This is the third in a series of posts breaking down the Georgia Bulldogs 2014 football schedule, where we will take a close look week-by-week at UGA’s opponents.
After the Bulldogs get down with two tough games to open the 2014 season against the Clemson Tigers and South Carolina Gamecocks, they will remain home in Athens to welcome the Troy Trojans to Sanford Stadium on Sept. 2o. The Men of Troy are no pushover, and since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2004, they have pulled a number of upsets against supposedly much better opponents.
Troy head coach Larry Blakeney is the Dean of Sun Belt coaches, and is one of the winningest coaches in college football with a 174-101-1 record in 23 years as a head coach. Georgia has an odd habit of getting out of the gate slowly against opponents from less formidable conferences (or even FCS schools), and if they do that against Troy, it might be a tough job getting back ahead of the Trojans.
The Bulldogs and Trojans have faced off only once in the history of the two schools, a 44-34 Georgia win in Athens back in 2007. So neither team has a lot of history to go on, but the Trojans are probably keenly aware of what they’ll be facing in Athens.
When the Trojans Have the Ball
Troy has what is probably the Sun Belt Conference’s best offensive line despite dealing with injuries to three returning starters this Spring. The younger linemen who worked out with the first team look to be able to develop quickly, so depth will not be an issue on the line. Starting RT Terrence Jones is an all-conference player, and former Mississippi transfer Ethan Hutson will start at left guard. The three remaining slots will be battles through the fall, but will still form a very dominant line.
Pass protection is something that Troy’s line excels at, but without knowing for certain who the starting quarterback will be, it’s hard to say how much they’ll pass the ball. But when running behind Jones and Stephens on the strong side, the Trojans run the ball and run it well. They have two returning running backs who will shoulder most of the carries – Brandon Burks and Jordan Chunn – who basically split the carries for the Trojan’s ground attack.
When Troy goes to air the ball out, they’ll definitely miss last year’s go-to guy, Eric Thomas, one of the top receivers in program history. But even without Thomas, the Trojans have four receivers who can easily split time (and defenses) to make for a very effective passing game.
Junior Bryan Holmes (40 receptions for 676 yards), senior Chandler Worthy (25 for 403), senior B.J. Chitty (23 for 187), and K.D. Edenfield (19 for 251) will all put Georgia’s young and inexperienced secondary to the test. Throw in redshirt freshman Jalen Harris, JUCO transfer Jarvis Bentley and sophomores Brandon Brooks, Michael Lindsey and Clark Quisenberry, and suddenly Troy is deep with talent and experience at wide receiver. This could be a troublesome offense to face.
When the Trojans are on Defense
Troy lost three starters from their front seven, a group that really didn’t have much punch in the way of a pass rush to begin with. Junior DE Tyler Roberts (49 tackles, 5.5 sacks) is the only really tough challenge for the Dawgs offensive line to be concerned about. Senior Brandon Timmons, junior Deon Lee and redshirt freshman Jamal Stadom will probably round out the rotation on the ends, but have little in the way of size or speed to take on a line as experienced as Georgia’s.
On the interior line, senior Billy Dobbs and ex-Arkansas transfer Lonnie Gosha look to be starting right now, but Troy will add four JUCO linemen during the summer, with two of them being interior players. Very tough to see how this group will shape up.
Much like Georgia, the Trojans depend a lot on their quality group of linebackers to help keep the defense intact. Seniors Mark Wilson and Wayland Coleman-Dancer are the leaders of this linebacker group. Sophomores, Mitchell Roland and Terris Lewis, and redshirt freshman Sam Lebbie will round out the group, which all have speed and great ball instincts. Without much of a pass rush, and a questionable at best secondary, these linebackers will have to pull double duty for Troy.
Again, in a similar situation to Georgia, the Trojans’ secondary leaves a lot to be desired. A very rocky 2013 season saw two of Troy’s only experienced DBs – Camren Hudson and Chris Pickett – move on from the program. The Trojans will be turning to youth and inexperience once again, with sophomore JaQuadrian Lewis, junior Montres Kitchen and incoming JUCO transfers Ta’Jarvis Fuller and John Knight.
How the Trojans Could Upset Georgia
Troy’s return game is one of the best in the nation, and Georgia has been known to (how shall we say) give up some big returns when the timing is at its worst. Bryan Holmes and Chandler Worthy are probably the best kick returners in the Sun Belt and could probably challenge just about any special teams group in the nation. Troy does have a new kicker, a new punter and a pair of new snappers, which could potentially even things out. But if the Trojans are able to keep things close, the return game could potentially come back to bite the Dawgs.
Outlook for Game
In the end, this is Georgia’s game to lose. They have a much more talented team than does Troy, but early season upsets are something to always be weary of, particularly coming off what will probably be two very physical games with the two big boys from Carolina. If the Bulldogs have their head in this game, they should be able to pull away late in the first half and put it out of reach. But the longer they let the Trojans stay close, the tougher things will get. But have faith, and put it in the Dawgs to win by at least 10.
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