allowed only nine rushing touchdowns all season and 10 through the air. They also led the SEC in both points allowed per game and sacks, taking down opposing QBs 31 times.
Georgia's offensive line will have to stand strong by keeping Cox on his feet and allowing the young Bulldogs backfield to establish the running game. This is a game that will be won in the trenches both ways.
Another interesting note about this game is the advantage Georgia has coming in off of their bye week. Florida, on the other hand, will get a bye on October 3rd and will enter the UGA game coming off games at LSU, Arkansas, and at Mississippi State.
There may not have been a single game that stung worse last year than the 45-42 loss to the Jackets. Bulldog fans will not easily forget the 409 rushing yards Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones put up, most of which came in the second half.
The Tech offense will likely improve in the second year under Coach Paul Johnson and his run-happy schemes. Last year the Jackets ranked 3rd in the nation in rushing yards but were fourth to last in passing yards. They are content to move the ball slow and control the tempo. Last year they led the ACC in both points per game and 1st Downs.
The key for Georgia to stop the Tech offense is to slow down Jonathan Dwyer. In wins for the Jackets last year Dwyer rushed for 119 yards per game and only 81 yards per game in their losses. In addition to slowing Dwyer and the running game Georgia has to keep it a low scoring ballgame. Tech was 8-0 last year when they put up 17+ points. In their four losses they failed to reach that mark, making it obvious that as their offense goes, so goes the team.
To put up points on offense the Bulldogs have to beat the Jackets through the air. Tech will be playing some new faces in a secondary that already ranked last in the ACC in passing TD allowed. This gives the Bulldogs a great shot on offense as Joe Cox will have great targets this year in players like A.J. Green, Michael Moore, and freshman Marlon Brown.
This game will be big for the Bulldog nation as they try to get the bitter taste out of their mouth from last year. Nothing says football like "clean, old-fashioned hate."