It’s the halfway mark for the Georgia Bulldogs and after a rocky start, they have come together and pulled off four straight wins including three consecutive victories against SEC opponents.
How were they able to do that? What happened to make the Bulldogs click after losses to Boise State and South Carolina? In think what it comes down to is growing up as a team. The Bulldogs are a better team now than what they were six weeks ago and its showing on the field.
On offense, Aaron Murray has been as solid as any quarterback in the SEC. Murray averages 221 passing yards per game which is the third highest total in the conference and has thrown for 13 touchdowns which second best in the conference. He also has a passer efficiency rating of 150 which puts him fourth in the SEC.
Murray has been playing well because of the emergence of two rookie players. Running back Isaiah Crowell and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell have exploded onto the scene and have caught the attention of fans, players, coaches from opposing teams. Crowell is averaging 95 yards per game and has four rushing touchdowns. Mitchell is fourth in the conference with 73 yards per game and has also scored four touchdowns.
The offense is averaging over 30 points per game and they are doing all the things necessary to win games in the SEC. But it’s the defense that will get to a SEC championship and while the Bulldogs are not the best defense in the SEC, they are very close. The Bulldogs are ranked third in the conference in total defense and tied for third in the conference in scoring defense. Nationally, the Bulldogs are ranked sixth in the country in total defense with only LSU, Penn State, Alabama, Central Florida and Michigan State in front of them.
The strength of the defense has been its linebackers. Cornelius Washington and Jarvis Jones are doing well getting after the quarterback and Michael Gilliard leads the team in tackles with 40. The reason the linebackers have been playing well is the defensive line is eating up space. DeAngelo Tyson, Kwame Geathers, Abry Jones, Garrison Smith and John Jenkins don’t have the big numbers, but they rarely get beat off the ball and play well together as a unit.
The secondary was criticized last year for giving up too many big plays. This year, the unit has cut down on those and has been making their own big plays. Bacarri Rambo leads the team with three interceptions. Rambon and Brandon Boykin have become leaders of the secondary with their style of play. Branden Smith has gotten better and Sanders Commings seems to improve each game.
The biggest area of concern could be the special teams, Drew Butler is doing fine in the punting department (like he always does), but Blair Walsh is having an off year. Walsh has missed six field goals so far this season, which is not normal for him considering he has only missed five field goals in 2009 and 2010 combined. But as long as the defense comes through and the offense continues to score points, Walsh’s missed field goals won’t be a huge concern.
The second half of the schedule will include Vanderbilt, Florida, New Mexico State, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. All are winnable games but the Bulldogs have to play better football than they are now if they want to win out. They have made strides from the first game of the season to their previous game against Tennessee. Now, it’s time for the Bulldogs to take their game to the next level.