Georgia Bulldogs vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers: Complete Game Preview
The Georgia Bulldogs hope to improve to 6-3 overall on Saturday with a victory over FCS foe Appalachian State.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Nov. 9
Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
Place: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 31.5, via 5Dimes
Georgia Keys to Victory
A win is expected for the Georgia Bulldogs against a lower-division opponent, but there is still plenty to play for in this game. The following factors could sweeten a victory, even against a decidedly inferior Mountaineers team.
Georgia's defense is slowly improving, and even the 20 points surrendered to Florida last week are somewhat distorted. The Gators failed to score on a drive in excess of 50 yards.
That being said, the Bulldogs have not yet held an opponent to under 20 points. A shutout should be the goal in this matchup.
Building Receiver Chemistry
Aaron Murray was glad to see Michael Bennett back in the lineup last weekend. This week, his focus should be continuing to develop chemistry with younger receivers. All indications show that Chris Conley will likely not return from his ankle injury in time for this game, so there should be plenty of balls to go around for guys like Reggie Davis, Jonathon Rumph and Blake Tibbs.
Mistake-Free Special Teams
Kicker Marshall Morgan was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week for his three field goals against Florida. This was the third time this year that he received the award. That's quite counterintuitive given Georgia's well-documented special teams struggles and the fact that he missed the first two games of the season with a suspension.
Georgia needs to continue to execute properly in the third phase of the game. A mistake-free week from this unit could bode well as the Dawgs head into the final stretch of their schedule.
Appalachian State Keys to Victory
Keep Things Interesting
As North Texas showed in September, it's possible to push this Georgia squad even with inferior talent. The Mean Green was tied with the Bulldogs at 21 with just seven minutes remaining in the third quarter thanks to two special teams scores.
App State must be prepared to take chances on offense, force turnovers on defense and wreak havoc in special teams play. Most importantly, the Mountaineers must convert such opportunities into points.
Remember That One Time...
While Michigan fans are undoubtedly tired of remembering the Wolverines' 2007 season-opening loss to App State, the Mountaineers need to continue to harness that memory. Sure, every player on that roster has departed at this juncture, but if it's been done once, it can be done again.
The Mountaineers need to play with the tenacity of a team that believes it can once again shock the world.
Players to Watch for Georgia
If the Bulldogs get out to a sizable lead, watch for backup quarterback Hutson Mason to enter the ballgame. Mason, a redshirt junior, has not seen the field since 2011 but is expected to be Murray's replacement in 2014.
He'll get an opportunity to work with a number of weapons that will be back next year. Dawgs fans will be ready to see him in action.
Gurley may not play much this week, but he must remain healthy. As he demonstrated last week, he's a true game-changer for the offense and the team as a whole. He needs to use this Saturday to get back into game shape, but the training staff also must prioritize keeping him healthy in preparation of next week's matchup with Auburn.
Wilson played like a man on fire from his inside linebacker spot against Florida and was all over the field. He leads the team with 80 tackles and has a chance to put up his fourth game of the season with double-digit takedowns.
Players to Watch for Appalachian State
The sophomore quarterback has started the last five games for the Mountaineers and has had some success through the air. In those five starts, he's thrown for more than 250 yards on three occasions while completing more than 75 percent of his passes.
He'll look to continue his success against Georgia's inconsistent secondary.
The running back out of Georgia has had a tremendous freshman campaign. In just nine games, he's accounted for 885 yards rushing and 515 receiving yards. He also leads the team with 14 total touchdowns.
What They're Saying
Todd Gurley's Workload
Mark Richt told Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph that he expects Gurley to be healthy and to play against App State. He added, "It's a game. Whoever our starters are, we're going to play them." Richt said he'd play Gurley in accordance with what's "best for the team at the time."
Mike Bobo on Michael Bennett's Return
Georgia's offensive coordinator told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald that although Bennett may not be the most athletic receiver, "If you put it near, he usually catches the ball."
Todd Grantham Trusting His Players
Georgia's much-maligned defensive coordinator told ESPN.com's David Ching, "Part of the job as coordinator is you've got to be aggressive in those situations and let the players go win the game."
For the first half of last week's game against Florida, Georgia's offense returned to its old explosive form. The returns of Gurley and Bennett were instrumental in that improvement, but Murray also benefited from the return of a few of his favorite weapons.
Against Appalachian State, the offense will once again get out to a fast start, but Murray and company won't be needed late in the fourth quarter to preserve a lead. Thanks to a strong effort by the defense and a decisive talent advantage, Georgia will enjoy a healthy halftime lead and give backups some quality playing time.
Georgia wins by 37.