The Georgia Bulldogs did not have a game last Saturday, but that did not mean head coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff could take a break.
They were probably hard at work scouting future opponents like LSU, Auburn and Vanderbilt. But there is no doubt they were watching the Alabama-Texas A&M contest, despite both teams not being on the Bulldogs schedule.
If the Bulldogs win the next six of seven SEC games this season, they will likely win the SEC East title for the third consecutive year and will face the Crimson Tide or the Aggies (or maybe LSU) in the SEC Championship game depending what happens with the SEC West.
The Alabama-Texas A&M game was as good as anticipated. The Aggies jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but the Crimson Tide responded with 35 unanswered points, the Aggies then scored 14 more points to cut the lead to seven, and both teams exchanged scores to end the game.
If Richt can take anything away from the game, it’s a couple of things.
The first thing is the Bulldogs defense has to continue to improve. They showed glimpses of what they can be in the second half of the South Carolina game as they only surrendered six points. But they are ranked 13th in the SEC in rush defense, 11th in pass defense and 13th in total defense.
If the Bulldogs were to face Alabama in the SEC championship, the linebackers for the Bulldogs would have to make sure the wrap up the running backs as they meet them at the point of attack because the Crimson Tide is really good at running at defenders.
If the Bulldogs were to face the Aggies, the entire defense would have to keep Johnny Manziel in front of them and never over pursuit. Manziel is good at making plays with his legs, but he is even more dangerous with his arm.
Another thing that Richt can take away from the game is that they can match both teams body-to-body on offense. With the Aaron Murray, Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley and an experienced group of receivers and offensive line, the Bulldogs offense is one of the best in the SEC.
What the Bulldogs did in the SEC Championship game against Alabama is what they would have to do again this year. They would have to give the ball to Gurley and Marshall, and let Murray make plays with arm off of play action.
The same scenario goes for A&M. The Aggies defense is very suspect, ranking last in the conference in total defense. Murray knows how to attack a defense that can and will give up a lot of plays. Alabama just ran at the Aggies on Saturday with their slew of backs. The Bulldogs can do the same with Marshall and Gurley.
But what it comes down to is the fact that Bulldogs have to take care of their own business. They have to get through the rest of their SEC opponents before even thinking about playing in the SEC a title game.
The Bulldogs’ next conference opponent will be LSU a week from Saturday. This will be a good test to see if they can hang with the Crimson Tide and the Aggies.
LSU is rebuilding on defense and their offense is not the same caliber as Alabama or Texas A&M. But they are a top-10 team that is hungry to get back in the national title picture. And they are always talented on both sides of the ball, so the Bulldogs will have to play better than they have been in order to take down the Bayou Bengals at Sanford Stadium.
If the Bulldogs do beat the Tigers, then fans will be confident that they can take on Alabama or Texas A&M in the conference title game. But if the Bulldogs lose, then they know they will have some work to do in order to beat the elite teams in the SEC West.