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Georgia Football

Will the Georgia Bulldogs Continue Physical Play at the Start of 2023?

May 8, 2023

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ATHENS - Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs come into this season as the reigning champions and will face a relatively easy schedule compared to other potential challengers. Although the schedule sets up nicely for another championship run, the Dawgs must still execute and play the brand of physical football a Kirby Smart-coached team has become known for. 

UGA’s first four games should be less about their opponents and more about how they play and who begins to emerge as playmakers on both sides of the ball. The Dawgs have holes to fill at critical positions and will have to figure out depth at key areas along both lines of scrimmage. While 3 of the first 4 games should be nothing more than glorified scrimmages Kirby and crew will look to show dominance early and often, setting the stage for younger and less experienced players to gain critical playing time against a live opponent. And not to mention the fact that all four of the first games are at home, providing an excellent opportunity to test this squad prior to getting into the meat of the schedule. 

Let’s look at those first four games. Admittedly, there isn’t much to pull apart apart from the South Carolina game. Here goes:

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UT Martin at Georgia Bulldogs

The Skyhawks are an FCS program that finished 7-4 in 2022 and won the Ohio Valley Conference. UT Martin has established a winning program, and will no doubt provide a little resistance when they come into Sanford Stadium. They are, however, breaking in a new quarterback and doing so on the road in one of the toughest places to play in the nation doesn’t bode well for the Skyhawks. I expect the Dawgs to come out with a vanilla game plan that focuses on the basics against someone other than themselves. Georgia will simply outman and out execute in this game. It may not be exciting, but it’s an opportunity to work fundamentals and to test how young players perform against a live opponent. It should get ugly early with lots of youngsters getting some playing time in front of a capacity crowd.

Ball State Cardinals at Georgia Bulldogs 

The Cardinals have never faced the Dawgs before, and their first time should leave a mark. Ball State finished 5-7 in 2022 and only averaged 23 points per game last season. Facing a Georgia defense that has the potential to be great on their own turf will prove to be too much for a team that just won’t have the horses to stay with the defending champions. Like the first game, I expect the Dawgs to focus on bread and butter plays to refine execution and to give valuable repetitions to younger players to build on the depth Kirby’s teams are known for. 

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South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Bulldogs 

The “sleeping giant” Gamecocks will provide the Dawgs their first real stress as the chickens will boast the best roster Georgia will have seen so far. But that’s not saying much, is it? USC returns Spencer Rattler as their quarterback, but he’s been wildly inconsistent while playing at both Oklahoma and in his only season with the Gamecocks. South Carolina brought in a new offensive coordinator but have numerous questions in the backfield and outside. Their best playmaker, Jaheim Bell, transferred to Florida State in the offseason. There are also multiple questions along both lines of scrimmage. We will know more about this squad after opening the season in a neutral site game against North Carolina. Most analysts seemed to be focusing on Carolina’s late season surge, defeating both Tennessee and Clemson, as reason to believe they are on the verge of breaking through to challenge Georgia in the final season of divisions within the SEC. However, South Carolina has been blown out in Shane Beamer’s first two opportunities against Georgia, most recently a 48-7 drubbing at home in 2022. Kirby also seems to coach with an edge against Beamer for whatever reason. In what might be a primetime showdown in Sanford Stadium, I see no reason why that trend won’t continue in 2023.

Alabama-Birmingham Blazers at Georgia Bulldogs 

Georgia sports a 3-0 record all time against the Blazers, winning the last contest in 2021 56-7. The only true noteworthy storyline here is Trent Dilfer is now the head coach at UAB, replacing long time coach Bill Clark in the offseason. Clark was responsible for bringing the Blazer program back from the dead when the school cancelled the program in 2014, and only returned to a normal schedule in 2017. UAB boasts the most wins in Conference USA since 2017, going 43-20. The Blazers have a relatively easy schedule as well prior to coming to Athens, and while UAB will put up a spirited fight, this gets ugly as Dilfer comes to fully understand the pain that comes with playing Between the Hedges. 

 I know no one is truly enthusiastic about Georgia’s 2023 schedule, especially the first four games. With huge tilts against Clemson in 2021 and Oregon in 2022 to start each season, fans and critics are both bemoaning what the 2023 schedule looks like. Having the Oklahoma game cancelled by the SEC isn’t on Kirby and crew, but many have shown a complete inability to read and comprehend why UGA’s schedule this season is what it is. I, for one, am grateful for a “break in” period this season. Finding Stetson Bennett’s replacement as well as filling critical holes on the offensive line and secondary won’t be completely done when UGA takes the field against UT Martin. The first four games represent an opportunity for the Dawgs to find some answers before the scheduled competition gets a little tougher. All of those games are at home, and I can’t wait to be back inside the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium regardless of who’s on the other side of the field. 

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