For the first time ever, the 2019 Notre Dame football schedule has the Irish facing the Georgia Bulldogs in a game between the hedges of Sanford Stadium. A game we just learned earlier this week will officially be played under the lights as CBS’s only prime-time game of the year. Given the difficult opponent they’ll be facing, the Irish won’t have much time to absorb the historic nature of the locale.
In 12 of the last 17 years, the Bulldogs have reached double-figures in wins for a season, including a 24-5 mark the past two years. Two years ago, they lost the national title game to Alabama in overtime, then watched in horror in the SEC championship game last year as the Crimson Tide came back for the victory.
Georgia Offense: Still Dangerous
For the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have been led behind center by Jake Fromm and gotten both production and consistency from the position. Despite sustaining some seruious damage to the receiving corps because of departures, the Bulldogs t season, the junior managed to increase his number of pass attempts and accuracy, while also continuing to avoid making mistakes with his throws. During his two years at quarterback, he’s thrown for 54 touchdowns and tossed just 13 interceptions.
One of the reasons that the Bulldogs have thrived in recent years is because of their ability to offer a balanced offensive attack. Georgia has acquired the enviable nickname of Running Back U because of the NFL pipeline of talented backs that have come through the program.
D’Andre Swift rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year and also grabbed 32 passes along the way. He figures to be teamed with the larger Brian Herrien, who gained 295 yards last season. However, he could be supplanted by the next big thing in Athens, Zamir White, who comes with stellar credentials.
Despite sustaining some serious damage to the receiving corps because of departures, the Bulldogs will still have plenty of talent available. Jeremiah Holloman brings good size and is expected to be Georgia’s top receiver, but Fromm will also have a pair of speed demons to throw to in Demetris Robinson and Tyler Simmons. Potentially, a pair of true freshmen in Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens may emerge at some point.
Up front, the Bulldogs will have strength at both tackle slots with Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, with Thomas potential All-America candidate after earning First Team All-Conference accolades last year. After that, a collection of raw and talented players make up this contingent.
Georgia Defense: Filling in the Holes
Last season, the defense of the Bulldogs matched up with the production on offense, but a number of holes need to be filled this season. The team’s 3-4 defense does have sophomore Jordan Davis returning at nose tackle, and while his stats weren’t necessarily notable last year, his presence on the field could give a needed boost to this area. The likely ends here are senior Tyler Clark and junior Malik Herrings, who combined for 54 tackls and 7.5 stops behind the line.
At linebacker, the duo of Tae Crowder and Monty Rice each had over 50 tackles last year, with Crowder also picking up six tackles-for-loss and picking off a pair of passes. Brenton Cox and Walter Grant look like they’ll handle the other two spots, but it wouldn’t come as a total shock to see true freshman Nolan Smith see plenty of action.
In the secondary, the corners do have a pair of question marks in sophomores Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell, with Campbell having more than twice as many tackles as his teammate. However, Stokes knocked away nine passes last season.
The good news is that both safeties are back, with Richard LeCounte and J.R. Reid ending the 2018 campaign as Georgia’s top two tacklers, combining for 140 stops. They’ll have help from Tyrique McGhee, who brings a wealth of veteran experience when he becomes a key facet of the Bulldogs’ nickle coverage.
Georgia Special Teams: Weapons Still Intact
The best bit of news in this department Georgia is that Rodrigo Blankenship will bring back his potent leg for one more season, having established himself as a record-setting and consistent kicker. Punter Jake Carmada has plenty of leg to offer, but needs to work on his touch.
The Last Time Notre Dame Played Georgia
The two teams first met in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, but the only time during the regular season that the Bulldogs were on the 2017 Notre Dame football schedule came just two years ago. That was when the Bulldogs came away with a tight 20-19 victory. The penalty-filled matchup saw the two teams combine for 20 penalties that accounted for 190 yards, with Georgia getting the game-winner on a 30-yard field goal with 3:39 left in the game. The Irish running game managed just 55 yards on the night.