The Hutson Mason era officially begins for Georgia on Saturday as the Bulldogs take on Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Nov. 30
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, Ga.
Radio: Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network
Spread: Georgia by 3.5, via 5Dimes
The Program examines Hutson Mason as he prepares to fill the vacancy left by Aaron Murray.
The challenge for Georgia this week is a challenge that was already being anticipated heading into 2014. The Bulldogs must find a way to integrate Hutson Mason, a talented passer in his own right, into an offense that already features an impressive array of weapons.
Mason's ability to jell with Todd Gurley, Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and others was expected to springboard the Dawgs next season. Cohesion must now be formed in short order.
Georgia Southern defeated a much more talented Florida team with its multifaceted option ground attack last weekend. While Georgia fans got a good laugh out of their SEC rival's misfortune, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham needed to take notice as the Dawgs prepare for a similar offensive approach from Georgia Tech.
Discipline in assignments will maximize the talent advantage that the Bulldogs defense has over the Yellow Jackets. Unfortunately, Georgia's most recent effort against a prolific rushing attack (Auburn) was an embarrassment, as the Tigers racked up 323 yards on the ground.
Overcome The Trend
Georgia Tech has won just one of the last 12 matchups in this rivalry. Even Georgia's worst team of the Mark Richt era, a 6-7 2010 squad, defeated the Yellow Jackets. Last year's 42-10 Bulldogs victory did little to provide optimism for Tech.
Georgia Tech must find some semblance of confidence against an in-state rival that has absolutely dominated recent history. The Jackets can't reverse the series' current trend, but they need to overcome it.
Georgia's offense will be fielding a new starter at quarterback for the first time since 2010. Georgia Tech needs to capitalize on this transition by putting pressure on Mason and maximizing home-field advantage to create a hostile environment.
Taking away Mason's ability to disperse the ball will put an awful lot of pressure on Todd Gurley, who has not toted the football more than 20 times in a single game since September.
Anytime a player steps in for an injured starter, the pressure is on. In this case, that pressure is exacerbated by the fact that Mason is standing in for the most statistically impressive quarterback in SEC history. His ability to manage the game will be paramount in deciding the outcome of this game.
Fortunately, Mason has one of the best players in the country behind him. Todd Gurley has missed large portions of three games and the entirety of three more outings this season with injuries, but he's still managed to account for 1,089 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns.
Georgia's leading tackler, Wilson is particularly effective against the run. Two weeks ago, Wilson registered 18 total tackles. A similar performance will be necessary this week against Tech.
As the quarterback for the Yellow Jackets, Lee is primarily counted on to read the defense and react within the running game. But Lee is also a threat in the passing game. Despite connecting on fewer than 48 percent of his passes, Lee still averages a respectable 8.44 yards per pass attempt.
A senior running back, Godhigh has accounted for 961 yards and eight touchdowns on just 74 total offensive touches. He's a threat to break a big play every time he touches the ball, and like Georgia's Gurley, he's capable of making plays as a runner and a receiver.
The Georgia defense must be mindful of his whereabouts at all times.
Hutson Mason Stepping Up and Stepping In
Wide receiver Chris Conley told Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald:
We don't feel like there's going to be a drop-off. Hutson's been prepared since day one. A lot of the guys around here, especially the older guys, have taken tons of reps with Hutson. We know he's able to execute. I don't think there's any wavering confidence in our offense or the way that we can execute.
Paul Johnson on Todd Gurley
Georgia Tech's head coach didn't beat around the bush when he compared Todd Gurley to Georgia legend Herschel Walker, telling Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "He's got all the tools that they look for. Like I said, he's good at running the football, big and physical, he's a good receiving coming out of the backfield. He can do a lot of things."
While Georgia's 2013 season has been one plagued by injuries and disappointments, the Bulldogs still hold a decisive mental and physical advantage over the Yellow Jackets.
Hutson Mason is a new starter, but he's been nothing shy of impressive in disjointed playing time to date. And although Georgia's defense has struggled all year, the unit's most consistent shortcomings have come against the passing game—and that's hardly the forte of Tech's offense.
Yet again, Todd Gurley will be the difference in this game. In a blowout last year, Gurley carried the ball just 12 times but still managed to account for 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Georgia wins by 10 points.