September 19, 2013

Georgia-North Texas Preview


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All-Time Meetings: First Game


Mark Richt: 119-41, 13th year


Dan McCarney 11-16, third year


When: Saturday, September 21
Where: Sanford Stadium
When: 12:21 p.m.
TV: SEC-TV (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano)
Record: Georgia 1-1, North Texas 2-1
Latest Line: Georgia by 33
Georgia Message Boards: UGASports.com

Quarterback

North Texas quarterback Derek Thompson is coming off a personal best after completing a career-high 31 out of 47 passing attempts for 333 yards in last week's 34-27 win over Ball State, a game which saw the Mean Green come back from a first quarter deficit of 20-3. He also set a career high with a 26-yard touchdown run and now stands fifth all-time in school career passing yards with 5,369. Thompson Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week honors for his effort. Currently in his third year as the starting QB for North Texas, that's something that hasn't occurred in 16 years since Jason Mills was the starter from 1995-96. Thompson currently ranks 19th in FBS in passing yards and 17th in passing completions. Additionally, Thompson is working on his Master's degree after graduating from North Texas last season.

Meanwhile, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is coming off one of the finest games of his career after completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns - but perhaps even more impressive - no turnovers. The Bulldog senior should also set some history in Saturday's game. One more touchdown pass will give him 100 for his career, making him the 14th quarterback FBS history to achieve the coveted plateau. Former Florida great Danny Wuerffel is the SEC record holder with 114 career touchdown passes. Speaking of records, Murray comes into play needing 430 yards passing to catch Eric Zeier on the Bulldogs' all-time list and 805 to catch David Greene for No. 1. Although no one has said it publically, the Bulldogs would love for junior Hutson Mason to get his first actual game reps in over two years, but Georgia will need to roll a big lead against the Mean Green for that to happen.

Running Back


According to their pre-game notes package, the Mean Green has perhaps its most depth at running back in history. Senior Brandin Byrd (35-163), sophomore Antoinne Jimmerson (24-71) and junior Reggie Pegram are all experienced and will play. Byrd is the starter and has 294 career carries for 1,290 yards, while Jimmerson led the team in rushing touchdowns last year with five while rushing 132 times for 615 yards. Pegram, meanwhile, is a transfer from Purdue who has 33 carries for 135 yards in three games. Last year marked the first time in 60 years of North Texas football that the Mean Green have had three backs rush for 500 yards in the same season.

Meanwhile, Todd Gurley continues to show why many consider him not only one of the best running backs in the SEC, but the entire country as well. Gurley became the 12th Bulldog to rush for 1,000 yards last season and is well on his way to making it two in a row after rushing for 1,54 yards in the opener at Clemson and 132 two weeks ago against South Carolina. Here's another note of interest, in six previous games against non-conference opponents, Gurley has run for over 100 yards four times, the only exceptions coming against Georgia Southern (15-68) and Georgia Tech (12-97). Keith Marshall needs 140 more yards to reach 1,000 for his career, and both he and Gurley will get ample opportunity to pad their stats against the Mean Green. It will also be interesting to see how the Bulldogs continue to use 265-pound fullback Quayvon Hicks who has seven carries for 66 yards and caught two passes for an additional 61.

Wide Receiver

North Texas set a school record by having 12 different players catch passes in the season-opening win over Idaho. In three games, 14 wideouts have caught passes for North Texas. Senior Breland Chancellor has the most experience with 79 career catches and 10 career touchdowns. So far this year, Chancellor has a team-high 256 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a career-best nine-catch effort in the win over Ball State.

So far, the Bulldogs have not missed Malcolm Mitchell (out for the year with a torn ACL) as redshirt sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley (7 catches for 171 yards) has stepped up to combine with Michael Bennett (8-101) and Chris Conley (5-79) to give Georgia a very dependable top three. The Dawgs had hoped to get junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph in the mix for the first time, but Richt announced on Wednesday that the South Carolina native would miss another game after tweaking his hamstring. Seniors Rantavious Wooten and Rhett McGowan will get their shots, and look for freshman Reggie Davis to likely see his most extensive action to date. At tight end, Arthur Lynch (4-44) is as solid as they come while sophomore Jay Rome is back after missing the South Carolina game with a sprained ankle.

Offensive Line

North Texas led the nation last year by allowing the fewest quarterback sacks in FBS with six. Through three games, the Mean Green has given up just two, which ranks them fifth in the current FBS national standings. Both sacks this year came on scramble attempts by Thompson. The only team that has allowed less sacks with at least 100 pass attempts is Fresno State, which has allowed just one, but has only played two games.

Georgia played poorly against Clemson but rebounded with a strong effort against South Carolina, allowing just two sacks to the Gamecocks. The Bulldogs are expected to have left tackle Kenarious Gates back after spraining his right ankle against South Carolina, although replacement Mark Beard stepped in and proved to be more than an adequate replacement. Despite the first-game issues, Georgia still gobbled up 545 yards against Clemson, before following it up with a 536-yard effort against South Carolina. Improved depth has also been the story for the Bulldogs, who have had six different players - Gates (LT), Chris Burnette (RG), Dallas Lee (LG), David Andrews (C), John Theus (RT) and Kolton Houston (RT and LG) - start over the first two games.

Defensive Line

Aside from 323 pound defensive end Richard Abbe, the Mean Green don't have a ton of size of front, including 248-pound defensive tackle Ryan Boutwell, who is actually smaller than both of North Texas' starting defensive ends Aaron Bellazin (265 pounds) and Daryl Mason (253). But they must be doing something right. North Texas has not allowed a touchdown in the second half this season, having outscored their opponents 46-6 after halftime with the only points coming on a pair of field goals against Ohio.

Georgia continues to mix and match on the defensive line, a unit that continues to be led by senior Garrison Smith who has collected four tackles in each of Georgia's first two games. However, he's also had a lot of help from redshirt sophomore Sterling Bailey who collected a career-best 10 tackles and half a sack against South Carolina, while junior Ray Drew continues to receive increased playing time and has seven solo tackles to start the year. Junior college transfer Toby Johnson and redshirt freshman John Taylor continue to be worked into the mix, along with junior Mike Thornton. Georgia is also expected to welcome Chris Mayes into the mix against North Texas after missing the first two games with a concussion.

Linebacker

Senior team captain and middle linebacker Zach Orr is the heart and soul of the Mean Green defense. After recording 108 tackles last season, Orr was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for his 11-tackle performance in North Texas' win over Idaho. He followed that up with 10 tackles at Ohio and 11 against Ball State. The son of former Washington Redskins great Terry Orr, the two-time All-Conference player should finish in the top five list of all-time tacklers at North Texas and is one of only two C-USA player to be named to the Lombardi Award List this year.

One of Georgia's goals for Saturday is to get more pressure on the quarterback, and that's where outside backers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd come in. Jenkins has yet to record a sack after recording five his freshman season. On the inside, Amarlo Herrera ranks third in the SEC with 24 tackles, while Ramik Wilson is fifth in the league with 23. Herrera played in all 14 games for Georgia last year and is the team's top returning tackler with 70. Freshman Reggie Carter could get more looks Saturday, most likely in place of Wilson, while fellow freshman Tim Kimbrough hopes to finagle a few snaps as well.

Defensive Backs

Senior safety Marcus Trice is having his best season for North Texas. The transfer from Oklahoma had a career-high 14 tackles and an interception that was nearly returned for a pick-6 in the loss to Ohio, and came back with nine tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Ball State. This year, the Mean Green secondary has 49 games worth of starting experience.

Georgia's secondary, meanwhile, is young and the Bulldogs have certainly endured some growing pains. Freshman corner Brendan Langley was beaten for both of Connor Shaw's touchdown passes two weeks ago, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is determined to stick with the freshman, who should improve with the more experience he's able to receive. Safeties Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews have had their own issues taking proper angles, and that's as aspect coaches will be anxious to see corrected against the Mean Green.

Special Teams

Chancellor had more yards on his first punt return against Idaho than the entire team did in 12 games last year. Chancellor returned his first punt 48 yards and finished with 111 yards on three returns for the game. His 167punt return yards in three games ranks second in the country and is more than the team totals in the last three games combined. Placekicker Zach Paul 7-for-7 on extra points and has converted 4-of-5 field goals with a long of 48.

For Georgia, Marshall Morgan makes his return for Georgia following his two-game suspension to start the year. He'll replace redshirt freshman Patrick Beless who did an admirable job as his replacement going 10-for-10 on extra points and converting both of his field goal attempts. Scott-Wesley figures to continue handling the kickoff duties for Georgia after returning a pair of kicks versus South Carolina for an average of 19.5 yards.

Injury Update

The Bulldogs come in relatively healthy for Saturday's game. With the exception of players like Malcolm Mitchell (ACL) who have undergone season-ending surgery, the Bulldogs are expected to be at near full strength although junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph will miss his third-straight game after re-injuring his hamstring injury.

Projected Starting Lineup


Georgia


Offense


QB Aaron Murray (6-1, 208, Sr.)


RB Todd Gurley (6-1, 232, Soph.)


FB Quayvon Hicks (6-2, 265, Soph.)


LT Kenarious Gates (6-5,327, Sr.)


LG Kolton Houston (6-5, 280, Jr.)


C David Andrews (6-2, 295. Jr.)


RG Chris Burnette (6-2, 314, Sr.)


RT John Theus (6-6, 298, Soph.)


TE Arthur Lynch (6-5, 254, Sr.)


WR Michael Bennett (6-3, 205, Jr.)


WR Chris Conley (6-3, 206, Jr.)


Defense


DE Ray Drew (6-5, 276, Jr.)


N Garrison Smith (6-3, 299, Sr.)


DE Sterling Bailey (6-3, 282, RSoph.)


Sam Leonard Floyd (6-4, 235, Fr.)


Will Jordan Jenkins (6-3, 246, Soph.)


MIKE Ramik Wilson (6-3, 232, Jr.)


MOE Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 244, Jr.)


CB Brendan Langley (6-1, 181, Fr.)


CB Damian Swann (5-11, 178, Jr.)


SS Josh Harvey-Clemons (6-2, 214, Soph.)


FS Tray Matthews (6-0, 214, Fr.)


North Texas


Offense


QB Derek Thompson (6-4, 218, Sr.)


RB Brandin Byrd (5-10, 223, Sr.)


LT Antonio Johnson (6-6, 294, Jr.)


LG Mason Y-Barbo (6-2, 307, Jr.)


C Kaydon Kirby (6-3, 313, Fr.)


RG Cyril Lemon (6-3, 304, Jr.)


RT LaChris Anyiam (6-4, 296, Sr.)


TE Drew Miller (6-1, 258, Sr.)


WR Darnell Smith (6-1, 203, Sr.)


WR Carlo Harris (5-8, 172, Soph.)


WR Brelan Chancellor (5-9, 186, Sr.)


Defense


DE Richard Abbe (6-4, 320, Sr.)


DT Ryan Boutwell (6-3, 248, Sr.)


DE Aaron Bellazin (6-2, 265, Sr.)


DE Daryl Mason (6-3, 253, Jr.)


MLB Zach Orr (6-1, 240, Sr.)


OLB Will Wright (6-2, 221, Sr.)


OLB Derek Akunne (6-0, 244, Jr.)


CB Kenny Buyers (5-11, 177, Soph.)


CB Hilbert Jackson (6-1, 185, Jr.)


FS Marcus Trice (5-8, 193, Sr.)


SS Lairamie Lee (5-10, 195, Jr.)


Overview-Projection

No stranger to playing teams from the SEC, North Texas has faced teams from the conference a total of 37 times, albeit the Mean Green only have three wins to their credit. Obviously, no one is expecting that number to grow to four, but the Mean Green can put points on the board, something Georgia's defense has struggled to stop from happening in its two games thus far. The 95 points for North Texas in the first three games is the most to begin a season since 1988 when the Mean Green scored 102 in the first three contests. Defensively, North Texas has not allowed a touchdown in the second half this season, although that obviously wasn't against anyone with the offensive capability of the Bulldogs. Georgia, meanwhile, with the exception of a few hiccups against Clemson, has been dynamic, easily rolling up over 500 yards of offense in each game. With LSU up a week from Saturday, don't look for the Bulldogs to do get very fancy against the Mean Green, who obviously have their work cut out.


Predictions:


Jake Rowe - Georgia 51, North Texas 17 (Record 1-1)


Anthony Dasher - Georgia 49, North Texas 14 (Record 1-1)


Steve Patterson - Georgia 52, North Texas 10



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