ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Georgia’s offense has a chip on its shoulder.
Yes, the No. 4 Bulldogs are again in prime position to make a run at the College Football Playoff.
But, heading into the home finale against No. 24 Texas A&M on Saturday, there’s a bit of grumbling about an offense that has struggled to break games open.
“We just use it as motivation,” tight end Eli Wolf said. “We’ve got step up and do our part.”
Georgia (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) was held to 251 total yards by Auburn last week, but still managed a 21-14 victory.
Over the last two weeks, Jake Fromm has completed less than half his throws (26 of 57). D’Andre Swift has gone over 1,000 yards but can’t seem to pop off a long run.
“We're certainly looking, trying, reaching, trying to find ways to create those advantageous situations,” coach Kirby Smart said. “But I just know our conference is very defensive when it comes to rankings and statistics. There's a lot of good teams in it.”
Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2) will be making its first trip to Sanford Stadium since 1980, when the Aggies were members of the long-departed Southwest Conference. Georgia won 42-0 on the way to winning its only consensus national championship.
These Bulldogs also have title aspirations.
Playing its third top 5 team of the season, Texas A&M is looking to derail those plans.
“They’re a great team,” receiver Jhamon Ausbon said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show what we can do.”
Some other things to watch for when the Bulldogs host the Aggies:
TO RUN OR NOT TO RUN
Texas A&M rushed for 319 yards in last week’s victory over South Carolina, its best output on the ground since 2016.
But the Aggies and their two-back offense will be facing one of the nation’s stingiest defenses in Athens.
Georgia has allowed just 75.5 yards per game on the ground and went nine games without giving up a rushing touchdown until finally buckling in the fourth quarter against Auburn.
Smart said having a more experienced secondary has actually been a big reason for Georgia’s improvement against the run, allowing the guys up front to play more aggressively.
A season ago, the Bulldogs surrendered 134 yards rushing per game.
“You were holding on every time somebody moved or motioned,” Smart recalled. “This year you feel more comfortable being aggressive, and we're reaping the benefits of experience.”
These teams are unfamiliar to each other, even though they’ve been playing in the same conference since 2012.
This is the first SEC meeting between Georgia and Texas A&M and only the sixth time they’ve ever faced each other. Under the scheduling formula in the 14-team league, they just don’t see each other that often.
“It's crazy that they've been in how many years?“ Smart said. “Seven years and they still haven't played Georgia. That's kind of wild to think about.”
After Saturday, they won’t face each other again until 2024, when Georgia makes its first trip to College Station.
Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond can create offense with his arm or his legs.
The junior is just 83 yards passing from joining Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel as the only players in school history to throw for 7,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in their college careers.
Smart said he is reminded of Dak Prescott’s development at Mississippi State.
“He has probably improved as much as a player from high school to now as any quarterback I've ever seen,” Smart said of Mond. “We know the athlete he is. We know he can run. But it's not like you say this guy is a runner first. He's a really good passer.”
GEORGIA’S CLEAR PATH
Despite an unthinkable loss to South Carolina, clearly the worst defeat on any playoff contender’s resume, the Bulldogs are in essentially the same position they’ve been in the last two years.
If they can win out, they’ll earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Georgia must first get by the Aggies before taking on Georgia Tech (2-8) in the regular-season finale. Then it’s on to the SEC championship game, where the Bulldogs will likely face top-ranked LSU.
Texas A&M is riding a four-game winning streak, but the Aggies have yet to beat a ranked opponent this season.
Hard to blame them.
This will be fourth team Texas A&M has faced that was in the Top 10 at kickoff. Clemson and Alabama were both at No. 1 when they defeated the Aggies, and Auburn was No. 8 when the Tigers hung on for a victory in College Stadium.
Texas A&M isn’t done, either. In the regular-season finale, the Aggies will face the current No. 1 team, LSU.
“Hopefully we learned from those games earlier in the year, how to approach those games, and the level of ball you have to play at consistently,” said Fisher, who is seeking his 100th career victory.
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