Georgia‘s season opener against North Carolina is finally here. Since last we saw the Bulldogs in action, the Georgia program has parted ways with long time coach Mark Richt, welcomed alumnus Kirby Smart back to Athens, and faced all the questions that come with a coaching change and the off-season. It’s good to have football back.
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA, Saturday, Sept. 3, 5:30 p.m. TV: ESPN.
The game will be four quarters of hard hitting, statement-making to the rest of the SEC by Kirby Smart’s team. Here are five things you should expect out of Georgia this opening weekend of football.
What to Expect from Georgia vs. North Carolina
1. Nick Chubb Returns
The first key for a Georgia win is Nick Chubb having a strong game.
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) September 1, 2016
After a season ending knee injury last season, Nick Chubb returns to the field. The phenomenal running back is set to start against North Carolina. If we see the pre-injury version of Chubb, he should have no problem running on the TarHeel defense.
UNC has a strong secondary, and Georgia needs to utilize the run to spread out the defense.
Chubb should have an outstanding game, and get right back on track to be in contention for the Heisman trophy.
2. A Defensive Power House
Another one of Georgia’s biggest keys to winning this game is going to be the defense playing relentlessly. They need to play with a chip on their shoulders. They have a statement to make.
Georgia has veterans who will lead the team to victory and prove they shouldn’t be overlooked.
To start with, the defensive line is extremely talented yet young. Georgia’s starters for Saturday consist of Trenton Thompson, John Atkins and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle. These three guys will be leaders for the defensive line.
They are young, but don’t underestimate them. They are big and powerful and will be ready to knock some heads on Saturday.
UGA Young Guns…WR #5 Terry Godwin And DT #78 Trenton Thompson…Go ???!!!#UGAFootball2016
— Matthew Hall (@Loyal_To_The_G) August 31, 2016
The next key on defense is the linebackers.
Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy are two talented linebackers on the team. These two will be your statement makers on Saturday.
Both guys will be looking for blood and doing everything in their power to win.
Last season, the Georgia defense was No. 1 in pass defense and No.42 in rush defense. They allowed on average 156.5 passing and 149.46 rushing yards a game. The Dawgs only allowed an average 16.9 points a game.
Look for the defense to make a statement on Saturday. They will shut down the Tarheels running game and force them to spread their offense.
3. Georgia’s Talented Offensive Line
Another Georgia strength is their veteran offensive line.
This line is big and smart. There are only two players that are under 300 pounds for Georgia, yet they are quick on their feet. Since arriving in Athens, offensive line coach Sam Pittman has been busy developing these skilled linemen.
— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) March 30, 2016
The O-line is lead by Brandon Kublanow. He is the heart and soul of this unit. He had a great off season and expects to be a leader of the team on Saturday.
The rest of the line consists of Tyler Catalina, Isaiah Wynn, Dyshon Sims, Lamont Gaillard and Greg Pyke. These six guys are the go-to linemen right now.
Georgia has to win the battle of the trenches to make a statement. They are bigger and stronger than the Tarheels defensive line, so they should have the upper hand on Saturday. Execution will be key to leveraging these strengths into yards and points.
Finally back healthy and mentally together, the offensive line might be the most important unit once the game actually starts.
4. Home Crowd Advantage
Another thing to expect on Saturday is Georgia having the ability to make the Georgia Dome a second home.
This game may be in Atlanta, but Georgia will definitely have the home crowd advantage. Georgia fans have suffered through a long off season. They are ready to begin a new era and leave the past behind.
While there will be plenty of North Carolina faithful in attendance, expect Georgia red to outnumber powder blue by a wide margin. That’ll help in a season opener, where both teams are trying to shake off some of the rust.
5. Let the New Era Begin
The last key to a Georgia win is the fact that it’s the beginning of a new era.
Georgia is coming into the season with a brand new head coach, Kirby Smart. After 15 years of Mark Richt, the Bulldogs have a new sheriff in town.
— AccessWDUN Sports (@AccessNGASports) July 13, 2016
This is his inaugural season as a head football coach and it should get interesting.
Smart is expected to bring some toughness to this team. With an aggressive off season regimen, Smart has molded this team into a team that fits his personality and coaching style.
Smart is accustomed to winning. The expectation that he has for this Georgia team is no less. Smart has taught and mentored this team during the eight months into believing in themselves.
By believing in themselves, this team has a chance to surprise a lot of people around the conference and around the nation. Like all of Dawg Nation, Smart is chomping at the bit to start this season.
Winning this opening game will set the tone of high expectations early for the first year head coach.
UGA vs. UNC Final Prediction
The Bulldogs lead the overall series against North Carolina 16-12-2.
As shown above, there are five things that Georgia has to achieve this Saturday if they want to win.
Expect Georgia will come out on top 42-21 and give Coach Kirby Smart his first win as a head football coach.
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