We are getting closer and closer to the season now that the 4th of July is behind us, and OMG we have some ground to cover. As part of our pre-fall camp coverage (ie guesses) I will be going through each game the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play this season, and explain the ONLY way they win or lose each contest.
There is no rhyme or reason here (as far as the order goes) so we might as well start with the BIG DAWG...
How the Irish can beat the Georgia Bulldogs
Stop the run.
Many times throughout the Brian Kelly era, we have been critical of the sometimes lack of will to run the ball. After many losses, many can point to “abandoning the run game” as a major part of the loss.
In Athens, I am far less interested in what the Irish do on the ground as I am with what the Bulldogs do. Georgia is typical Georgia and wants to pound the ball on the ground and hit the play-action. Their simple season averages are:
- RUSHING: 40 ATT 239 YDS 2.14 TD per game
- PASSING: 25 ATT 226 YDS 2.42 TD per game
From just those basic stats, we can see very clearly what the Bulldogs were trying to do on the offensive side of the ball. So, when you look at the way Georgia played in their three losses last season, a clear pattern emerges.
Against LSU Tigers (36-16 L)
- RUSHING: 30 ATT 113 YDS 1 TD
- PASSING: 34 ATT 209 YDS 1 TD
Against Alabama Crimson Tide (35-28 L)
- RUSHING: 39 ATT 153 YDS 1 TD
- PASSING: 40 ATT 301 YDS 3 TD
Against Texas Longhorns (28-21 L)
- RUSHING: 30 ATT 72 YDS 3 TD
- PASSING: 35 ATT 224 TDS 0 TD
Obviously those are drastically different numbers than the rest of the season — as one would expect in a loss. In each of those three games, the Bulldogs were forced to go against what they do best for one reason or another.
Now, Georgia has a new offensive coordinator in 2019 with James Coley. Jim Chaney took off for the Tennessee Volunteers, and Kirby Smart promoted Coley to the OC job after he operated as the co-OC in 2018. We should expect some continuity in how the offense is ran and how plays are called, but that doesn’t mean things will be exactly the same. Regardless, everyone in the free world knows that Georgia wants to pound the ball for the win.
None of this was going to be easy for the Irish (duh) anyways, but it looks even harder with everything the Irish have to replace at linebacker and at defensive tackle (namely no Tillery, Tranquill, or Coney) but it HAS to be done. Notre Dame will at least have a couple of games under its belt to be certain of what they have at LB and DT, and maybe they show better than a bunch of green guys out there. Maybe.
If the Irish can force Georgia to throw the ball, this is where it gets interesting. Notre Dame’s pass rush of Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem, and Daelin Hayes is a formidable group — even for what is going to be a really impressive Bulldog offensive line. Apply the pressure, and allow Alohi Gilman, Jalen Elliott, and Troy Pride Jr. to make the plays on the ball in the air. Georgia will be without its top 5 pass receivers from 2018, so we aren’t talking about even one guy at WR that has been in any type of war with Jake Fromm.
If the Irish can do this for most of the game, they could win a 27-24 type matchup.
It sounds so simple — but can they do it?