“Well we’re comin… to your city. Gonna play our guitars and sing you a country song”. For what may be considered the toughest season finale in Massachusetts sports history, UMass will be traveling south to Athens, GA to face off against the red-hot Georgia Bulldogs. You would hate to see the Minutemen season end on a sour note, but this 5th ranked team, coached by Kirby Smart is disciplined, both offensively and defensively sound, and has both necessary football I.Q and mental awareness. The spread on the game is 43.5 points- the largest point spread for the Bulldogs this season since their season opener against Austin Peay!
After winning 34-17 against a tough (then ranked) #11 Kentucky Wildcats team, Georgia secured control of the SEC East, where they will return to Atlanta to face-off in the SEC Championship game. While initially struggling out of the gate this past weekend against Auburn, the Bulldog core regained their composure relatively quickly, setting up the team for their 27-10 victory.
The UMass defense will mightily struggle against speedy Georgia running back D’Andre Swift, who is coming off a career best 186 yard rushing performance this past weekend against Auburn. Elijah Holyfield, Jr. Georgia’s No. 2 back, is another ball-carrying machine.
Georgia’s hard-nosed defense has strong red-zone coverage and is not afraid to place a big hit when needed.
Dual-threat quarterback Jake Fromm is the real deal. His ability to scramble out of the pocket to avoid a sack and throw down the sideline on the run present a force for the Minutemen defense to be reckoned with.
What UMass Needs to do to Compete
- The UGA red-zone offense has been a major concern all year long for offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. If UMass defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham can dial up the defensive scheme with a few zone blitz’s, the Minutemen defense can hopefully limit UGA to more field goals then touchdowns.
- Backup QB for UGA, Justin Fields, has only seen in-game action so far this season to provide a break in the passing game for the offense. The UMass defense needs to be aware of his ability to make plays with his feet over his passing abilities. If the first option is to pass, Jake Fromm is Georgia’s guy.
- Andy Isabella needs to shine for one last game to conclude his collegiate career! Leading the nation in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns, the Mayfield, Ohio native is a strong candidate for the Biletnikoff Award. A strong performance from this break-out senior can alter the game’s trajectory completely. This is Georgia we are talking about- they are studying film and we all know that Isabella is maybe the only guy that Kirby is worried about for Massachusetts. I predict that it will be a lot more short yard screens and slot plays for Andy instead of the long passing completions that occurred the last few games against Liberty and UConn.
- Ross Comis needs to continue his strong play, and remain mentally prepared. The West Virginia native has looked poised and focused since taking over for Andrew Ford who suffered a season-ending injury.
- Try some trick plays! There really is nothing to lose at this point. This is not a must-win game for bowl eligibility.
- Avoid turning over the football. Time after time again, UMass kick/punt returners have fumbled the football. Play a safe special teams game. Call for fair catches and do not take the football out of the end zone unless there is a clear path.
- The Georgia offensive line is still caught up in the injury bug. UMass needs to leverage opportunities to exploit these weaker areas of the Georgia secondary.
- We need a poised Bryton Barr ready to play from the opening kickoff. An interception and/or a forced fumble from the graduate linebacker will really erupt the UMass sidelines.
While I would love to see both an irate Kirby Smart and a Saturday evening upset at Sanford Stadium, I will head back down to planet earth.
Game Prediction: UMass 10, Georgia 41