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    ATHENS – Nick Chubb wasn’t himself Saturday. Oh, he ran hard and he gained a lot of yards and he scored some touchdowns. That we’ve all seen before. What we haven’t seen was Chubb celebrating and dancing. Well, sort of dancing. He climbed up on top of the cheerleaders’ platform in front of the UGA student section and celebrated Georgia’s 42-13 win over Kentucky with Sony Michel and the Bulldogs’ other seniors. Arm-in-arm, they sang and cheered and barked and laughed a little and smiled a lot and posed for a few thousand pictures. “Believe it or not, that was my first time ever doing that,” Chubb said in a postgame interview underneath the East End grandstands at Sanford Stadium. “I kind of saved it up for this moment.” Oh, we believe it, Nick. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before from the usually stoic tailback. For 42 games at Georgia, we’ve watched him smile and wave politely to the crowd as he jogged off the field after another one of his 100-yard rushing nights. No matter the gravity of the victory or how much he contributed to it, Chubb was never one to jump up in the stands or even dance some kind of jig. Usually, he’d slap a few hands on his way to the nearest field exit and maybe toss a sweatband or some gloves a kid’s way. “I had to convince him,” Michel, his roommate and backfield mate, said afterward. “It’s hard to convince him to do things like that.” It’s about time the kid showed some emotion. He deserved it. There was much to celebrate on this unseasonably warm and fuzzy Senior Night, much of it Chubb’s on doing. Let’s review. So he busted loose on a 55-yard touchdown run. That was a season-long run and gave Chubb 45 rushing TDs for his career (12 for the season).  That moves him to second on Georgia’s all-time list behind Herschel Walker (52), a theme you’re going to hear a lot in this space. That was Chubb’s second TD of the night, making it the 14th time he’s scored two or more in a game. That run also put him at 151 yards on the evening, making it the 23rd time he’s gone over the century mark. And it also put him over 1,000 yards for the season. He has 1,045 yards this year, so he stands now with Walker as the only two backs in Georgia history with three 1,000-yard seasons. It seems appropriate to interject here that Chubb had 747 yards when his sophomore season ended after five games with a knee injury. Else, he would’ve had four. “It’s an honor,” Chubb said of sharing a few more marks with Herschel. “That’s great company to have. Just to be with him, me and him, man, I’m happy about that.” You might note that it’s now really the only comparison to make with Chubb anymore, him and Herschel Walker. He’s eclipsed everybody else in Georgia history. What’s more, he’s doing it in this day and age. Not to take anything away from Walker or Bo Jackson or Marcus Dupree or any of those guys who thought nothing of carrying the ball 30 times a week. Chubb is doing what he’s doing in an era when SEC defenses don’t fall far down from NFL squads in terms of athletic pedigree and dedication to stuffing the run. And he’s also doing during a time in which coaches prefer their back share carries with others. While Chubb enters the 12th game of his fourth season with 686 carries, his best buddy Michel has 546 himself. That’s what I was thinking about when I asked Georgia coach Kirby Smart if he thought Chubb is underappreciated in terms of national acclaim. Smart went on a rant. “Yeah, I certainly feel like he’s underappreciated,” he said. “I don’t know how you guys feel but I appreciate what he’s done in an era where rushing the ball is really, really hard. It’s gotten harder and harder and harder. I’ve got no statistics to prove it but I’d venture to say Herschel ran for his (yards) in an era where a people were rushing the ball for a lot of yards. I’m not diminishing what Herschel did. I’m just enlightening people to Nick Chubb has rushed for three thousand-yard seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in the country to run the ball. That’s pretty remarkable. “And he did alongside another back that is maybe just as talented as he is. What would he have done with 30 or 40 carries? Who knows. But I’m sure his body appreciates it.” Everybody is starting to appreciate a little more. It’s kind of like the old adage, you don’t really appreciate something or somebody until they’re gone. Well, Chubb’s not gone yet, but he’s almost out the door. Saturday was his last game in Sanford Stadium. He was one of 31 seniors the Bulldogs honored during Senior Day ceremonies before the game. That, Chubb said afterward, already had him feeling a little different before the game. He blamed Georgia’s slow start Saturday on those emotional proceedings, a rite of passage for seniors playing their last game between the hedges. The Bulldogs finally shook loose from its early doldrums. They needed Jake Fromm to hit a few passes downfield to get the running game going. When it finally did, it was devastating to Kentucky’s overmatched defense. Chubb’s teammates sensed something from him on Saturday. He seemed a little quicker, a little more shifty than usual. He busted through for his first TD on an eight-yard run midway through the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth, Chubb bounced an off-tackle dive outside and down the left sideline. Three Kentucky defenders who seemed to have angles to run him down did not. It was a 55-yard touchdown and gave the Bulldogs a 35-13 lead. “He looked fast on that run,” chirped Michel, who likes to tease Chubb about being faster. Chubb sounded very Herschel-esque in describing the sensational play. “It was great blocking,” he said. “I don’t think I got touched. I kind of hit the sideline wide open, so it was great blocking up front.” Same old Chubb there. But we’d learn later it was a different kind of night. There he was, the muscle-bound captain who never mugs for cameras or does touchdown poses, grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing and glad-handing fans and hugging teammates. For a few minutes, he seemed almost like a regular college student. But as we all know, he’s anything but. “It was a great moment,” Chubb said of his uncharacteristic celebration. “I know that’s my last time leaving that field as a Georgia Bulldog. That’s something I can never have back, so I had to enjoy it.” We did, too, Nick. We did, too. The post That was no ordinary Nick Chubb we saw running over and around Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Admit it, Georgia fans. Your Bulldogs had you a little nervous there for a minute, didn’t they? No worries. It was Kentucky that Georgia was playing. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs won 42-13 for their 57th all-time victory over the Wildcats. Only Georgia Tech (67) has lost more times to Georgia. Speaking of Georgia Tech, Georgia improves to 10-1 (7-1 SEC) just in time to face its rival next Saturday in the series that has come to be called “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” The Yellow Jackets won in overtime last year in Athens. They fell to 5-5 with Saturday’s 43-20 loss at Duke. Saturday was a milestone game for Georgia’s Nick Chubb. With a 55-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, Chubb had 151 yards rushing in the game, 1,045 for the season and 4,469 for his career. Chubb and Herschel Walker are now the only UGA backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons. With the victory, Georgia’s seniors finish undefeated at Sanford Stadium for the first time since 2012, when it last went to the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs also finished with a perfect record against Eastern Division opponents for the first time in school history. Before all that, UGA found itself trailing in the first quarter for the second straight week and managed just 21 yards on its first two possessions against the Wildcats. But then Kentucky remembered it was Kentucky. The Wildcats roughed Georgia’s punter and the Bulldogs took the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown and a lead they’d never relinquished. Kentucky kept it interesting. It received the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays that mostly featured tailback Benny Snell to make it 21-13 on Snell’s 1-yard run. But the Bulldogs answered quickly with a long, scoring drive of their own, and order was restored. Somewhere in between, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney realized it was not against the rules to pass on first down. After calling runs on nine consecutive first downs, Chaney flipped the switch in the second quarter and turned Jake Fromm loose. The result was three consecutive completions and back-to-back touchdown drives to open up a 21-6. Georgia controlled the game from then on. The post Nick Chubb, No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs run over Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – One million, eight hundred and sixty thousand. Dollars. At the very least, that is how much “The Big Four” left on the table to play for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. Probably would’ve been more. As far as I know, nobody has ever referred to Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as The Big Four. But how can you not? That is essentially certainly what they’ve been for Georgia this season. I’m not talking about statistical contributions, necessarily. Yes, they’ve all contributed significantly to the Bulldogs’ cause in terms of what they bring to the team on the field each Saturday. But it’s really a more intangible effect that the Big Four has had on the 2017 squad. It started with them walking away from that pile of money last December. “Those four guys (coming back), it just shows their commitment,” said fellow senior Jeb Blazevich, a tight end. “I think that really set the tone for the rest of the team. It said, ‘hey, we’re investing another whole year into this.’… Even the younger guys are thinking, ‘this season is special.’” And it has been special. Still is, despite that aberration that occurred last Saturday at Auburn. With a win Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats (7-3, 4-3 SEC), the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs can improve to 10-1 on the season and finish the year undefeated at home. They’ve already punched their ticket to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the SEC Championship Game. With that in hand, all other possibilities remain in play. That’s right, College Football Playoffs and national championship. Scoff if you like, but that remains these seniors’ objective. “We made a decision; we came back for a reason,” Carter said after the Bulldogs’ practice on Wednesday. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far. But all of us seniors – even the underclassmen – we let them know we’re not done yet.” We never got an exact assessment of what The Big Four were told by the NFL when they asked for a draft evaluation after last season. It’s a very formalized and private process nowadays. Essentially, underclassmen can inform the NFL’s college advisory committee that they’re considering foregoing their college eligibility to play professionally. Made up of high-level NFL personnel evaluators and individuals from scouting organizations, the advisory committee then reviews data and video provided by the players and their schools and offer a generalized assessment. They receiver either a “first- or second-round evaluation” or a “stay in school evaluation.” Not everybody accepts their assessment. In 2016, 107 underclassmen entered the draft. Of those, 30 of them went, according to the NFL. Without the benefit of these guys telling us the exact evaluation they received, there’s no way to know how much money The Big Four left on the table. But based on where I’m sitting, it’s at least the number I mentioned above. That’s based on my personal view that each one of these guys would have made an NFL roster, regardless of their draft position. The NFL minimum salary for 2017 is $465,000. Multiply that by four and you get $1.86 million. I don’t know what The Big Four’s presence has meant financially for UGA. I guess you could say without them, the Bulldogs probably aren’t eyeing a “New Year’s Six bowl” and certainly not an SEC Championship Game or playoff berth. All those come with their resident monetary rewards. Intangibly, though, it’s hard to put a number on. “That’s a group of guys that have been really special to me,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who advised the Big Four to come back. “But they’ve been really special to the DawgNation and the legacy they leave behind.” Of course, it’s not just The Big Four who have made the Bulldogs into what they are this season. In fact, there are a bunch of seniors that have contributed to the cause this season. That goes beyond those who receive full-ride, grants-in-aid. Including walkons, there are 31 seniors who will honored during Senior Day before Saturday’s game. Not all of them have been here the last four years, but most of them have. Guys like safety Dominick Sanders, who needs one pick to tie the school record for career interceptions; like Aaron Davis, who has started 41 games, most ever by a non-kicking walkon; or tackle Isaiah Wynn, who has played in all but two games the last four years, most of them starts. Including a year at prep school, John-John Atkins has been pledged to Georgia since 2012, and has likewise been a block of granite for the Bulldogs at noseguard. Together, they’ve amassed a 37-12 record (.755). A couple more wins and they’ll finish among the Top 10 most successful teams of all time, which span 125 years. As for the money, Carter has maintained that it really wasn’t about that for him or the other seniors that came back. “We didn’t go out last year like we wanted to,” he has always maintained. “I feel like I had a lot more to do here so I couldn’t leave yet.” Nevertheless, Carter may have benefited the most in that regard. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound outside linebacker from Norcross has been mentioned as a potential NFL first-rounder for next April. Regardless, each of the Big Four has left an indelible mark on this program: Chubb became just the second rusher in Georgia history to exceed 4,000 career yards and will finish as UGA’s second all-time behind Herschel Walker in rushing yardage, rushing scores (39), and all-purpose yardage (4,669). His 4,318 rushing yards are the fourth most in SEC history. Michel is the fifth-leading rusher in Georgia history with 3,142 yards and could finish as high as third. He’s on pace to finish among the top five in all-purpose yards (3,755) yards as well. Bellamy has played in 33 games, collecting 108 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. He ranks third on the team with nine quarterback pressures this season. And Carter, he had a team-high nine tackles and a sack in the 42-7 win over Florida, a couple of huge sacks and fumble recoveries in the win at Notre Dame and 13.5 sacks in his career so far. Except for that stinging loss at Auburn last Saturday, senior year has been nothing but a blast for Carter and his classmates. But it’s not over yet, Carter points out. That’s why, if you’re going to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium, you really need to be inside and sitting in your seat by 3 p.m. Kickoff between No. 7 Georgia and Kentucky is not until 3:37 p.m., but setting aside an extra half-hour to honor these 2017 seniors rather than gulping down another cold one will be time well spent. “These guys have meant a lot to this program, meant a lot to me personally, meant a lot to the staff, and they’ve meant a lot to this university,” Smart said. “I think we all owe it to them, as a fan base and as a coaching staff and as a team, to make sure that we give them our best effort.” You can be assured that Georgia’s seniors will be bringing it. The post If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it appeared first on DawgNation.
  • We are on the eve of the final home football game of the Georgia Bulldog season: the seventh-ranked Dogs host the Kentucky Wildcats in tomorrow’s SEC finale. Kickoff for UGA Senior Day is set for 3:30 in Sanford Stadium, with national television on CBS.   The senior ceremony will begin at 3:16 p.m. ET at Sanford Stadium. Kickoff for the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season is set for 3:30 p.m., with the contest nationally televised on the CBS.  The 31 seniors to be recognized are John Atkins, DL, Thomson, Ga.; Davin Bellamy, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Jeb Blazevich, TE, Charlotte, N.C.; Aulden Bynum, OL, Valdosta, Ga.; Lorenzo Carter, LB, Norcross, Ga.; Reggie Carter, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Nick Chubb, RB, Cedartown, Ga.; John Courson, LS, Athens, Ga.; Aaron Davis, DB, Locust Grove, Ga.; Jordan Davis, TE, Thomson, Ga.; Alex Essex, DL, Richmond, Va.; Turner Fortin, RB, Johns Creek, Ga.; Trent Frix, LS, Calhoun, Ga.; Jacob Gross, RB, Thomaston, Ga.; Carson Hall, OL, Dallas, Ga.; Daniel Harper, LB, Atlanta, Ga.; Matthew Herzwurm, LS, Augusta, Ga.; Tim Hill, DB, Atlanta, Ga.; David Marvin, K, Charlotte, N.C.; Miles McGinty, TE, Savannah, Ga.; Sony Michel, RB, Hollywood, Fla.; Cameron Nizialek, P, Chantilly, Va.; Malkom Parrish, DB, Quitman, Ga.; Christian Payne, RB, Athens, Ga.; Brice Ramsey, QB, Kingsland, Ga.; Dominick Sanders, DB, Tucker, Ga.; Dyshon Sims, OL, Valdosta, Ga.;Thomas Swilley, OL, Athens, Ga.; Shakenneth Williams, WR, Macon, Ga.; Javon Wims, WR, Miami, Fla.; Isaiah Wynn, OL, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • ATHENS — The best thing about what happened to Georgia last week on The Plains and what might happen Saturday against at Kentucky at Sanford Stadium is that the Bulldogs happen to play football with 18-to-22-year-olds. “Kids are more resilient than the adults and the fan base, I can promise you,” explained coach Kirby Smart, talking about the 23-point loss to Auburn on 680 The Fan’s Bulldog Roundtable on Thursday. “They live in a generation of ‘onto the next thing.’ They want 60 seconds; they’re two or three lines on Twitter; they go on SnapChat. That’s all they think about. So for them, it’s onto the next one.” There are some objectives for the Bulldogs beyond just winning the next game. Starting with that ill-fated trip to Auburn, this is the most challenging stretch of the season, and the SEC Championship game awaits, whether Georgia is ready for it or not. It will be paramount that the Bulldogs shore up some things, mentally as well as physically. “It’s important to gain some confidence in how they play, especially early in this game, so that they can get back to believing in themselves. At the end of the day, it’s the next opponent, a good opponent and an SEC opponent, so they’ve got to go out and perform and be ready for a four-quarter battle. I fully expect it to be that way with Kentucky.” Whether it could help or hinder that objective remains to be seen, but the Bulldogs will be honoring a huge group of seniors. They’re led the high-profile foursome of Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but there are numerous others who have distinguished themselves with their service in games or in practices. A whopping 31 players will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies, which will start promptly at 3 p.m. That group has logged a 37-12 record over the last four years. With a couple more wins, they have a chance to finish among the Top 10 most successful classes of all time in the 125-year history of Georgia football. “These seniors have been a tremendous asset for our staff,” Smart said. “They’re a lot of high-character kids who care a lot about the University of Georgia. We can give back to them and their families by honoring what they’ve done for the university. Here’s what has to happen to send them out the right way: Back to Bulldog Basics The Bulldogs have to find a way to get back to what had made it successful before Auburn humiliated them 40-17. Primarily, that is establish the run and stop the run. Georgia was overwhelmed in both of those respects against the Tigers, recording season lows in rushing on offense and defense. When Nick Chubb leads the Bulldogs with 27 yards rushing, you know it’s a bad day. There is nothing automatic about being able to do that against the Wildcats. They’re actually similar to Auburn statistically when it comes to stopping the run. They’re fourth in the SEC at 121.9 yards, or 3.5 yards more a game than the Tigers’ vaunted defense. So Georgia has to address its newly-exposed issues on the offensive line. The Bulldogs were experimenting in practice this week with big Ben Cleveland (6-6, 340) getting some looks at left guard. On the flipside, Kentucky already has called out Georgia to some degree. Sophomore Benny Snell promised the Bulldogs that he was going to be “bringing it” against them on Saturday. And he has more than a little something to bring. Snell (5-11, 233) is the SEC’s third-leading rusher (101.3 yards per game) and is coming off his third consecutive game in which he has scored three touchdowns. Snell had 114 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia last year when the Bulldogs eked out a 27-24 victory. Throw the ball downfield As much as the Bulldogs need to establish the run, they also have to prove they can throw the football. They’ve done that with some success this season, but not consistently and certainly not in the fashion that makes a defense respect it and change what they’re doing. Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm not only has been extremely good at completing third-down throws and occasionally hitting defenses with big plays in the passing game. His yards per attempt continues to be one of the best in the country. But where the Bulldogs are lacking is in a consistent downfield attack that utilizes the middle of the field and give the safeties something else to think about. To date, most of Fromm’s attempts and completions have come on 50-50 plays against one-on-one coverage in the short to intermediate flat and up and down the sideline. That limits the risk of a turnover within the chaos that is the middle of field. If there’s a team Georgia might be able to exploit in this regard, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats struggle in pass coverage. In fact, they’re last in the SEC against the pass, allowing 282.3 yards per game and giving up 18 touchdowns through the air.It may be time for Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to show more trust in the freshman Jake Fromm and let him try to exploit the middle of the defense. This, in turn, could get the Bulldogs’ impressive group of tight ends more involved in the passing game. Tighten up special teams It could be argued that Georgia has won the special teams matchup in every game it played this season. Well, up until last week’s game at Auburn. Actually, the Bulldogs remained dominant when came to the act of kicking and returning kicks. But they were flagged for two devastating personal-foul penalties on special teams plays, committed a turnover and missed a field goal. That undid all the good work displayed by return specialist Mecole Hardman, who had 183 yards in returns but muffed a punt that led to an early second-half touchdown by the Tigers. Kentucky is decidedly average on special teams, and is especially vulnerable on kickoff returns. This area of Saturday’s matchup is a clear advantage for the Bulldogs, and one of which they need to take full advantage. The post Planning for Opponent: Millennial mentality should serve Dawgs well vs. Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – A battle was being waged on my personal Facebook page earlier this week. For once, it didn’t involve opposing opinions about our president or the people who ran against him last year. No, this scrum was among Georgia football fans – in-fighting, if you will — and they were going back and forth in a pretty heated argument about Mark Richt vs. Kirby Smart. It has been kind of debate for a while, but apparently it intensified over the weekend with the Bulldogs’ loss to Auburn and Miami’s win over Notre Dame. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart tips his caps to fans after beating Missouri 53-28 in a NCAA college football game to remain undefeated on Saturday, October 14, 2017, in Athens. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com Specifically, some folks thrilled that Georgia’s former coach is enjoying so much success in his new job at Miami Miami, where he landed after the Bulldogs fired him. Others were attempting to devalue what Richt has done so far in leading the Hurricanes to a 9-0 record and a place among the nation’s Top 4 teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings. That quickly devolved into an argument about whether or not Richt should have been fired from Georgia at all, about whether Smart was a better coach and a debate over which approach to leading a football program was better. Generally, Richt’s philosophy was described as being focused on turning his young players into great men, with winning being a secondary motivation. Smart, it was argued, ascribes to more of a national-championship-or-bust philosophy out of the mold of Nick Saban. Winning them all is what it is all about for him and nothing else. These polarizing positions were debated ad nauseum on my timeline. I never weighed in. I will here, though. Clearly, both approaches can work. I think they ARE both working. And I believe it’s possible to root for both of these guys. Well, at least until they go head-to-head in a college football playoff game. That, by the way, is still a distinct possibility. Of course, both of their teams have to get there first. But both will. If it doesn’t happen this season, it will in the near future. Maybe a few times. As for Smart, he has come a long way toward convincing me that he is going to win big at Georgia. That was the expectation when UGA’s power brokers began to make the moves to get Richt out and get Smart here in 2015. Smart, then Alabama’s defensive coordinator, was moving quickly toward taking the South Carolina job, which had come open during the season. The Bulldogs knew this. They needed to take drastic steps to get him, lest they sit by idly and watch him go instead to an SEC East rival. That was understandable, but it came with inherent risks. Though wildly successful as Saban’s right-hand man while the Crimson Tide contended for national championships every year, Smart did not have head coaching experience. Therefore, nobody could be sure how Smart might do, especially with so many other Sabanites not necessarily lighting it up as head coaches. In Richt, UGA had a known commodity who had won at a high rate and at a high level relative to the school’s history. But you could see in 2015 that perhaps his best days at Georgia were behind him. For whatever reason, though his teams often knocked on the door to national championships, the Bulldogs could never walk through. His demeanor and coaching style had worn thin on some fans, as they tend to do with long-tenured coaches. I dare to say that some had grown tired even of Richt’s Christian credo. But there is no denying how beneficial the transaction has been for both parties. Never mind Georgia’s de-pantsing this past Saturday at Auburn. The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) are still a formidable team in 2017, and way ahead of schedule as far as Smart whipping them into championship contention. Say what you will about anything they’ve done this season, or what you think they might do in the coming weeks, the fact of the matter is Georgia’s destiny is completely in its own hands. Anything is possible once it lines up against Alabama or Auburn on Dec. 2 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Either way, Smart is in line for SEC coach of the year, and national coach of the year depending on how things go from there. Richt’s going to be on the national ballot, too. I’m not sure how anybody who watched Richt’s work at Georgia for 15 years can’t enjoy seeing what he’s doing at the U. Clearly, returning to his roots as a play-caller and coordinator has rejuvenated Richt and done wonders for Miami. He is at his best with a playsheet in his hands and a headset over his ears. The Hurricanes are going to be favored over Virginia this Saturday and Pitt the next. Then they’ll get a shot at Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. I sincerely hope they get through clean. If both Georgia and Miami do, odds are good they’ll meet in the playoffs. And if neither do, you can bet the four remaining bowls of the New Year’s Six – Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Fiesta and Orange —  will angle to pit these two teams together. I sure would. That’s a bowl game I’d definitely pay to see. Wouldn’t you? For me, this is not as much about winning an argument as to which program got the better coach or whose way is better. Moreover, what has happened with these respective teams is a validation of the decisions these schools made and, on a larger scale, why these moves are sometimes necessary to kick start a stalling Power 5 program. As we’re witnessing, all this upward movement has occurred in Year 2 of these coaches’ administrations. That also happens to be when Richt’s Georgia program took off 15 years ago, and when Saban got it going at LSU and Alabama, and Urban Meyer at Florida and Ohio State, and Bob Stoops and Pete Carroll and Jim Tressell, and so on. On that note, that’s why we should all probably pay close attention to these hires that are about to take place throughout the SEC. Florida and Tennessee are actively looking for coaches right now, Arkansas is expected to join the search soon (if it’s not already) and Texas A&M and Ole Miss might be soon to follow. But forget those guys for now. Georgia and Miami have the best story in the country brewing right now. It’d be the perfect final chapter if they could somehow meet in the last game of year. That’s what I’m rooting for. The post Loving what’s happening for Georgia with Kirby Smart — and with Miami’s Mark Richt appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Regular readers of  “An Opposing View” will no doubt remember Joe Mussatto as our guest for Kentucky week last year. If you do, then you’ll know you should pay attention to what he has to say. Mussatto provided a very accurate breakdown of last year’s game, in which he predicted “Georgia will win in a close one.” Boy, howdy, was he on target. You’ll recall that the Bulldogs won 27-24 on Rodrigo Blankenship’s 25-yard field goal with no time remaining. Spoiler alert: Mussatto isn’t expecting the same kind of anxiety-riddled contest for Georgia fans this year (see his full prediction below). But as our second-year Kentucky football beat writer for SEC Country, Mussatto knows the ‘Cats better than anybody. So he does his usual bang-up job of filling us in what to expect from this year’s team. Be sure to follow Mussatto on Twitter to keep up with everything going on in UK’s camp. As for a little background on Joe, he’s originally from Oklahoma City and went to the University of Oklahoma, so he went from covering one Stoops brother to another. By the way, Mark Stoops, brother of Bob, is doing a pretty good job. He has the Wildcats sitting at 7-3 overall, 4-3 in SEC play. Here’s Mussatto’s answers to the questions I sent him, followed by a detailed prediction: 1. Obviously, 7-3 is good in the historical context of Kentucky football. But it looks like the Wildcats were tantalizingly close to having nine wins at this point. What do the make of the Cats’ football season in Bluegrass Country? Mussatto: Mark Stoops was asked Monday about how close Kentucky could be to 9-1. Even he couldn’t stop himself from saying “What if?” The Wildcats were blown out at Mississippi State, but they led both Ole Miss and Florida in home games late in the second half. Kentucky ended up losing both. The Florida streak was extended to 31 years and I’m not sure if the fan base has recovered, especially with how bad the Gators have looked. But for all those who are saying Kentucky is close to being 9-1, keep in mind that the Cats came dangerously close to losing home games to Eastern Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee. Kentucky’s best friend has been its schedule. The bottom line is that 7-3 is a great season by Kentucky’s standards and the Cats are one win away from their first eight-win regular seasons since 1984. 2. I’m assuming everybody’s happy with Mark Stoops these days? Please tell us about the contract extension/new contract he recently received and how do you believe he and Kentucky fit in as the Eastern Division continues through this transitive state? Mussatto: Kentucky isn’t close to passing East programs like Florida and Tennessee, but things are much more stable in Lexington than they are in Knoxville or Gainesville. Stoops’ contract will be extended by one year for every season in which he leads Kentucky to seven wins. Stoops earned that seventh win last Saturday, and his contract was extended to 2022 — a season in which he’ll be due $5 million. If Kentucky wins 10 games in a season, Stoops gets a two-year extension. And on top of those provisions, he nets a $250,000 bonus for every UK win starting with its seventh. So yeah, it’s pretty good to be Mark Stoops right now given that contract. Kentucky is committed to him and back-to-back seasons with four SEC wins is impressive given where Joker Phillips left the program. 3. The Bulldogs know all about Benny Snell from last year when he was so effective against him. You see him every week. Does he belong in the same class as the other elite backs in the SEC? And do you expect to see UK run him a lot out of the Wildcat formation like it did last year, especially after seeing what Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson did last week? Mussatto: I think he deserves to be in that class. He’s second in the SEC in rushing yards behind Kerryon Johnson and he’s tied for the league lead with 15 rushing touchdowns. He’s scored three touchdowns in each of his last three games. There’s a good chance Snell finishes his career as the best running back in school history. He’s only a sophomore and he already holds the school record for career rushing touchdowns. He’s also the only UK back to rush for 1,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons. As for the wildcat, Kentucky hasn’t used the formation as much as last season but it’s still a part of the offense. Expect to see Snell taking snaps in short-yardage situations. Freshman receiver Lynn Bowden is a faster and shiftier option out of the wildcat. 4. Where do you think Stephen Johnson ranks among SEC quarterbacks and do you expect Kentucky to use the passing attack much against Georgia’s defense? Mussatto: I’d put him in the five-to-seven range, and that’s a big improvement compared to where he was last season. He’s completed 63 percent of his passes and that’s second in the conference behind only Jarrett Stidham at Auburn. He’s sixth in the conference with 180 passing yards per game but has thrown only 10 touchdowns against four interceptions. He’s also averaging 35 rushing yards per game and is very good when reading whether to keep or hand off. Better than Johnson’s physical ability has been his toughness and knack for winning games. He’s 14-7 as Kentucky’s primary quarterback. The offense is established through Snell, but how much will Kentucky be able to run on Georgia? Johnson has to make Georgia respect the pass if Kentucky is going to have any chance. 5. What’s your assessment of Kentucky’s defense and, first and foremost, its ability to stymie Georgia’s rushing attack? Mussatto: Kentucky has been the worst defense in the SEC against the pass, but the Wildcats are giving up only 122 rushing yards per game. That stat might be a little skewed though. A run-first team like Mississippi State got whatever it wanted on the ground. Kentucky’s linebackers are the strongest group for Stoops’ defense, and they along with the defensive line need to play their most physical game to have a shot at slowing down Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Georgia has the advantage up front and it’ll likely be a big day for the Bulldogs on the ground. MUSSATTO’S PREDICTION: I expect Georgia will be extra motivated coming off its loss to Auburn and with a bid at the College Football Playoff still within reach. Kentucky has made significant strides in the last two years, but Georgia still has the advantage when it comes to talent. That’ll be evident in the battle up front. Georgia’s offensive and defensive line will control the game and the Dawgs will win big. Georgia 41, Kentucky 13 The post Opposing View: Timing of UGA game not good for Kentucky, but don’t overlook these ‘Cats appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Georgia Bulldogs tumble to number seven in the latest college football playoff rankings. The previously top-ranked Dogs lost this past Saturday at Auburn; they are gearing up for this coming Saturday’s home finale, a 3:30 kickoff against the Kentucky Wildcats. This week’s top four playoff teams are Alabama, Clemson, Miami, and Oklahoma.  Former Georgia coach Mark Richt leads undefeated Miami.
  • ATHENS – Scott Woerner is remembered as one of the greatest punt returners in Georgia football history, and rightly so as he still holds the program record for most return yards in a season and is No. 2 for his career. But it happened to him, too. “Nineteen-seventy-nine, Virginia, trying to catch the ball on the 6,” said Woerner, a 1980 All-American and a member of the Collegiate Football Hall of Fame. “Muff punt. Six points other team.” Scott Woerner returned this punt for a touchdown against Clemson in 1980. It’s sort of a right of passage for punt returners. If they field enough of them, sooner or later they probably are going to feel the sting of the dreaded “muff.” Mecole Hardman now knows that feeling, and it’s something he’d just as soon never feel again. “You can have a good game, but one play like that, and that’s all anybody remembers,” said Hardman, who had an otherwise memorable game against Auburn on Saturday. “That’s just something I’ve got to work on. I’m going to catch some more punts and hopefully that won’t happen again.” Hardman was feeling the full effect of that scenario on The Plains of Auburn. The sophomore from Elberton had a huge night for the Bulldogs, collecting 203 yards on just 10 touches and thrilling Georgia’s fans will all manner of kick returns. In the end, Hardman never busted one for a touchdown. But he came tantalizingly close a couple times, most notably on a 47-yard kickoff return. But it’s the “muff” that everybody was talking about after the game. A muff is when a player tries to field a kick or a punt but mishandles it. While it’s not technically a fumble, it immediately becomes a live ball. Losing possession that way is one of the most devastating plays in football. No. 1 Georgia was trailing Auburn 16-7 early in the third quarter and had just gotten a break when a video review showed the Tigers had not made a first down, as the referees on the field had ruled. So the Tigers had to punt to the Bulldogs and Hardman, who had been putting a scare in them every time he ended up with the ball in his hands. This time the ball didn’t end up in his hands. Hardman signaled for a fair catch on the high but short punt, but he was unable to field it. The ball went right through his arms and was recovered by Auburn at the Georgia 23. The Tigers scored four plays later to go up 23-7. It was a momentous play in a game the Bulldogs eventually lost 40-17. “There was some crazy spin on the ball,” Hardman explained after the game. “I thought I read it right, but it went straight through my hands. I tried to jump on it but they got it. … It was big momentum for them. It’s my fault. I should have caught the ball. I should have looked it all the way in.” That was Hardman’s first major gaffe as a kick returner. Otherwise, he is making a name for himself in that area of the game. In fact, after Saturday’s performance, Hardman now leads the SEC and is ranked 16th nationally in kickoff returns with a 26.7-yard average. He’s also third in the SEC and 22nd nationally in punt return average at 10.2 yards. Woerner said Hardman shouldn’t beat himself up too much for the miscue. It comes with the territory. “It’s a silly game,” said Woerner, who returned 88 punts while playing for the Bulldogs, third most in program history. “Some great plays just never get started. Amnesia helps, but a thick skin and a huge ego doesn’t hurt.” More surprising than Hardman’s fumble is the fact that he has yet to take one “to the house,” as returners like to say. He has been extremely close to breaking free this season, including a couple of times Saturday night. That says as much about the Bulldogs’ kick-return units as it does Hardman’s speed and skill. Hardman is finding plenty of room to run. That’s a good thing because, generally, he doesn’t “shimmy-and-shake” like his predecessor Isaiah McKenzie did. But Hardman is faster. He just hasn’t been able to get past that last defender. “He’s doing a tremendous job and the units around him are really doing well,” coach Kirby Smart said. “I think if you ask the other coaches in the league, they’re saying, ‘Good grief, they have all these people blocked.’ So there’s some space there, and he’s had a good opportunity to make some plays. He hasn’t been able to take advantage of that, but I’m not disappointed in anything he’s done. I think he’s gaining more confidence, and he’s making some plays in the kicking game.” Hardman’s overall game as a play-making threat with the ball in his hands is making strides as well. He moved to slotback this year after playing cornerback as a freshman. Hardman is now the Bulldogs’ third-leading receiver with 13 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns. He has also carried the ball five times on jet sweeps, including a 35-yarder he took in for a touchdown against Missouri. Against Auburn, Hardman had 142 yards on five kickoff returns, 43 yards on three punt returns, an 11-yard reception and 7-yard run. That’s an average of 20 yards every time he touched the football. And the Bulldogs would like to do even more with him. A sprinter on the track team in the spring, he’s unchallenged as the fastest player on the team, so offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is trying to scheme up plays that can get Hardman the ball in open space. Returning kicks is a sure-fire way. Where the Bulldogs are concerned, the surprise isn’t that Hardman is doing well in that facet of the game, it’s that he hasn’t gotten free more often. To date, his longest scoring play is a 59-yard reception against Missouri. But he really longs for a kick-return touchdown. “I had some good returns; I definitely should have scored on one, I think,” Hardman said of the Auburn game. “It’s just something I’ve got to get better on. As a returner, I’ve got to look at the film and see if I’m hitting the right holes and things like that.” That’s what Smart loves about Hardman the most. Any shortcomings he has had on the field haven’t been the result of neglect. “I hate [the muff] for him because he works really hard,” Smart said. “I’m in my office ready to watch tape, and he’s still out there catching kicks and catching punts after practice. It’s important to him that he does it. We have to do a good job of simulating some of those kicks and making him catch the hard ones.” That’s where Hardman was after Monday’s practice, catching extra punts after the rest of the team had adjourned to the locker room. Nobody took that miscue Saturday harder than Hardman. And nobody wants make folks forget about it worse either. “It definitely hurt coming to the sideline,” he said. “You hate to let down your teammates. But all they’re doing is telling you to keep your head up and go out and make the next play.” Hardman will be back deep again Saturday against Kentucky. More opportunities await. The post UGA’s Mecole Hardman is hoping some TDs make folks forget ‘the muff’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Humility is only a week away… It’s been Kirby Smart’s mantra all season long when talking about the success that Georgia Football has had in 2017. Week in and week out, Georgia has taken care of their opponents with relative ease. The game at Notre Dame was tough, and South Carolina provided a tougher test than most thought they would, but other than that, it’s been smooth sailing for the Dawgs. Well, smooth sailing hit the eye of the storm in Auburn, Alabama on Saturday. The Tigers dominated the Dawgs in every way possible and proved that they have come a long way since blowing a big lead against LSU. Here’s what I saw from an awful performance from Georgia: 1. Well, it was a good start: I wanted to start off on a good note, because the only thing Georgia did well in this game was putting points on the board on their first drive. If you had told me this game would go the way it did after watching the Dawgs’ first turn on offense, I would have said you were crazy. Jake Fromm was 3 for 3 on the drive for 56 yards, including a big third down pass to Javon Wims. The two of them have developed a very good understanding of each other, and Fromm has become comfortable throwing jump balls to Wims because of his ability to come down with a bunch of them. Unfortunately, Georgia never came close to replicating the success of the first drive at any point during the rest of the game.  2. Complete and utter domination: After that first drive, Auburn took control of this game and at no point looked like they would give it back. The Tigers more than doubled up Georgia in terms of total yards and outgained Georgia on the ground 237 to 46 (net rushing yards). Kerryon Johnson alone ran for 167 yards while the trio of Chubb, Michel, and Swift only combined for 66 yards for the Dawgs. In the passing game, Georgia couldn’t keep Jake Fromm upright as he was sacked four times and pressured a bunch more. At times, football is a very simple game. If you keep your quarterback protected, hit/pressure the other team’s quarterback, and control the game on the ground, you’re going to win a lot more than you lose. That was the formula for Auburn in this game, and they executed about as well as I’ve seen any team in the country this season.  3. There’s a first time for everything: Two things that have been a hallmark of Georgia Football this season are discipline and fundamental execution. Unfortunately, both of those were essentially non-existent against Auburn. Georgia kept shooting themselves in the foot with dumb penalty after dumb penalty. One that comes to mind was a late hit out of bounds by Malkom Parrish, but the glaring one was D’Andre Walker’s leaping penalty while trying to block a punt. Georgia’s defense had done a good job to force the punt and get off the field. After the penalty, Jarrett Stidham would hit Darius Slayton on a 42-yard pass for a touchdown. These players are told over and over again what they can and can’t do in those punt block situations, so Walker’s penalty was extra maddening. Another thing we had not seen this season was Georgia missing tackles. Kerryon Johnson did a great job of making defenders miss and might prove to be the best back the Dawgs have faced/will face all season.  4. Second-guessing: One of the more talked about things from this game was the way the Dawgs handled the end of the first half. Instead of taking a few shots into the end zone, Georgia was content with settling for a field goal when attempting to put some points on the board before the half. At the time, Auburn led 16-7 and was going to get the ball to start the 2nd half. Georgia had good field position due to a good Mecole Hardman that put the ball at Auburn’s 26-yard line with about 22 seconds left in the half. Georgia then ran the ball with Sony Michel and spiked the ball to give Rodrigo Blankenship time for the kick, a kick that he would ultimately miss. I actually said to a few people near me in the press box that there was no chance that kick was going to go in. It just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do in that situation. If you take a few shots at the end zone and then kick, it would have felt much better. It just felt like Georgia was resigned to taking the three, and that was disheartening.  5. Taming the savages: For me, this was the most shocking part of this game. Georgia’s defense has been DOMINANT all season long, but they were the exact opposite of that against Auburn. Auburn moved the ball seemingly at will against the Dawgs, whether it was through the air or on the ground. I’ve already mentioned how Kerryon Johnson could not be stopped, but neither could Jarrett Stidham. I was talking with Coach Donnan about this game, and he made a great point: It’s hard to have a consistent pass rush against a team that constantly runs RPOs (run-pass options), especially if you have a quarterback that is good a pre-snap reads. Stidham called a great game in that regard, and constantly had Georgia’s defense guessing.  6. Roadblock in Lee County: The two strongest elements of Georgia’s team this season have been the defense and the run game. I just talked about how Auburn’s offense dominated Georgia’s defense, and you can flip the words “offense” and “defense” there and the same held true. Two of the best backs in the country (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb) had no room to run against the Tigers. The offensive line was flat out horrible in this game. As soon as Georgia’s backs would hit the line of scrimmage, they were met with a host of blue jerseys. There just weren’t any holes for Chubb and Michel to operate in. D’Andre Swift has also been a big part of Georgia’s offense this season, particularly in catching passes out of the backfield. He had zero catches against Auburn and only ran for 18 yards on four carries (which resulted in a yards per carry average that was two yards better than either Chubb or Michel). When you’re a team that leads with the run and can’t run, it’s not going to be a good day for you.  7. Keep Chopping: Was this a bad result for Georgia? Absolutely. A lot of the national media had been questioning Georgia in the lead up to this game, and those doubters were given a lot of ammunition as a result of it. That being said, Georgia still has everything in front of them. If they win the last two games of the regular season against Kentucky and Tech and go on to win the SEC Championship, they WILL be in the College Football playoff. This is where Coach Smart’s “keep chopping wood” slogan comes in handy. Georgia just has to keep working hard and preparing well for each opponent. Even if Georgia doesn’t win the SEC Championship this season, they are still well set up to be in a good bowl game and are ahead of where I thought they would be at this point in Kirby Smart’s tenure as head coach. The future is bright for this program with the recruiting classes the Dawgs are building, but let’s not give up on this season just yet as a lot of different scenarios could still play out. During his press conference this week, Coach Smart spoke very little about the Auburn game, as he, his staff, and his team have moved on to Kentucky. I suggest all of you in DawgNation do the same. There’s still A LOT left to play for and that starts against the boys from the Bluegrass on Saturday.  

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  • ATHENS – Nick Chubb wasn’t himself Saturday. Oh, he ran hard and he gained a lot of yards and he scored some touchdowns. That we’ve all seen before. What we haven’t seen was Chubb celebrating and dancing. Well, sort of dancing. He climbed up on top of the cheerleaders’ platform in front of the UGA student section and celebrated Georgia’s 42-13 win over Kentucky with Sony Michel and the Bulldogs’ other seniors. Arm-in-arm, they sang and cheered and barked and laughed a little and smiled a lot and posed for a few thousand pictures. “Believe it or not, that was my first time ever doing that,” Chubb said in a postgame interview underneath the East End grandstands at Sanford Stadium. “I kind of saved it up for this moment.” Oh, we believe it, Nick. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before from the usually stoic tailback. For 42 games at Georgia, we’ve watched him smile and wave politely to the crowd as he jogged off the field after another one of his 100-yard rushing nights. No matter the gravity of the victory or how much he contributed to it, Chubb was never one to jump up in the stands or even dance some kind of jig. Usually, he’d slap a few hands on his way to the nearest field exit and maybe toss a sweatband or some gloves a kid’s way. “I had to convince him,” Michel, his roommate and backfield mate, said afterward. “It’s hard to convince him to do things like that.” It’s about time the kid showed some emotion. He deserved it. There was much to celebrate on this unseasonably warm and fuzzy Senior Night, much of it Chubb’s on doing. Let’s review. So he busted loose on a 55-yard touchdown run. That was a season-long run and gave Chubb 45 rushing TDs for his career (12 for the season).  That moves him to second on Georgia’s all-time list behind Herschel Walker (52), a theme you’re going to hear a lot in this space. That was Chubb’s second TD of the night, making it the 14th time he’s scored two or more in a game. That run also put him at 151 yards on the evening, making it the 23rd time he’s gone over the century mark. And it also put him over 1,000 yards for the season. He has 1,045 yards this year, so he stands now with Walker as the only two backs in Georgia history with three 1,000-yard seasons. It seems appropriate to interject here that Chubb had 747 yards when his sophomore season ended after five games with a knee injury. Else, he would’ve had four. “It’s an honor,” Chubb said of sharing a few more marks with Herschel. “That’s great company to have. Just to be with him, me and him, man, I’m happy about that.” You might note that it’s now really the only comparison to make with Chubb anymore, him and Herschel Walker. He’s eclipsed everybody else in Georgia history. What’s more, he’s doing it in this day and age. Not to take anything away from Walker or Bo Jackson or Marcus Dupree or any of those guys who thought nothing of carrying the ball 30 times a week. Chubb is doing what he’s doing in an era when SEC defenses don’t fall far down from NFL squads in terms of athletic pedigree and dedication to stuffing the run. And he’s also doing during a time in which coaches prefer their back share carries with others. While Chubb enters the 12th game of his fourth season with 686 carries, his best buddy Michel has 546 himself. That’s what I was thinking about when I asked Georgia coach Kirby Smart if he thought Chubb is underappreciated in terms of national acclaim. Smart went on a rant. “Yeah, I certainly feel like he’s underappreciated,” he said. “I don’t know how you guys feel but I appreciate what he’s done in an era where rushing the ball is really, really hard. It’s gotten harder and harder and harder. I’ve got no statistics to prove it but I’d venture to say Herschel ran for his (yards) in an era where a people were rushing the ball for a lot of yards. I’m not diminishing what Herschel did. I’m just enlightening people to Nick Chubb has rushed for three thousand-yard seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in the country to run the ball. That’s pretty remarkable. “And he did alongside another back that is maybe just as talented as he is. What would he have done with 30 or 40 carries? Who knows. But I’m sure his body appreciates it.” Everybody is starting to appreciate a little more. It’s kind of like the old adage, you don’t really appreciate something or somebody until they’re gone. Well, Chubb’s not gone yet, but he’s almost out the door. Saturday was his last game in Sanford Stadium. He was one of 31 seniors the Bulldogs honored during Senior Day ceremonies before the game. That, Chubb said afterward, already had him feeling a little different before the game. He blamed Georgia’s slow start Saturday on those emotional proceedings, a rite of passage for seniors playing their last game between the hedges. The Bulldogs finally shook loose from its early doldrums. They needed Jake Fromm to hit a few passes downfield to get the running game going. When it finally did, it was devastating to Kentucky’s overmatched defense. Chubb’s teammates sensed something from him on Saturday. He seemed a little quicker, a little more shifty than usual. He busted through for his first TD on an eight-yard run midway through the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth, Chubb bounced an off-tackle dive outside and down the left sideline. Three Kentucky defenders who seemed to have angles to run him down did not. It was a 55-yard touchdown and gave the Bulldogs a 35-13 lead. “He looked fast on that run,” chirped Michel, who likes to tease Chubb about being faster. Chubb sounded very Herschel-esque in describing the sensational play. “It was great blocking,” he said. “I don’t think I got touched. I kind of hit the sideline wide open, so it was great blocking up front.” Same old Chubb there. But we’d learn later it was a different kind of night. There he was, the muscle-bound captain who never mugs for cameras or does touchdown poses, grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing and glad-handing fans and hugging teammates. For a few minutes, he seemed almost like a regular college student. But as we all know, he’s anything but. “It was a great moment,” Chubb said of his uncharacteristic celebration. “I know that’s my last time leaving that field as a Georgia Bulldog. That’s something I can never have back, so I had to enjoy it.” We did, too, Nick. We did, too. The post That was no ordinary Nick Chubb we saw running over and around Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Admit it, Georgia fans. Your Bulldogs had you a little nervous there for a minute, didn’t they? No worries. It was Kentucky that Georgia was playing. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs won 42-13 for their 57th all-time victory over the Wildcats. Only Georgia Tech (67) has lost more times to Georgia. Speaking of Georgia Tech, Georgia improves to 10-1 (7-1 SEC) just in time to face its rival next Saturday in the series that has come to be called “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” The Yellow Jackets won in overtime last year in Athens. They fell to 5-5 with Saturday’s 43-20 loss at Duke. Saturday was a milestone game for Georgia’s Nick Chubb. With a 55-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, Chubb had 151 yards rushing in the game, 1,045 for the season and 4,469 for his career. Chubb and Herschel Walker are now the only UGA backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons. With the victory, Georgia’s seniors finish undefeated at Sanford Stadium for the first time since 2012, when it last went to the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs also finished with a perfect record against Eastern Division opponents for the first time in school history. Before all that, UGA found itself trailing in the first quarter for the second straight week and managed just 21 yards on its first two possessions against the Wildcats. But then Kentucky remembered it was Kentucky. The Wildcats roughed Georgia’s punter and the Bulldogs took the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown and a lead they’d never relinquished. Kentucky kept it interesting. It received the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays that mostly featured tailback Benny Snell to make it 21-13 on Snell’s 1-yard run. But the Bulldogs answered quickly with a long, scoring drive of their own, and order was restored. Somewhere in between, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney realized it was not against the rules to pass on first down. After calling runs on nine consecutive first downs, Chaney flipped the switch in the second quarter and turned Jake Fromm loose. The result was three consecutive completions and back-to-back touchdown drives to open up a 21-6. Georgia controlled the game from then on. The post Nick Chubb, No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs run over Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – One million, eight hundred and sixty thousand. Dollars. At the very least, that is how much “The Big Four” left on the table to play for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. Probably would’ve been more. As far as I know, nobody has ever referred to Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as The Big Four. But how can you not? That is essentially certainly what they’ve been for Georgia this season. I’m not talking about statistical contributions, necessarily. Yes, they’ve all contributed significantly to the Bulldogs’ cause in terms of what they bring to the team on the field each Saturday. But it’s really a more intangible effect that the Big Four has had on the 2017 squad. It started with them walking away from that pile of money last December. “Those four guys (coming back), it just shows their commitment,” said fellow senior Jeb Blazevich, a tight end. “I think that really set the tone for the rest of the team. It said, ‘hey, we’re investing another whole year into this.’… Even the younger guys are thinking, ‘this season is special.’” And it has been special. Still is, despite that aberration that occurred last Saturday at Auburn. With a win Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats (7-3, 4-3 SEC), the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs can improve to 10-1 on the season and finish the year undefeated at home. They’ve already punched their ticket to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the SEC Championship Game. With that in hand, all other possibilities remain in play. That’s right, College Football Playoffs and national championship. Scoff if you like, but that remains these seniors’ objective. “We made a decision; we came back for a reason,” Carter said after the Bulldogs’ practice on Wednesday. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far. But all of us seniors – even the underclassmen – we let them know we’re not done yet.” We never got an exact assessment of what The Big Four were told by the NFL when they asked for a draft evaluation after last season. It’s a very formalized and private process nowadays. Essentially, underclassmen can inform the NFL’s college advisory committee that they’re considering foregoing their college eligibility to play professionally. Made up of high-level NFL personnel evaluators and individuals from scouting organizations, the advisory committee then reviews data and video provided by the players and their schools and offer a generalized assessment. They receiver either a “first- or second-round evaluation” or a “stay in school evaluation.” Not everybody accepts their assessment. In 2016, 107 underclassmen entered the draft. Of those, 30 of them went, according to the NFL. Without the benefit of these guys telling us the exact evaluation they received, there’s no way to know how much money The Big Four left on the table. But based on where I’m sitting, it’s at least the number I mentioned above. That’s based on my personal view that each one of these guys would have made an NFL roster, regardless of their draft position. The NFL minimum salary for 2017 is $465,000. Multiply that by four and you get $1.86 million. I don’t know what The Big Four’s presence has meant financially for UGA. I guess you could say without them, the Bulldogs probably aren’t eyeing a “New Year’s Six bowl” and certainly not an SEC Championship Game or playoff berth. All those come with their resident monetary rewards. Intangibly, though, it’s hard to put a number on. “That’s a group of guys that have been really special to me,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who advised the Big Four to come back. “But they’ve been really special to the DawgNation and the legacy they leave behind.” Of course, it’s not just The Big Four who have made the Bulldogs into what they are this season. In fact, there are a bunch of seniors that have contributed to the cause this season. That goes beyond those who receive full-ride, grants-in-aid. Including walkons, there are 31 seniors who will honored during Senior Day before Saturday’s game. Not all of them have been here the last four years, but most of them have. Guys like safety Dominick Sanders, who needs one pick to tie the school record for career interceptions; like Aaron Davis, who has started 41 games, most ever by a non-kicking walkon; or tackle Isaiah Wynn, who has played in all but two games the last four years, most of them starts. Including a year at prep school, John-John Atkins has been pledged to Georgia since 2012, and has likewise been a block of granite for the Bulldogs at noseguard. Together, they’ve amassed a 37-12 record (.755). A couple more wins and they’ll finish among the Top 10 most successful teams of all time, which span 125 years. As for the money, Carter has maintained that it really wasn’t about that for him or the other seniors that came back. “We didn’t go out last year like we wanted to,” he has always maintained. “I feel like I had a lot more to do here so I couldn’t leave yet.” Nevertheless, Carter may have benefited the most in that regard. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound outside linebacker from Norcross has been mentioned as a potential NFL first-rounder for next April. Regardless, each of the Big Four has left an indelible mark on this program: Chubb became just the second rusher in Georgia history to exceed 4,000 career yards and will finish as UGA’s second all-time behind Herschel Walker in rushing yardage, rushing scores (39), and all-purpose yardage (4,669). His 4,318 rushing yards are the fourth most in SEC history. Michel is the fifth-leading rusher in Georgia history with 3,142 yards and could finish as high as third. He’s on pace to finish among the top five in all-purpose yards (3,755) yards as well. Bellamy has played in 33 games, collecting 108 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. He ranks third on the team with nine quarterback pressures this season. And Carter, he had a team-high nine tackles and a sack in the 42-7 win over Florida, a couple of huge sacks and fumble recoveries in the win at Notre Dame and 13.5 sacks in his career so far. Except for that stinging loss at Auburn last Saturday, senior year has been nothing but a blast for Carter and his classmates. But it’s not over yet, Carter points out. That’s why, if you’re going to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium, you really need to be inside and sitting in your seat by 3 p.m. Kickoff between No. 7 Georgia and Kentucky is not until 3:37 p.m., but setting aside an extra half-hour to honor these 2017 seniors rather than gulping down another cold one will be time well spent. “These guys have meant a lot to this program, meant a lot to me personally, meant a lot to the staff, and they’ve meant a lot to this university,” Smart said. “I think we all owe it to them, as a fan base and as a coaching staff and as a team, to make sure that we give them our best effort.” You can be assured that Georgia’s seniors will be bringing it. The post If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it appeared first on DawgNation.
  • We are on the eve of the final home football game of the Georgia Bulldog season: the seventh-ranked Dogs host the Kentucky Wildcats in tomorrow’s SEC finale. Kickoff for UGA Senior Day is set for 3:30 in Sanford Stadium, with national television on CBS.   The senior ceremony will begin at 3:16 p.m. ET at Sanford Stadium. Kickoff for the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season is set for 3:30 p.m., with the contest nationally televised on the CBS.  The 31 seniors to be recognized are John Atkins, DL, Thomson, Ga.; Davin Bellamy, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Jeb Blazevich, TE, Charlotte, N.C.; Aulden Bynum, OL, Valdosta, Ga.; Lorenzo Carter, LB, Norcross, Ga.; Reggie Carter, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Nick Chubb, RB, Cedartown, Ga.; John Courson, LS, Athens, Ga.; Aaron Davis, DB, Locust Grove, Ga.; Jordan Davis, TE, Thomson, Ga.; Alex Essex, DL, Richmond, Va.; Turner Fortin, RB, Johns Creek, Ga.; Trent Frix, LS, Calhoun, Ga.; Jacob Gross, RB, Thomaston, Ga.; Carson Hall, OL, Dallas, Ga.; Daniel Harper, LB, Atlanta, Ga.; Matthew Herzwurm, LS, Augusta, Ga.; Tim Hill, DB, Atlanta, Ga.; David Marvin, K, Charlotte, N.C.; Miles McGinty, TE, Savannah, Ga.; Sony Michel, RB, Hollywood, Fla.; Cameron Nizialek, P, Chantilly, Va.; Malkom Parrish, DB, Quitman, Ga.; Christian Payne, RB, Athens, Ga.; Brice Ramsey, QB, Kingsland, Ga.; Dominick Sanders, DB, Tucker, Ga.; Dyshon Sims, OL, Valdosta, Ga.;Thomas Swilley, OL, Athens, Ga.; Shakenneth Williams, WR, Macon, Ga.; Javon Wims, WR, Miami, Fla.; Isaiah Wynn, OL, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • ATHENS — The best thing about what happened to Georgia last week on The Plains and what might happen Saturday against at Kentucky at Sanford Stadium is that the Bulldogs happen to play football with 18-to-22-year-olds. “Kids are more resilient than the adults and the fan base, I can promise you,” explained coach Kirby Smart, talking about the 23-point loss to Auburn on 680 The Fan’s Bulldog Roundtable on Thursday. “They live in a generation of ‘onto the next thing.’ They want 60 seconds; they’re two or three lines on Twitter; they go on SnapChat. That’s all they think about. So for them, it’s onto the next one.” There are some objectives for the Bulldogs beyond just winning the next game. Starting with that ill-fated trip to Auburn, this is the most challenging stretch of the season, and the SEC Championship game awaits, whether Georgia is ready for it or not. It will be paramount that the Bulldogs shore up some things, mentally as well as physically. “It’s important to gain some confidence in how they play, especially early in this game, so that they can get back to believing in themselves. At the end of the day, it’s the next opponent, a good opponent and an SEC opponent, so they’ve got to go out and perform and be ready for a four-quarter battle. I fully expect it to be that way with Kentucky.” Whether it could help or hinder that objective remains to be seen, but the Bulldogs will be honoring a huge group of seniors. They’re led the high-profile foursome of Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but there are numerous others who have distinguished themselves with their service in games or in practices. A whopping 31 players will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies, which will start promptly at 3 p.m. That group has logged a 37-12 record over the last four years. With a couple more wins, they have a chance to finish among the Top 10 most successful classes of all time in the 125-year history of Georgia football. “These seniors have been a tremendous asset for our staff,” Smart said. “They’re a lot of high-character kids who care a lot about the University of Georgia. We can give back to them and their families by honoring what they’ve done for the university. Here’s what has to happen to send them out the right way: Back to Bulldog Basics The Bulldogs have to find a way to get back to what had made it successful before Auburn humiliated them 40-17. Primarily, that is establish the run and stop the run. Georgia was overwhelmed in both of those respects against the Tigers, recording season lows in rushing on offense and defense. When Nick Chubb leads the Bulldogs with 27 yards rushing, you know it’s a bad day. There is nothing automatic about being able to do that against the Wildcats. They’re actually similar to Auburn statistically when it comes to stopping the run. They’re fourth in the SEC at 121.9 yards, or 3.5 yards more a game than the Tigers’ vaunted defense. So Georgia has to address its newly-exposed issues on the offensive line. The Bulldogs were experimenting in practice this week with big Ben Cleveland (6-6, 340) getting some looks at left guard. On the flipside, Kentucky already has called out Georgia to some degree. Sophomore Benny Snell promised the Bulldogs that he was going to be “bringing it” against them on Saturday. And he has more than a little something to bring. Snell (5-11, 233) is the SEC’s third-leading rusher (101.3 yards per game) and is coming off his third consecutive game in which he has scored three touchdowns. Snell had 114 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia last year when the Bulldogs eked out a 27-24 victory. Throw the ball downfield As much as the Bulldogs need to establish the run, they also have to prove they can throw the football. They’ve done that with some success this season, but not consistently and certainly not in the fashion that makes a defense respect it and change what they’re doing. Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm not only has been extremely good at completing third-down throws and occasionally hitting defenses with big plays in the passing game. His yards per attempt continues to be one of the best in the country. But where the Bulldogs are lacking is in a consistent downfield attack that utilizes the middle of the field and give the safeties something else to think about. To date, most of Fromm’s attempts and completions have come on 50-50 plays against one-on-one coverage in the short to intermediate flat and up and down the sideline. That limits the risk of a turnover within the chaos that is the middle of field. If there’s a team Georgia might be able to exploit in this regard, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats struggle in pass coverage. In fact, they’re last in the SEC against the pass, allowing 282.3 yards per game and giving up 18 touchdowns through the air.It may be time for Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to show more trust in the freshman Jake Fromm and let him try to exploit the middle of the defense. This, in turn, could get the Bulldogs’ impressive group of tight ends more involved in the passing game. Tighten up special teams It could be argued that Georgia has won the special teams matchup in every game it played this season. Well, up until last week’s game at Auburn. Actually, the Bulldogs remained dominant when came to the act of kicking and returning kicks. But they were flagged for two devastating personal-foul penalties on special teams plays, committed a turnover and missed a field goal. That undid all the good work displayed by return specialist Mecole Hardman, who had 183 yards in returns but muffed a punt that led to an early second-half touchdown by the Tigers. Kentucky is decidedly average on special teams, and is especially vulnerable on kickoff returns. This area of Saturday’s matchup is a clear advantage for the Bulldogs, and one of which they need to take full advantage. The post Planning for Opponent: Millennial mentality should serve Dawgs well vs. Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.