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Alabama or Auburn: Against which team would the Georgia Bulldogs have best shot?

Alabama or Auburn: Against which team would the Georgia Bulldogs have best shot?

Alabama or Auburn: Against which team would the Georgia Bulldogs have best shot?

Alabama or Auburn: Against which team would the Georgia Bulldogs have best shot?

ATHENS – It’s the question everybody wants to ask but one for which there is no easy answer. Who should Georgia want to meet in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama or Auburn?

The Bulldogs have been sitting here as Eastern Division champions officially since Nov. 4 and unofficially for weeks before that. It didn’t take very long into this season to realize that the Bulldogs were going to be the class of its side of the league.

Kirby Smart-Gus Malzahn
Kirby Smart (R) is 1-1 against Gus Malzahn and Auburn as Georgia’s head coach.

Meanwhile, Alabama was kind of always penciled in for the West. A while back, there might’ve been a few folks who already had the Crimson Tide written down in big, bold Sharpie considering the way their season was going, and how everybody else over on that side was doing.

Certainly, nobody was talking about Auburn. If the Tigers weren’t written off after that 11-sack debacle to Clemson in Week 2, they were by the time they blew a late lead to LSU on Oct. 14.

But then Georgia-Auburn happened on Nov. 11 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the mighty Tide incurred a few key injuries and suddenly looked of-this-world and now everybody’s wondering just which one of the teams from the next state over will end up in Atlanta on Dec. 2.

We’ll all find out for certain on Saturday when Auburn and Alabama clash in the Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

In a rivalry that has produced many classic confrontations, they’re expecting another heart-stopper. A line that saw Alabama favored by two touchdowns before Auburn did what it did to Georgia had been reduced for four skinny points at last check. That’s the smallest point spread in that game since 2010, when the Tigers were 3.5 point underdogs. Auburn won 28-27 that year, by the way.

So, if the sixth-ranked Tigers win again this year, the Bulldogs can look forward to playing arguably the hottest team in the country and one that already beat them by 23 points two weeks ago.

If No. 1-ranked Alabama pulls through as oddsmakers tell us it will, Georgia gets to play the program that equates playing in the SEC title game to stopping by the store for some milk and bread on the way to the playoffs. The Crimson Tide and coach Nick Saban have played in and won in the last three SEC championships.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs still have a little meat on their bone as well. It may be an off year for Georgia Tech (5-5), but history tells us that the Yellow Jackets will make Saturday’s gathering at Grant Field as agonizing as possible, right down to the final cut block and B-back dive. The last four in the series have been decided by an average of one touchdown, and only twice has the game been decided by more than one score in the last nine years.

But regardless of what happens in that endeavor, the Bulldogs will be keeping their appointment in the glistening new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Word is they’ve even cleared a spot next door for some extra parking for all those UGA fans.

So which team does Georgia have the better chance to beat? I’d say the blue-and-orange clad opponent would be best suited for that purpose.

I know, I know. I was there. I saw how Auburn dominated both lines of scrimmage in that last game. The Bulldogs struggled to run the football and stop the run and protect the passer like we’ve seen at no other time this season. I saw Kerryon Johnson running up and down the field all night. Barring injury, I’m assuming coach Gus Malzahn will bring all those guys to Atlanta with him.

But I also suspect the Tigers also will need a couple of extra buses to bring their confidence up I-85 with them as well if they happen to beat the Tide. And that’s not necessarily a good thing. They might be coming with too much.

Auburn also is a different team outside the confines of Jordan-Hare. I’m not sure how evident it was to those watching on television, but I know the folks inside that stadium on that night of Nov. 11th know that team wasn’t going to lose to anybody entering that space. The place was a powder keg, and the Bulldogs lit the fuse with their freakishly ill-timed personal foul penalties and special teams’ gaffes.

This time around, Georgia will hold a neutral-field advantage. By the time the game kicks off (Dec. 2, 4 p.m.), Bulldogs’ fans will have had nearly a month to snap up tickets. And any extra ones floating around after the Iron Bowl surely would be headed for red-and-black hands. Bama fans hold more renewable tickets to the SEC championship game than any other team. In those parts, to pass them over to Auburn fans would be sacrilege.

The word on the street is that Alabama is suddenly vulnerable. The Crimson Tide has lost four linebackers to injuries over the course of the season, the latest two earlier this month. But they still have senior Rashaan Evans, one of the SEC’s best linebackers, and freshman Dylan Moses has played great since being pressed into duty. He’s yet another former 5-star that Bama simply plugged in.

Meanwhile, quarterback Jalen Hurts and that Alabama offense look scary good. The Tide is averaging 43 points a game this season, tops in the league. Yes, Jarrett Stidham and Auburn can move the ball, too, and did against Georgia. They were able to even muster together a few plays beyond Johnson running the ball one way or another. But in terms of having to defend one of these two teams, Hurts and his running ability coupled with Calvin Ridley and everything else the Tide brings to the table makes them to more troublesome of the two.

None of which is to say Georgia doesn’t have a shot against Alabama. I think the Bulldogs have a shot at beating either one of these teams. Against Auburn, they might even be favored.

Against Bama, they’re a decided underdog.

The post Alabama or Auburn: Against which team would the Georgia Bulldogs have best shot? appeared first on DawgNation.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS, Ga. – It began when Bill Belichick walked to a corner of the Georgia indoor facility. The area cleared, and the four players gathered around him. At first, it looked like it would just be a nice brief opportunity to meet the New England Patriots coach. But then it kept going. Over the next 20 minutes the coach considered by many to be the most accomplished coach in NFL history personally ran drills with the four Georgia starting linebackers during its playoff run: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and Reggie Carter. “Control the block. Don’t get off it. Control it,” Belichick said, calmly but firmly guiding the four linebackers through one drill. “Knock it out. Finish. Finish!” Belichick said at another point. Belichick’s aide during the drill: Matt Patricia, the new Detroit Lions coach who had been the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator. The occasion was UGA’s pro day, which turned into a public mini-tryout for Georgia’s now-former linebackers with the most recognizable, and accomplished, coach in the NFL. “It’s crazy. It’s kind of surreal,” Lorenzo Carter said. “Growing up I was a Pats fan. So seeing Bill, having Coach Belichick work us through drills it’s cool. But it’s what we work for.” It wasn’t a surprise that Belichick, who politely declined an interview request afterward, was in attendance. He’s come before; he personally worked out offensive lineman David Andrews in preparation for the 2014 draft. Andrews went undrafted, the Patriots signed him as a free agent, and Andrews just started a second straight Super Bowl. This time the star power at UGA was quite evident: Smith headlines a draft class that could be the best in Georgia history, with as many as five players projected to be selected in the first four rounds, including three who could go in the first round. Four NFL coaches attended: Belichick, Patricia, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and Atlanta’s Dan Quinn. So did personnel people, including Falcons’ general manager Tom Dimitroff, who lauded the four Georgia linebackers. “It’s such a talented group,” Dimitroff said. “They’re big guys who have range. When you talk about Lo Carter or you talk about Roquan, those guys can fly. Their range is so important for our defense.” “It’s an honor to say we coached them, but it’s even better to see them do what they want to do,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “And to do it in front of a wonderful audience. I mean, who gets to do linebacker drills with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia?” The somewhat-impromptu session happened near the end of the pro day. When Belichick has attended in the past he has mostly watched. The NFL draft process is so cloak and dagger, with teams not wanting other teams to know who they’re working out or what they’re thinking. This, however, was in full view of everybody. Which doesn’t mean the Patriots are about to select one of those four. (They’d have to trade up from their No. 31 overall pick to get Smith.) Smart opined it was just about Belichick wanting to be involved. “I know he’s got a passion, he loves the game, he loves coaching,” Smart said. “So it’s a chance for him to get out there and coach guys and make them better – and evaluate talent.” It led to one accidental moment: Smith knocked over Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who was assisting in a drill in which linebackers are asked to jump from a stance and push off. Bellamy and Carter had done so without incident, but when it was Smith’s turn, he knocked the 68-year-old Pasqualoni to the ground. “I don’t know what I did, if I hit it a little awkward or anything to make him flip like that,” Smith said. “But I was just trying to get a work in.” Smith was asked if he apologized. “No I didn’t apologize,” Smith said with an incredulous smile. The day wasn’t all about those four starting linebackers and their very public tryout. Georgia had 22 players working out. A few other notables: Javon Wims, the team’s leading receiver last year, said he improved his time in the 40-yard dash, from 4.53 at the NFL combine last month to 4.47 on Wednesday. Punter Cameron Nizialek boomed some punts into the roof at the indoor facility. Tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb caught some passes but didn’t run or lift. Aaron Davis, the four-year starter in the secondary who was snubbed for an invite to the NFL combine, tried to make up for it, showing scouts his speed and catching ability. But the highlight was the four linebackers working with the legendary head coach. They were what Smart called “recognition drills” that are more standard for a team practice, and typically aren’t done at the combine. Belichick was very hands on, running with the players during part of the drills. When it ended, the four linebackers gathered around, and Belichick extended his hand. “Thank you. Thank you,” Belichick said, shaking each of their hands. Smith later played the session off as no big deal. (“My job is to get the work done, and that’s end of it,” he said.) And so did Bellamy. “Everybody’s going to be like, ‘Whoa, that’s Bill Belichick.’ But at the end of the day he’s here to work me out,” Bellamy said. “And any coach here that’s here to work me out I’m going to give 110 [percent] for. So I was just locked in and giving it all I had.” The post The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Isaiah Wynn was the anchor of the Georgia football team’s offensive line as it won an SEC championship, the Rose Bowl and came within a play of winning the national championship. And he did it while not fully healthy. Wynn tore his labrum on Nov. 18 against Kentucky, and put off surgery until the end of the season. “Yeah it was (limiting). But shoot we had a heck of a season so why let that stop us from getting to where we needed to go,” Wynn said on Wednesday. Wynn estimated he played the rest of the season at 85 percent. It’s common for players to play through a labrum tear, which sounds worse than it seems: The labrum is a piece of cartilage attached to the edge of the shoulder. “It’s kind of harder to block with that because you’re always getting it jammed back,” Wynn said. “But it’s good.” Wynn and Georgia kept the injury under wraps until the end of the season. He played four full games with it: The wins over Georgia Tech, Auburn in the SEC championship and Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, and the overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship. “He’s got a great toughness,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I don’t want to make a big deal about it for Isaiah, there’s a lot of guys on our team, Trent (Thompson) dealt with labrums. We’ve got a lot of guys with labrums. It’s an injury that’s very common in football. We see it more in high school where guys are coming in and having the surgery done before they even get here. I had it done. “But it’s one of those things where Isaiah being an offensive lineman he’s constantly got his hands outside his framework when a guy gets away, and it makes you vulnerable to that injury. But it’s also something that sometimes you can’t make worse, you’ve just got to push through, and boy he’s a tough guy. Because I would see it come out, see it slip, and he would keep right on playing.” Wynn said he heard from teams at both tackle and guard. He started at guard for most of his sophomore and junior seasons, then moved permanently to left tackle for his final season. Things went better for Georgia when he was at one position: The Bulldogs were 19-2 with Wynn at left tackle. Some projections have Wynn going in the first round of the NFL draft next month.   The post Isaiah Wynn played hurt during Georgia playoff run appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Jake Fromm was captured beyond the lights first. Justin Fields was the next man up the following season. That was a pair of 5-star QBs. Both on their way to UGA. Both starring in a documentary series that chronicles their final season of high school football. “The great difference between QB1 and Friday Night Lights? This is REAL”- Peter Berg talks QB1 ahead of Wednesday's season 2 premiere. pic.twitter.com/Fezg5WCjB1 — QB1 (@QB1show) February 26, 2018 Sound like DawgNation deja vu? Imagine how Brett Whitcomb feels. He spent the last two football seasons working with the next great Georgia QB. The local producer for the streaming “QB1: Beyond the Lights” program embedded himself into Jake Fromm’s world in 2016. He then did the same for 10 full weeks with Justin Fields in 2017. Who said football season has to end? Season 2 of #QB1 begins 2/28 on @realratedred pic.twitter.com/kquu26eD4V — QB1 (@QB1show) February 7, 2018 He had a funny line when considering the odds of working with another 5-star QB on the way to UGA in the fall of 2018. “It is going to get so weird,” Whitcomb said while holding back an eventual chuckle. “I won’t mind again if it is again close to my house. I will like it. But if it happens again (another UGA recruit) I might get investigated for some kind of weirdness going on. I don’t want that.” The series offers the chance for UGA fans to relive it. But they know this time it ends with Fields in red and black. 'Stay home brother, stay home” Catch up on Season 2 here ➡️ https://t.co/Hf9JLUvPjc pic.twitter.com/LFXPmMf30N — QB1 (@QB1show) March 17, 2018 Fields is one of three major character arcs in Season 2 of the docu-series. It i s available for streaming on Verizon’s portfolio of media brands including go90, Complex, Complex Networks’ Rated Red channel, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo View, Rivals.com, Fios On Demand and Fios1. The series drops a new episode every Wednesday right here . 10-star work: Filming Jake Fromm and Justin Fields  Justin Fields, now a UGA freshman, was rated as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat QB for 2018. (Complex Networks) It is a unique alignment of the stars. A pair of 5-stars, at that. Whitman saw both up close in moments when the red light was off and on. He was there for major injuries to both. The Rated Red cameras were there if things went south. Fields was assigned some late-night lawn care by his father when he wasn’t where he was supposed to be after one practice. “Right off just the similarities would be incredible family structure and just the best kind of parents you could ask for,” Whitman said. “Justin’s parents were just the most fantastic people and the same with Emerson and Lee (Fromm) and Jake’s parents. They were both incredibly hospitable. They got the show and understood what we were doing. That was exactly how it was when we first started with Justin.” There are differences in those players, though. That’s even evident when following their careers. “Justin is a little more reserved,” Whitman said. “He’s a little more quiet than Jake. Jake is a tad bit more outgoing and just kind of says things whenever he wants. He’s very energetic. Justin was a little more reserved but that was the only kind of difference.” “But you could tell if you met them together, that you would kind of get that vibe. But both (are) highly intelligent kids. They prove it with their GPAs and when you are talking to them.” The QB1 series also followed Jake Fromm along his senior year of high school ball at Houston County in 2016. (Rob Saye/Special to DawgNation) He said both only needed about 15 minutes of prep. They were good to go with all the hours and hours of shooting after that. Whitman said he would shoot all day at Harrison. The goal was to come away with just a couple of minutes every day that might work for the show. “Those two kids really got it and they never looked back,” he said. “Once I told them what we were doing, they just put their head down and went about their high school life.” He felt the production was a “dream come true” from a creative standpoint. “They ignored me,” Whitman said. “It was kind of a dream when Matt gave me the access to go in there and we had access to go to the school. Everyone was nice and welcoming and nice. Then they just did their job and kind of ignored us. Which is really kind of the best thing you can ask for when trying to do a documentary.” How Harrison managed the film crews all season long Harrison coach Matt Dickmann gives credit to Fields and his family. He thanked his father for providing the structure for his program to flourish under some intense media spotlight. The family basically shut down all media access to Fromm. Except for that documentary crew. “The one thing that Justin’s Dad, Pablo, did well was once the season started there were no more interviews,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “Which really made it much easier for me. Because I was getting one phone call or email request on the average of one to two per day. People would want to come to practice and you really don’t have time.” Dickmann has lived those hours. The school day begins at 7 a.m. and the football practice wraps about 12 hours later. Now multiply that by the fact that Field was the nation’s top-rated recruit for his entire senior season. He also remained uncommitted until the first week of October. “(Those requests) takes away from preparing for football and I don’t think the average person or fan understands that,” Dickmann said. “… If we would have done every request, I don’t know that we would have ever got anything done.” The many layers to Justin Fields The head coach feels that the crew has captured the essence of the young man he’s gotten to know so well over the last few years. “I think for the most part they have shown how competitive he is,” Dickmann said. “They’ve shown his sense of humor. They have shown how serious he can be when it is game time because Justin is very intelligent but he also likes to have fun with his teammates. He also likes to compete and challenge people, too. I think they’ve done a good job of bringing that side out and showing that part of his personality, too.” There’s one moment in the series where Fields tries to hit a teammate in the head during a lull in practice. His buddy is wearing a helmet and he’s attempting to cover about 20-30 yards with that heave. It was a loft. Not a toss with the same amount of mustard on it that he used during the first day of spring practice at UGA on Tuesday. “I would kid with him and tell him ‘Don’t do that’ because I know he was kidding around,” Dickmann said. “But I wanted him to know that is not him being a really good teammate when he is doing that. But that’s just him being a kid.” That was the fun side he sometimes would show. That would be a counter to the cerebral and calculating presence he shifted into when surrounded by about 10 reporters at the Nike Opening out in Oregon. “He would like to have fun with me,” Dickmann said. “He would say sometimes that ‘Coach, I can’t go today because I strained my hamstring’ but he was kidding with me. I wouldn’t know if he was kidding or not with me some days.” So the ol’ coach would give as good as he got. “I would kid him back and tell him that  I was having chest pains that day and would have to go to the hospital,” Dickmann said. “I would tell him I wouldn’t be able to coach.” RELATED: Harrison’s Matt Dickmann knows what UGA fans should expect out of Justin Fields this spring at UGA The post WATCH: Stream the Complex Networks weekly series with UGA freshman Justin Fields appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS -- Former University of Georgia four-year football letterman and assistant coach John Donaldson died Tuesday in Jesup at the age of 92. Donaldson coached at Jesup High School and Wayne County High at different times in his career around assistant coaching positions at both Florida and Georgia. During his tenures Jesup won state AA championships in 1954 and 59 and Georgia won the 1966 and '68 Southeastern Conference titles.As a player, Donaldson was a mainspring at halfback on Georgia's four straight bowl teams of 1945-46-47-48. A native of Jesup where he was All-State in high school, Donaldson came to Georgia in 1945 after starring with the Jacksonville Navy in 1944. In the Georgia-Tulsa Oil Bowl game on New Year's Day, 1946, he caught a 65-yard TD pass from Charley Trippi. He played with the old Chicago Hornets of the All-American Conference in 1949, then began a coaching career at Jesup High. In eight seasons there his teams won the division title each year and in 1954 they ended a 44-game winning streak by the Valdosta Wildcats. Jesup won the state AA championship in 1954 and 1959. Donaldson joined head coach Ray Graves' Florida staff as defensive backfield coach in 1960 and served in that capacity for three years. He was head freshman coach in 1963 and his Baby Gators were 3-1. Donaldson left Florida in 1964 to coach at the University of Georgia under new head coach Vince Dooley. He coached the offensive backfield for five years (1964-1968) at UGA and also coordinated Georgia's running game from 1967-1968. The Bulldogs were second in the SEC in rushing in 1967 and in 1968, Georgia led the SEC in rushing and scoring en route to the SEC championship. He also was the coordinator of Georgia's off-season weight and running programs. In addition, Donaldson served as the main recruiter for the South Georgia and the Jacksonville areas. Donaldson retired from coaching and entered private business in Jesup until 1971 when he rejoined the Georgia coaching staff as head freshman coach. In 1973, Donaldson became head coach at Wayne County High before retiring in 1982. He was married to the former Ann Coppelman of Jesup. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the Howard-Jones Funeral Home in Jesup, 777 South First Street. Funeral services will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 745 South Palm Street.
  • The Georgia Bulldogs will have plenty of representation throughout the NFL Draft next month, but they’ll be front and center on night one. According to Jason Butt of the Macon Telegraph, Smith received and invite to the draft and will attend. Roquan Smith said he has received an invitation to the NFL draft and will attend. He’s a projected top-15 pick. — Jason Butt (@JasonHButt) March 21, 2018 RELATED: SEC Country NFL Mock Draft Smith will almost certainly be the first Georgia player to be selected in the draft, as he’s projected to go within the first 10-15 picks. As an attendee, he’ll get to walk across the stage when his name is called, which will surely be a special moment for him and his family. The 2018 NFL Draft will be held at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The first round will be on Thursday, April 26, with rounds two through seven split over the following two days. It’s the first time the draft will be at the a stadium where an NFL team plays. In other Dawgs in the NFL news, running back Nick Chubb told ESPN that he currently has one pre-draft visit scheduled, with a team familiar to the SEC area. Chubb will meet with the Carolina Panthers of the NFC South. He’ll likely have a handful of similar meetings with teams over the course of the next month. Georgia RB Nick Chubb told me he has one team visit lined up so far, to the Carolina Panthers next week. https://t.co/Hp7lrmTheH — vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) March 21, 2018 Georgia is holding its Pro Day in Athens on Wednesday. Patriots coach Bill Belichick spent a lot of time working with Smith and the other Bulldogs linebackers. The post Report: Roquan Smith will attend NFL Draft appeared first on DawgNation.