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College Football
Georgia football: The top 5 National Championship Game storylines
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Georgia football: The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

University of Georgia Football By The Numbers

Georgia football: The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

Alright, folks. The time for reminiscing on the Rose Bowl has passed (for now). It’s time to focus squarely on what’s next: the National Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. It seems like we should have more than a week to prepare ourselves for such a monumental matchup, but we get what we get. So let’s waste no more time and get right into it. Here are the top 5 Georgia storylines heading into Atlanta.

>> Read more trending news 

The Teacher vs. The Pupil— Ever since Kirby Smart was hired by Georgia, college football fans have been anticipating the day he met his mentor and former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, on the field. But most folks expected that first meeting to come in an SEC Championship Game, not the National Championship Game. And this first — of possibly many — between Smart and Saban also brings with it the opportunity for Smart to achieve something no former Saban assistant has done before: Beat the man they used to call boss.

A potential changing of the guard … or at least a step in that direction — Even if Georgia is able to claim the national title, it will still be the second-best program in the SEC. The four national titles and five SEC titles Saban has won in Tuscaloosa has given the Tide a nice cushion at the top. But considering this is only Smart’s second season at the helm in Athens, the fact it took Saban three seasons to win his first at Bama and the way Smart is recruiting, it’s safe to say the Dawgs have their sights set on becoming the top program in college football.

A chance for Georgia’s seniors to go out on top — One of the most important moments of the 2017 season happened eight months before kickoff against Appalachian State. This season wouldn’t have been possible if Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy bolted for the NFL after their junior season. Between their production on the field and leadership off it, they’re the four most important players on this team. They came back to win something big, so it would be fitting if they left Athens after winning the biggest game there is.

>> Related: Trump plans on attending Georgia-Alabama championship football game

Revenge is a dish best served cold (and dry) — The last time Georgia and Alabama met on the field was on a rainy day at Sanford Stadium in 2015, and the Tide destroyed the Dawgs 38-10. I’m sure there are plenty of members of this Georgia team who haven’t forgotten the misery brought on by both the rain and soul-crushing loss. I sure haven’t. It may be two seasons later, but the National Championship Game will be a chance to serve up some revenge on the biggest possible stage. At the very least it should be dry this time.

Home away from home — The only way to improve the setting of the National Championship Game, from a Georgia perspective, would be to play it in Sanford Stadium. But making the 60-mile trip to Atlanta is a close second. Although it ain’t nearly as close as Athens, Tuscaloosa ain’t too far either, and Alabama will be well-represented. Inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it’ll probably be a 50-50 split. But outside it’ll be all Dawg. Every Bulldogs fan in the metro area, and many out of it, are gonna show up to the Benz in hopes of maybe scoring a ticket, or at least being in the vicinity when and if the Dawgs make history.

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Recoup and recover

Between the physicality of the Rose Bowl, the length of the game, the emotion toll of a hard-fought victory and the cross-country flight from California to Georgia, I’ve been a bit worried about how drained Georgia’s players will be by the time Monday rolls around. Count Kirby Smart in that camp as well. From Chip Towers of DawgNation:

“I talked with the players immediately afterward about not burning any more emotion or energy on that game and keep moving on,” Smart said on a College Football Playoff championship teleconference call Tuesday afternoon. “Alabama had a little more sound victory, so they probably didn’t burn quite as much emotion, although I know it was emotional to beat a team that beat them last year. The focus going forward will be on preparing for Alabama and a great program that Coach Saban has got.” …

>> Related: The National Championship game: What time, what channel, odds, livestream for Alabama vs. Georgia

“You emphasize rest, recovery. You emphasize what we talk about all the time, which is getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone,” Smart said. “… We’re starting school this week, too, so that’s another deal on top of our kids that they get to deal with. When you start dealing with a lot of outside influences on your kids’ time, you’ve got to be smart as a coach and understand you’ve got to get the most out of them, but we’ve got to be smart with our practice time and our recovery time.”

A special season

As amazing as Sony Michel and Nick Chubb played as lights out as the defense was in the second half of the Rose Bowl, neither was the ultimate difference in defeating Oklahoma. That would be special teams. Three special teams plays completely changed Georgia’s chances: Tae Crowder’s quick move on the squib kick, Rodrigo Blankenship’s 55-yarder and, of course, Lorenzo Carter’s blocked field goal.

>> Related: Alabama’s Nick Saban admits beating Georgia will be very difficult

But the Dawgs’ special teams prowess wasn’t limited to just the Rose Bowl. Their improvement in that facet of the game over last year is one of the major reasons they find themselves on the cusp of a national championship. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:

Read more here.


Harry How/Getty Images
The Georgia Bulldogs celebrate with newspapers after the Bulldogs beat the Oklahoma Sooners 54-48 in double overtime in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Pasadena, California.
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Georgia football: The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images
The Georgia Bulldogs celebrate with newspapers after the Bulldogs beat the Oklahoma Sooners 54-48 in double overtime in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Pasadena, California.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS — New Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean has finally pulled the trigger on naming a second assistant basketball coach. Joe Scott, most recently an assistant coach at Holy Cross, sports 16 seasons of head coaching experience at three Division I schools. He joins Chad Dollar on the Bulldogs’ staff. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said in a statement released by the school. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” Said Scott, also in a statement: “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family. The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott was tabbed one of the nation’s top-20 “Xs & Os” coaches in a survey of his peers by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in 2013. He was head coach at Air Force for four seasons, Princeton for three campaigns and Denver for nine seasons. He also has served as an assistant coach at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross. All told, Scott sports 27 years of collegiate coaching experience. Before breaking into the head coaching ranks, Scott was an assistant coach at Monmouth during the 1991-92 season and at Princeton from 1992-2000. While at Princeton, Scott helped the Tigers to five consecutive postseason appearances, with trips to the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NCAA Tournaments and the 1999 and 2000 NITs. The Tigers won three Ivy League titles from 1996-98, including perfect 14-0 records in the final two seasons. Princeton upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in 1998 en route to earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest ever for an Ivy League team. The post Georgia’s Tom Crean finally settles on a second assistant coach appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia basketball and Tom Crean have hired a second assisstant coach, this time in former Princeton head coach Joe Scott. The school released a statement on the hiring, with a statement from Crean. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” In addition to serving as the head coach at Air Force, Scott also has head coaching experience at Princeton and Denver. As an assistant Scott has worked at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross, where he spent the past two seasons. Scott is a Princeton alum. “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family,” Scott said. “The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott will join assistant Chad Dollar in helping Crean. Dollar’s hire was announced earlier in April. Crean replaced Mark Fox, who had been the coach at Georgia since the 2008-09 season. The post Georgia basketball announces hiring of assistant coach Joe Scott appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia held their final actual practice of the spring at the Woodruff Practice Complex on Thursday. Under clear skies and relatively cool temperatures, the Bulldogs were working out in shorts and helmets and were scheduled to for about two hours. The next time they get together and play as a team will be during G-Day Saturday at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m., ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Actually, it will as two teams. UGA on Thursday released its split rosters for the Red and Black squads for Saturday’s intrasquad game. This year, Georgia’s No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Jake Fromm, will be the Red team. The Black Squad will be led by the Bulldogs’ No. 1 defensive unit — and freshman quarterback Justin Fields, of course. Fromm’s Red squad will be protected by the first-string offensive line — which included both Solomon Kindley and Kendall Baker to play left guard. It will also feature juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien at tailback and Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman at wideout and Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner at tight end. Fields’ No. 2 offensive unit will have walkons Prather Hudson and Ian Donald-McIntyre in the backfield and will feature a receiving corps of Ahkil Crumpton, J.J. Holloman, Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers and Tyler Simmons. Of course, the Black team will be hanging its hat on a defensive team led by Tyler Clark, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Jonathan Ledbetter, Julian Rochester and Malik Herring and inside linebackers Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder and Nate McBride. D’Andre Walker, Robert Beal and Walter Grant will man the outside linebacker positions. The secondary for the Black squad has Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee at the corners, William Poole at star and J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III at the safeties. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs appeared to be going through normal drill work and play-polish in the early portions of practice on Thursday. Following are a few observations: Senior Terry Godwin was going through regular drill work with the receivers but appeared to be a bit gimpy in doing so. He had a reinforced brace on one knee and a regular sleeve on the other. Cornerback Mark Webb was not practicing after suffering a knee injury of undisclosed severity on Tuesday. Indications are it’s not a “major” injury. D’Andre Swift was going through bag drills with the running backs and did not exhibit noticeable limitations. He is dealing with a groin injury, according to coach Kirby Smart. Defensive tackle Michael Barnett (knee) was not at practice again, assuring that he’ll miss G-Day. Justin Young, who missed practices last week due to a minor knee sprain, has been able to practice and might be able to play. One area lacking depth that has not been much discussed is deep snapper for special teams. The Bulldogs technically have just one on the roster in redshirt freshman Oren Morgan of Toombs County. But senior fullback Nick Moore also snaps to the kickers. Former tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were watching Thursday’s practice from the sideline and having a good time commenting on what they say. Asked which tailback they expected to be the leading rusher for the G-Day Game on Saturday, they simultaneously said “Prather Hudson.” Hudson is a redshirt sophomore walkon from Columbus. Recently-matriculated receiver Javon Wims was also at practice watching his position group. All of them plan to attend on Saturday, with Chubb conducting an autograph-signing at the bookstore.   The post Practice report: Jake Fromm to lead Red against Justin Field’s Black squad on G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if you see players being shuffled around a lot and playing in somewhat unfamiliar positions Saturday, especially on defense. Spring practice is a highly experimental time as it is, but injuries have forced Georgia’s hand in some key areas on the football field. As a result, you’re likely to see some defensive ends playing tackle, some tackles playing nose guard and some safeties playing cornerback when the Bulldogs conduct their annual G-Day spring intrasquad game at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Georgia has been hit with injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary this spring. Defensive end Justin Young and tackle Michael Barnett have been out for most of the spring with what coach Kirby Smart calls “minor” knee injuries. This Tuesday, cornerback Mark Webb suffered what’s characterized as a non-serious knee injury, but he won’t be available for game simulation on Saturday. He’ll be joined on the sideline by senior safety Jarvis Wilson, who has a sprained foot. As a result, Georgia will have to do some mixing and matching in order to keep a competitive 22 players on the field at all times. The Bulldogs have 111 players on their spring roster, but that includes six kicking specialists or holders and 36 walk-ons, including three quarterbacks not named Stetson Bennett. The point is, not all of those players are going to play and many won’t get significant amounts of time. Junior David Marshall, who played in 14 games at defensive end last season and started three, has been playing inside at tackle. Likewise, defensive tackle Julian Rochester has been cross-training at nose guard. Just a week ago, the Bulldogs moved redshirt sophomore Chris Barnes from offensive guard to the defensive line to shore up depth. “We’re just a little short,” said Marshall, who logged 52 tackles and 3 1/2 quarterback sacks last season. “But it’s next man up around here, so we’ve got to tough it out.” Smart hasn’t been thrilled with the end result. At different times this spring he has complained about the defense not being “stout enough” against the run. “We’ve certainly got to get better at defending [the run], especially against big, physical people like our offense,” Smart said. “But the way to do that is you’ve got to have big people to combat big people with, and we don’t have a lot of big guys. So, we’re looking to recruit. We’re trying to find 290-[pound]-plus guys that can help us become more stout. For us to play the way we want to play we’ve got to have physical guys in there.” In terms of interior defensive linemen that are on scholarship, Georgia has just eight. Freshman signees Jordan Davis and Tramel Walthour won’t join the team until this summer. Smart said he’d like to sign four in the Class of 2019. Georgia also is missing Deangelo Gibbs and is down to 10 scholarship players in the secondary for the scrimmage. By specialty, it breaks down to five corners and five safeties. As always, some from both groups work at the “star” or nickel back positions. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also could pluck a linebacker to play in the back third. That has required proven veterans such as junior safety J.R. Reed and senior cornerback Deandre Baker to do a lot of on-field coaching when they’re facing off against Georgia’s high-octane offense. “It’s always good to see these young guys grow,” said Reed, who started all 15 games at strong safety last season. “My goal is to really mold these young guys and really get them up to almost be where I’m at and to get these guys that don’t know a lot to learn more.” While Georgia is expected to receive an infusion of talent when elite signees Tyson Campbell, Nadab Joseph and Otis Reese enroll in June, G-Day will be especially important for their predecessors. Sophomores Ameer Speed, Eric Stokes and William Poole and redshirt freshmen Tray Bishop and Latavious Brini have much to prove. “It’s their time,” Smart said, “and they have to step up or they’ll be replaced by the people coming in.” Low numbers overall are not unusual for spring games. After all, the majority of the incoming recruiting class hasn’t joined the team yet. In Georgia’s case, it has 17 more players on the way. In the meantime, the players that are present and accounted for aim to give the expected crowd of 78,000 a show of some sort. “We like to see all the fans come out and support us,” Marshall said. “We’re going to come out and show great effort hopefully we’ll see how the season will go this year.” The post Injuries have left Bulldogs a little light on defense heading into G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.