Photo by ESPN
The 2017 football season kicks off for the Georgia Bulldogs under the lights this Saturday evening against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at 6:15 pm. In fact, this will be Georgia’s first opening home game to start after 6pm since the 2007 opening game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, which the Dawgs won 35-14. Starting that day for Georgia at Quarterback, was a true sophomore Matthew Stafford, a five-star recruit who had an up and down freshman season. Stafford went 18/24 for 234 yards and 2 passing touchdowns that day against the Cowboys a decade ago. The reason for mentioning this is ten years later Georgia is in a similar predicament. Again, the starting Quarterback for the Dawgs will be a true sophomore quarterback who was a five-star recruit in high school: Jacob Eason. Comparing numbers, Eason had a better freshman campaign, 16 passing touchdowns to Stafford’s 7, 8 interceptions to Stafford’s 13, and yards, 2,430 to 1,749. Though the one area Stafford has the edge was a 9-4 record, including 3 straight victories over ranked opponents (at #5 Auburn, #16 Georgia Tech, & vs #14 Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl) to Eason’s 8-5 record.
On Saturday against the Mountaineers Eason should face an easier opponent than Stafford did ten years ago, though App State should not be taken lightly. As everyone knows, the same day Stafford beat Oklahoma State, Appalachian State had the college football upset of the century with a 34-32 win at the Big House over #5 Michigan. As well as last year, as App State almost beat #9 Tennessee in Neyland Stadium, losing in Overtime 20-13. Coming into this year, App State returns 6 starters on defense that only allowed 18 points a game last year headlined by Eric Boggs who posted 3 INT’s. In addition, their offense is headlined by senior Quarterback Taylor Lamb, who is from Georgia and whose Grandfather worked in the Georgia Athletic Department for many years. Lamb is 27-5 as a starter, with experience playing in SEC stadium environments, so it’s crucial for Georgia to take this player and team seriously.
To piggyback off that, the three keys to the game must start with Georgia’s offensive line. It has been the most talked about unit this offseason as there will be three new starters on the offensive line. Left Tackle is set with Isaiah Wynn, a two-year starter, followed by new Left Guard Pat Allen out of Maryland, Lamont Gaillard at Center moving over from Right Guard, New Right Guard Solomon Kindley or Dyshon Sims, and Right Tackle true freshman Andrew Thomas. The reason for mentioning these five big uglies is if Georgia can’t get the run game going with Chubb & Michel, it opens the door for App State to control the time of possession and stay in the game. The second key is turnover margin, as in any game. Just use App State’s first game last year, where Tennessee fumbled the ball in Overtime but recovered it in the endzone for a touchdown, that ended up being the difference in the upset quest. Finally, Georgia’s defensive line push needs to be up to par on Saturday. Georgia’s defensive line is expected to be a strength with Trent Thompson poised for a potential All-American season as a junior after a three-sack performance in the bowl game against TCU. Though, App State has a more balanced offense approach compared to the horned frogs, averaging 251 yards rushing last year.
With all that being said, I expect Georgia to be focused for the first game as they finally get to play an opponent after a long 9-month hiatus. The Vegas point spread is 13 ½ points and I expect Georgia to cover, winning 34-17 in a game where the starters should play into the 4th quarter.
God Bless & Go Dawgs!