The month of September for the Georgia Bulldogs is the most difficult four-game stretch of any team in college football. By the end of the month, the Bulldogs will have played three teams ranked inside the Top 10 at the time of the game.
This week, however, the Bulldogs will face their only non-Top 10 team of September when they host the North Texas Mean Green.
Even though the Mean Green are not a nationally ranked team, the Bulldogs must be prepared to play. One lesson has shined through this college football season: The non-AQ schools are closing ground, and no win can be taken for granted.
Why North Texas Can Win This Game
North Texas has one of the top offenses in Conference USA, averaging 31.7 points per game and gaining 465.0 yards per game. While the Mean Green do not want to get into a shootout with the Bulldogs, they have moved the ball well this season.
Led by quarterback Derek Thompson, the Mean Green will attempt to keep this game close early. Thompson has passed for 818 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions while completing 70.9 percent of his passes.
Thompson is also deceptively athletic at 6’4”, 227 pounds, and can make plays with his feet when needed.
The Mean Green will try to spread the Bulldogs’ youthful secondary early with short and intermediate routes. Darnell Smith, Brelan Chancellor and Carlos Harris are a very talented trio of wide receivers for North Texas.
If North Texas wants to stay in this game, the team must control the clock early while keeping the potent Georgia offense on the sidelines. The Mean Green will attempt to pick their spots and then go for the big play when the Bulldogs get over-aggressive.
North Texas will also need to force some unexpected turnovers. However, the Mean Green are tied for the most forced turnovers in the FBS with 11.
Why the Bulldogs can win this game
One word will be the deciding factor on how this game turns out—focus. If the Bulldogs come out focused, they can win this game in a variety of ways. They have the talent to beat North Texas in the air, on the ground or with a deadly dosage of both run and pass.
However, if they do not come out focused, the Bulldogs will be forced to leave the starters in the game for an extended period. As a result, their risk of injury prior to the LSU game will increase dramatically.
The Bulldogs offense likely wants to put up points in a hurry so that Bulldog Nation gets a strong glance at the future in junior quarterback Hutson Mason.
While Mark Richt would like to pad the stats of Heisman candidates Todd Gurley (286 yards rushing, 3 TDs and 6.8 ypc) and Aaron Murray (632 yards passing, 4 TDs and 71.2%), he is more concerned about remaining healthy.
The defense needs to show improvement in its third game. Not only are the Bulldogs young on defense, but they were baptized by fire with Clemson and South Carolina as their first two games.
However, this game can serve as a confidence builder if they can slow down the Mean Green. Moreover, the defensive players must get on the same page before LSU comes to town next week.
I am convinced that this is a new breed of Georgia Bulldogs leadership. Murray will have the offense focused, and the defense will show vast improvement following the bye week. The Bulldogs will mix up the run and pass, and make big plays early in both.
Look for the starters to be on the bench within the first two drives of the second half.
Score Prediction: UGA 48, North Texas 17
Stat Line Prediction: Aaron Murray four touchdowns