Here's what we know after three weeks of Georgia football:
- These are some very resilient Dawgs (two come-from-behind victories in two weeks).
- The secondary needs some serious attention (700+ passing yards given up in two weeks)
- Joe Cox is going to be just fine as long as he gets good protection and good receiver play.
Here's what we don't know after three weeks of Georgia Bulldog football:
- Do we have any playmakers on defense apart from Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones?
- Is our secondary suffering from a lack of discipline or a lack of direction?
- Who are these Georgia Bulldogs?...really?
As the Dawgs get ready to face the No. 1 defense in the nation, we are about to find out precisely who these Dawgs are aiming to be for the remainder of the year.
Arizona State is looking for a little payback for the loss they suffered at home last season when Georgia traveled out to Tempe.
The Dawgs spoiled what was meant to be a promising season for the Sun Devils and the fans nor the team has forgotten—even though their ire should probably be directed at UNLV; the team that beat them on their home field the week prior.
Either way, they are looking to exact a bit of revenge on this Georgia Bulldog team and what better way to do so than to beat them on their own turf while they are still riding high off two nail-biting, come from behind, victories?
Georgia will be running off adrenaline this week as they have played a lot of tough football these last couple games and may see fit to look past the Rudy Carpenter-less Sun Devils.
However, it would be dangerous to overlook any team this early in the season just because, on paper, you have the better roster—ask Oklahoma State how that worked out for them in week two versus 16.5 underdog Houston.
Games aren't played on paper.
Georgia will need to...
1. Make Danny Sullivan as uncomfortable as possible
Much like Georgia's own Joe Cox, Danny Sullivan waited his turn to be the starting quarterback too. He's ready to prove he's ready for big-time play and knows his performance this weekend at Georgia will go a long way towards proving his Sun Devils are no joke.
Sullivan's last key appearance was against USC in Los Angeles. Starting quarterback Rudy Carpenter was removed due to an ankle injury and Sullivan came in to show what he could do—he was unimpressive to say the least and wilted under the pressure.
Sanford Stadium will beat anything he's likely to have ever seen in his young career and the crowd of 92,000+ will not be kind.
However, that said, Georgia has been bad in zone coverage and unless they shore up obvious deficiencies in their execution, this could be another career day for yet another young quarterback trying to make a name.
2. Watch out for Mike Nixon and Dexter Davis on defense
Arizona State's 26-year old linebacker, Mike Nixon, has already been named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week once this season for his showstopping performance versus Idaho State where he blocked a punt and had three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown).
Defensive end Dexter Davis is as good as it gets as a pass-rusher and will be trying to make his presence felt by Joe Cox as much as possible.
If the offensive line isn't stout, Davis could muscle his way into the backfield and make life miserable for Cox. Should he do so, it could force Cox into making some poor reads and bad throws—leading to interception opportunities for Nixon.
3. Control the clock
Despite two impressive victories by Georgia, they have been lousy with clock control. So far this year, the Dawgs have given up a total of 14 minutes of ball control to opposing teams. That's 14 minutes more time seen on the field by the defense.
If that trend continues, the Dawgs are going to have one very bruised, battered, and tired defense before long.
This week the Dawgs need to take advantage of an Arizona State defensive front that allowed Louisiana-Monroe to rack up 136 yards on the ground against them last week. Pound the ball with Richard Samuel and Caleb King. Make their front four work to get us off the field.
It's exciting to air it out but SEC football is about clock control and establishing a solid running attack—it's time to let our running backs put in some work.
4. Limit/Eliminate turnovers
The Dawgs have played some very sloppy football this season, and their ranking of 116th in the nation for turnover margins is proof positive of that fact.
Georgia cannot continue to make careless mistakes with the ball and continue to think the football gods will shine on them for the win. The schedule only gets tougher from here, and better teams will take advantage of such blunders.
Much of the carelessness can be attributed to poor execution by our players. Last week, against the Razorbacks, the Dawgs lost the ball on a bad special teams play where Prince Miller lost sight of the ball after being run into inadvertently by Brandon Boykin, and, Richard Samuel lost a fumble when he mishandled a handoff at the line.
The Dawgs need to start playing smarter football and begin taking the ball instead of giving it away.
5. Get better coverage from the secondary
Arizona State may have a lot of questions to answer about who they are versus top-tier competition, but there is no doubt they have some talented pass-catchers on their roster. If Danny Sullivan is able to get into a groove, he will have the benefit of three returning receivers at his disposal.
Kyle Williams, Kerry Taylor, and Chris McGaha combined for 1,270 yards and eight scores last season and all are proven playmakers for the Sun Devils.
They are hands-down the most experienced set of receivers the Dawgs will have faced thus far and the secondary for Georgia has been awful to say the least.
Last week, against the Razorbacks, defensive backs were often out of position or badly beaten on plays. Senior free safety Bryan Evans was beaten the most often and it is questionable as to why he still has his job.
That said, no one in the Georgia secondary aside from Reshad Jones has not been beaten on a play. They have all played less than stellar at some point and if the Dawgs want to force the Sun Devils into mistakes, they will need to do a better job of being in position.
There's simply no excuse for receivers having five-yard cushions to catch the ball.
Arizona State will be without Thomas Weber, their Lou Groza Award-winning kicker/punter. Georgia will have a decided edge in the kicking game should this matchup be close down the stretch as Blair Walsh has been stellar so far this season.
Further, look for both Caleb King and Orson Charles to make their presence felt with more authority this week. King looked good in limited duty last week, besting Samuel in both the quality of his running and his ability to hold onto the ball.
Last season, A.J. Green broke out against the Sun Devils and you can expect ASU to do all they can to limit his catches—leaving open the likelihood of either Mike Moore or Tavarres King getting some big time catches.
The Dawgs should win this one. There is no doubt that they have better personnel and a decided edge with the home field but neither of those facts guarantee a win.
If the Dawgs continue to give up significant concessions in both turnovers and time of possession, these Devils could waltz right out of here with a win.
Final Score Prediction: Georgia 30, Arizona State 17