Georgia-Texas A&M: Bulldogs Should Run Freely in Independence Bowl
The date was September 13, 1980. The location was Sanford Stadium. The opponent was Texas A&M.
That game saw a dominant performance on both sides of the ball as the Georgia Bulldogs ran amuck all over the nations No. 4 rated offense—winning the game 42-0.
Herschel Walker was the runaway star that night as a sellout crowd watched the talented freshman rack up 145-yards and three touchdowns as the Dawgs marched toward a second consecutive victory and an eventual National Championship.
Fast-forward nearly 30 years and the circumstances and the teams are much different. The Dawgs are coming off a disappointing 7-5, while the Aggies are an even less-impressive 6-6 having ended their season with a heartbreaking loss to Texas.
Neither team seems like it offers must-see tv for a college football fan outside of Athens or College Station but it's football and that is really all it needs to be for any fan to want to see this game.
The Aggies have made a showing against the SEC once this season, a 47-19 loss to the Arkansas Razorbacks. So naturally, as a Dawg fan, it is easy to believe the Dawgs will manhandle Texas A&M.
Well, here's what is certain about the Georgia Bulldogs, there are no givens. The Dawgs haven't had one win this season that wasn't hard-fought, close, or downright comfortable. Even the 30-24 win against Georgia Tech had it's moments of "uh-oh".
There's no such thing as an easy win and the Dawgs defense will be tested against the 5th ranked offense in the nation. A&M may look like an SEC pushover on paper and the 42-0 rout mentioned at the outset might give some measure of comfort but I say, dismiss that thought.
However, this isn't 1980. Georgia wasn't a national championship team this season. This isn't Erk Russell's defense and although Caleb and Washaun are fine backs, they ain't no Herschel.
So, leave confidence at the threshold and consider the matchups:
Offensive line vs. Defensive line:
The Aggies are rated No. 8 in the nation in sacks. They can get after the ball with the best of them and it has led to 35 total sacks on the year—17 of which came from Von Miller. Miller is a beast coming off the end and he has registered multiple sacks in five games this season. He needs to be accounted for at all times if the Dawgs are going to give Joe Cox any freedom in the pocket.
Cox, for his part, needs to be aware of the aggressive pass-rush that will be mounted by the Aggies. Even an NFL caliber talent like Ryan Mallett of Arkansas found some challenges early. The key will be how well Cox adjusts to the blitz and how effective the offensive line is at controlling the line of scrimmage.
Georgia run game vs A&M defensive line
The run defense of the Aggies isn't nearly as good as the pass rush has been this season as they are allowing more than 168 yards on the ground per contest, including 293-yards to Texas in their regular-season finale.
The Dawgs, for their part, are reaching their stride after a 339-yard performance against Georgia Tech. So, it has to be stated that Georgia is likely going to get the backs involved early and often and their performance could be the key to this game's outcome.
One of the keys to how effective the Georgia defense will be may play out in the game of field position. Drew Butler, the Dawgs All-American punter, will be touching the field with some new direction and hopefully that direction means there will be no directional kicks to be had on Monday evening.
The Aggies rank 45th in the nation in kickoff returns. Their average return is 22-yards. The Dawgs would be wise to let Drew use that big leg for good and not evil as it will be a far better sight to see A&M starting from the 20-yard line as opposed to the 35 or the 40.
On the flip side. Both Brandon Boykin and Prince Miller have to be thinking of making a couple big returns of their own as the Aggies are giving up 30+ yards on their kickoffs—good enough to land them in the bottom third of the nation in that area.
On paper, this game could truly be a blowout for the Dawgs but if they are feeling too confident and don't take these Aggies seriously, they could find themselves looking at loss number 6 on the season.
Coach Richt will no doubt have the red helmeted crew ready to make a statement in Shreveport and let's hope that statement ends with an exclamation point.
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