Georgia Bulldogs Prep for Season’s First Big Test: Notre Dame

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It is hard to imagine, but coach Kirby Smart’s team is ranked third in the nation and is still somewhat under the radar. They are not getting the same type of attention early in the season as some of the top-ranked schools. This week can help change all that, as the Georgia Bulldogs prep for their first big test in the form of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After rolling to a 3-0 record with little fanfare, Georgia can make a statement with a strong performance on Saturday.

Georgia Bulldogs Prep for Season’s First Big Test

Georgia has won its first three contests by an average score of 49-8. This includes the season and SEC opener over the Vanderbilt Commodores, which was basically a home game in Nashville. They have been machine-like in their performance so far, piling up big numbers on offense and suffocating opponents on defense. As the Bulldogs prep for a visit from the Irish, they know that balanced play on both sides of the ball will be key. Coach Smart’s team has shown it can compete at the top of the college football ladder, but this season is about closing the deal. This week’s match-up with a participant from last year’s College Football Playoff can help show how capable the Bulldogs are of finishing the season on top of the mountain.

Anticipated Return Game

In 2017, quarterback Jake Fromm made his first career start in Notre Dame’s home stadium. He will be making his 31st career start as the Irish make the return trip down to Athens. The Bulldog faithful flooded South Bend two years ago. They took over the Irish’s stadium and filled it with red and black. This season’s match-up is equally anticipated. Notre Dame has a large and spread out following, but don’t expect them to return the favor as the road team. This will be one of the hottest tickets on the college football calendar with two storied programs clashing. However, Georgia fans won’t be as forthcoming with their tickets as the Irish were. Notre Dame can expect a loud and hostile crowd in Athens, and once again, a stadium filled with red and black.

Catching On

Coming into 2019, Georgia knew that it had Fromm’s steady hand to guide their offense. However, the question was who would he be passing the ball to. They entered the season without all of their top pass catchers from 2018, and have had to find out who will step up as the season progresses. Through three games, 18 different players have caught passes. George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock have emerged as the top targets. The two freshmen have combined for 16 catches, 320 yards, and three scores thus far. Versatile junior Demetris Robertson is also a guy to keep an eye on. The Bulldogs look to get him the ball in a variety of ways to utilize his explosiveness. Graduate transfer Lawrence Cager will also play a key role as he adjusts to the Bulldogs offense after playing three seasons with the Miami Hurricanes.

As the Bulldogs prep for their first ranked opponent in 2019, they will find out who is ready to step up in big games this Saturday. Fromm has built a reputation for his calm demeanor in the pocket, and his ability to spread the ball around. These attributes are perfect for an offense still determining who the go-to guys in the receiving corps are going to be.

Running Under The Radar

Georgia is known for stockpiling talent at the tailback position, but this year’s team has more than even this program is used to. They have five different players with over 100 yards through three games. As a team, they are averaging 7.6 yards per carry. D’Andre Swift is one of the best tailbacks in the nation but seems to get overlooked in national conversations. He has a unique skill set of vision, balance, and speed that make him a big-play threat on every touch.

His numbers are not eye-popping so far, but that has more to do with the scoreline against the overwhelmed competition. Swift will have a chance on Saturday to make his statement. He can show the nation why he is one of the most exciting players in the country. Notre Dame is allowing 235 yards rushing on five yards a carry during their 2-0 start. Those are mouth-watering numbers to a Georgia offense that thrives on running the ball.

Loaded and Fresh

The Bulldogs have a massive offensive line, and a multitude of tailbacks to hand the ball too. They will look to wear down the Irish defense by punishing them at the line of scrimmage and rotating in fresh backs. Senior Brian Herrien usually gets the first chance to spell Swift in the backfield. He is a reliable and punishing runner. While not as heralded player as some of the other talented back in this roster, Herrien gets the job done. He passed the 1,000-yard mark for his career in week two.

Speaking of heralded names, that is where James Cook and Zamir White come in. Both players were big-time recruits, and have shown flashes of their talent when given the chance. White has two touchdowns and is gaining 7.4 yards per carry. Cook has the most catches of any of the tailbacks and is averaging 11 yards on his 20 total touches through three games.

Applying Pressure

Georgia has struggled to get to the quarterback over the past couple of seasons, but they have shown growth in that area in 2019. They have 11 sacks in three games, with ten different guys getting in on the fun. Pressuring the quarterback will play a big role Saturday. Notre Dame’s Ian Book has played at a very high level since taking over the starting job last season. The senior signal-caller has six touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games. He has also rushed for 127 yards and two scores. The Bulldogs prep for this match-up will have to focus equally on containing both his arm and legs. Getting early pressure should help break the rhythm Book has been playing with. They must harass him and disrupt his timing. If not he has the ability to make it a long day for coach Smart’s defense.

Make A Statement

Georgia’s goals for the season are to win the SEC and make their way back to the College Football Playoff. So far they have been efficient in taking care of business versus over-matched competition. Now the quality of opponent takes a big step up. As the Bulldogs prep for their first ranked opposition in 2019, they know its a big opportunity to make a statement in Athens on Saturday.

Main Photo Credit:

ATHENS, GA – SEPTEMBER 14: Stetson Bennett #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs scrambles out of the pocket looking to pass during the second half of a game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Sanford Stadium on September 14, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)