Attention, Georgia Bulldog Nation: All Eyes on These Matchups
It's getting oh-so-close.
Trust me, the two months between now and the first college football kickoff of '09 will fly by. I mean, weren't we just gushing over spring game performances?
Be ready this year; be that guy that everyone turns to before the game for realistic predictions and things to watch. Be that guy who knows what's up and isn't just mouthing off.
Here, I'll even help you UGA football aficionados out. My five specific in-game matchups to watch throughout the season are as follows:
Joe Cox v. the Expectations
Occurring Sept. 5, 2009, UGA @ OK State
"Aw, c'mon, John, give me some real duels to watch. No more of this metaphorical garbage..."
Did I about capture your sentiments?
But in all seriousness, this first week will be plenty telling. After all, when it comes to quarterback performance, just how much is mental? Can you even quantify confidence or fan support?
In his starting debut, Cox gets an opportunity to light up an awful (ranked 90th last season) defense that returns a largely shaky secondary.
Sure, all four Cowboy defensive backs are now seniors, but none of these guys got significant time in the '07 matchup with the Dawgs in Athens and have certainly seen very little of Joe.
But that's not all saying this game will be an easy win. It's an opportunity for our new signal-caller to make some big plays and get the campaign off to a great start, not a guarantee.
The unthinkable could happen. Joe could come out looking like the guy who's never started a game.
And whether or not it's fair, he'll be heavily scrutinized on every play and, in large part, judged by this game.
The Bulldog Secondary v. Dez Bryant
Occurring Sept. 5, 2009, UGA @ OK State
The UGA D has plenty of tough receivers on its docket, but once again, what happens in the first week will very much set the tone for the rest of the year.
Good thing the defensive backs get...oh, wait. They get Dez Bryant here.
Dude who caught for darn near 1,500 yards last season and 19 TD. Ugh.
I refuse to count my guys out, though. Dawg CB Prince Miller remains quite an athlete, in my mind very capable of keeping up with Dez off the line for at least 15 yards.
And who knows, maybe safeties Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones have learned to wrap up rather than politely nudge when trying to contain a play?
I'll admit, the outlook here is not great, but don't jump to any tragic conclusions. I loved Asher Allen, but his loss is being made out as some sort of massive blow; expect lightning-quick Brandon Boykin to help plenty, and John Knox to do wonders when he's in.
Caleb King and Richard Samuel v. the Tennessee Front Seven
Occurring Oct. 10, 2009, UGA @ Tennessee
Up to this fateful Saturday, the Bulldog offense will not have faced a great defense. No, we never exactly bulldoze the Gamecocks, and the Sun Devils are fine stoppers, but neither South Carolina or ASU gets close to touching the Vols on this side of the ball.
The UT secondary? I shiver at the thought. I'm not saying A.J. Green won't shake 'em a few times, but I see our gameplan revolving around the tailbacks attacking that tacky orange D-line and second level again and again.
The good news is the Volunteer front seven aren't particularly experienced. The bad news is Dawg runners King and Samuel aren't very experienced, either.
Still, both of our boys have the speed to be big-name backs in the SEC, and though Tenn SS Eric Berry will make his presence felt breaking into the box, he is just one man.
Our D will swallow the seemingly eternally rebuilding Vol offense while Caleb and Richard come sprinting out of I formation to do some serious damage.
The Bulldog Front Seven v. Tim Tebow
Occurring Oct. 31, 2009, UGA v. Florida
What, you didn't think I'd leave ole Supes off the list, did you?
Georgia fans hate him, Gator fans love him, and the rest of the nation is in awe of him. And when it comes to stopping him, we're all in the same clueless boat.
He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named-Again (in this article, at least) has RBs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey on his side this campaign, meaning devoting more of our men to the pass rush is pretty risky. Of course, he doesn't have Percy Harvin any more, so devoting more of our men to the pass rush sounds kinda like a good idea.
I love that Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins will be reuniting to swallow up the Florida offensive line. These two seniors know how to get it done, especially when it comes time for smash-mouth.
DEs Demarcus Dobbs and Roderick Battle and all three starting Dawg LBs also have extensive experience against this menace, and though I won't assume that getting beaten by this menace over and over again necessarily makes a defense better, I will kindly remind you of Rennie Curran running over a certain quarterback in '07.
It is the matchup of the season, no doubt. Should the Bulldog D play as they did in the second half of the showdown of two years ago, the Heisman winner who once kissed a boy on-field could be doing some more press-conference weeping.
The Bulldog Defense v. the Georgia Tech Option Offense
Occurring Nov. 28, 2009, UGA @ GT
They "only" had two full weeks to study and figure it out last season, and still seemed friggin' unprepared when it came to game time.
Gosh, it hurts to say it, but the Yellow Jacket offense straight-up stumped us in '08. That cold and rainy day seemed to just get nastier as GT tailbacks broke to the outside over and over, picking up five yards here, seven yards there, and enough TD to skirt past us.
Will the boys have figured it out by now, or will the calls for Willie Martinez's head start back up again? To me, it really does just come down to knowing how to handle this type of attack. I mean, will you argue with me if I say UGA has top-notch athletes at every position?
Tech's key cogs (RB Jonathan Dwyer and QB Josh Nesbitt) are of course returning, so their system shows no signs of changing or slowing.
So it comes down to us knowing where to meet them and wrapping them up on the spot.
The 2009 season is fast approaching, Dawg Nation.
At least now you know what to look for.
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