The regular season of college football is now over. Whew, it goes fast, doesn’t it? It seems like we blink our eyes, see the summer colors change to fall and the college football season just flies by.
Back in August, there was reason to believe the Georgia Bulldogs could win the SEC East. The Florida Gators were back-to-back division winners, but they had plenty of questions. If Georgia could handle the Gators in Jacksonville, most believed the Bulldogs would head to Atlanta.
Well, they handled more than just the Gators. Georgia overachieved, overperformed, surpassed expectations, whatever you want to call it. Not many believed the Bulldogs would go 11-1 in the regular season. They might not have believed it, but it happened.
So, in two years, Kirby Smart has gotten his Bulldogs to the first step on the ladder. Win the division, then win the conference and then go for a national championship. It shows the culture change has worked, maybe a little earlier than expected.
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The next step is winning this Saturday and beating the team that beat them so badly just two-plus weeks ago. Auburn whipped Georgia, but it was at Auburn in a crazy environment.
Can the Tigers do it again? Maybe, but it won’t be easy.
It’s hard in football to beat a team twice in one season. It’s not impossible, but it’s tough to do. Being in a more friendly atmosphere should help Georgia, as they were obviously affected by the loud Auburn fans on the plains. And there’s no chance the area around Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be covered with toilet paper Saturday night, as they do in Auburn after a victory.
To win this game, Georgia must take what happened in Auburn and learn from it. They know they were beaten on the lines of scrimmage. Are there adjustments to be made from that? They know Auburn shut out the running game, and there’s no way Georgia can win without the running game.
And look, if Auburn again holds Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to 46 yards rushing, give them the SEC trophy. They’ll deserve it, and Gus Malzahn can say anything he wants to about how badly he beat Georgia.
Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney must have a more balanced attack this time around. Chaney stuck with the run too long in Auburn, and instead of admitting the run just wasn’t going to work, by the time he did pull the plug it was too late.
Chaney needs to trust Jake Fromm. Yes, Fromm is a freshman. Yes, they’ve done a great job of not putting too much on Fromm in his first season. But this kid has led Georgia to one of its best seasons ever with the 11-1 record. Fromm has done nothing to make you think he can’t handle more responsibility to try and help Georgia win.
No one understands why the Georgia tight ends have gone missing in action this season. Chaney should use them this week against the Tigers. And running back D’Andre Swift has been Georgia’s fourth-leading receiver, so Chaney should allow Fromm to throw some screen passes Swift’s way.
The offense must be more creative, more productive. Thinking they’ll just run it down Auburn’s throat didn’t work last time, and it might not work again. So, the more balanced the offense can be, with Fromm leading the way, the better chance Georgia will have to win.
This is simple. If Georgia plays better on the lines of scrimmage, they’ll have a great chance Saturday. If they don’t, it might be a replay of what happened Nov. 11 in Auburn.
Either way, Georgia has taken that next step. This program is in so much better shape now than it was two years ago when Smart took over. We will now see if they’re even more ahead of schedule than we all thought.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.