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Friday, September 5, 2008

10 Questions: Central Michigan Edition

Obviously, there were quite a few more questions we had about the Georgia football team prior to last week's game -- after all, it was the first one. But that doesn't mean there aren't some things we hope to learn from Saturday's matchup with Central Michigan. So, here are 10 key questions we'll hope to have answers to by this time tomorrow.

1.) Can Blair Walsh handle kickoff duties?

Walsh was electric on extra points and field goals in Week 1, but he was hit-and-miss on kickoffs. He booted his first kick into the end zone -- something Dawgs fans have been clamoring for -- but came up short on several others. That can't happen against Central Michigan's brilliant return man, Antonio Brown. Georgia should win easily, but give an underdog a few big special teams plays, and all of a sudden you've got an upset brewing. Just ask Virginia Tech.

2.) Will John Knox continue to make strides?

Bulldogs coaches had to hold their collective breathes when sixth-year senior Andrew Williams went down in the third quarter. Williams and Knox are the Dawgs only semi-experienced safeties beyond starters Reshad Jones and CJ Byrd. Williams came back and played in the fourth quarter and will be fine for the game against Central Michigan, but it put a spotlight on how shallow the safety depth chart is. Improvement from Knox -- who has shown tons of potential but zero consistency -- would go a long way to making up for that shortcoming. More importantly, against Central Michigan's spread attack, Georgia can't afford for Knox to make mental errors and miss tackles.

3.) How will the defensive line hold up without Jeff Owens?

It's incredibly sad that Georgia will take the field Saturday without Owens, who is one of the real good guys playing college football. More importantly for the Dawgs, however, is that Owens was a stud on the interior D line. Corvey Irvin stepped in and looked great last week, but with Kade Weston also out and Central Michigan running an offense that plays high tempo, wears down linemen and runs no-huddle to prevent substitutions, Irvin will have to be in top physical condition this week, and the rest of the line will have to step up to make up for Owens' absence.

4.) Who will sustain drives?

Georgia remained in control for the entirety of last week's game, but didn't have that killer instinct on defense. Georgia Southern -- a team sporting a completely inexperienced quarterback and a weak O-line -- was able to sustain drives of 9, 9, 9, 6 (TD), 13 (TD), 6 (TD). The three nine-play drives all happened in the first half, before the supposed loss of focus by Georgia. The Dawgs' D will have to do a much better job of getting Central Michigan off the field quicker, particularly given the high-tempo style the Chippewas play. On the other side of the ball, Georgia needs to cut back on penalties and convert its own third-down opportunities. The longer the offense stays on the field for Georgia, the better it is for the Bulldogs' defense.

5.) How will Georgia manage the expectations that come with being the No. 2 team in the nation?

I promise you, there aren't many people inside the Georgia locker room who are particularly concerned with their drop in the polls this week, but the ranking is not without its significance. Now, with the Dawgs' ridiculous schedule, it would be nearly impossible for them to get to December with just one loss and not be in line for a BCS title game berth, but their lack of style points last week clearly affected some voters. So, while no one is suggesting running it up on Central Michigan this week, it might be a smart move for the Dawgs to take advantage of one of the very few easily overmatched opponents left on their schedule.

6.) What will A.J. Green do for an encore?

I predicted last week Green would score two touchdowns against Georgia Southern. I missed out by 2 yards. But it didn't take long for Green to prove all those fans drooling over his potential that their attention hadn't been misplaced. He hauled in an impressive 36-yard pass from Matthew Stafford on the first play of his career to set up a touchdown, then capped the game by catching Georgia's final touchdown of the contest -- a 4-yarder from Joe Cox. The latter score showed one of the big reasons why Green is so dangerous -- on the goal line, he's nearly impossible to defend. Green doesn't know it all yet, but clearly he's already a big weapon for the Bulldogs' offense, and he should be in line for even more action against Central Michigan.

7.) What will happen in the fourth quarter?

The complaint about Georgia's opener wasn't how good the team looked through three quarters -- it was about how it looked once most of the starters had left the game. The defense clearly lifted its foot off the accelerator a bit as the game wore on, which stands to reason given the heat and the score. That can't happen again against the quick-strike Chippewas. More importantly, Georgia's coaches won't let it happen again. If the intensity drops significantly down the stretch this week, expect there to be some key players spending a lot of time on the bench against South Carolina.

8.) How much better can the offensive line be?

There were obvious concerns a week ago with four first-time starters, and the line held up well. But this week, Georgia gets Clint Boling back from a one-game suspension. Boling will start at right tackle, giving the Dawgs a pretty formidable -- if still not particularly experienced -- front. Bean Anderson, Josh Davis, Ben Jones and Tanner Strickland will each get playing time as well, but it will be interesting to see how good the Dawgs true starting line looks now that they're finally playing together.

9.) Who will be Georgia's leading rusher by Sunday?

I predicted a few weeks ago that Caleb King would be the top rusher on the Bulldogs' roster after the first two games. Well, he's got 36-yard head start after Week 1 and looked incredibly sharp racking up 95 against Georgia Southern. Sure, Central Michigan is a better team than Georgia Southern, so King could be in line for fewer carries, but the guy didn't even see the field until the second half a week ago. Obviously, there's hardly a running back controversy brewing, but Georgia should be comfortable with a strong backup to its Heisman hopeful.

10.) Will Matthew Stafford's career high in passing last just a week?

It's been easy to talk about Central Michigan's impressive offense, but let's not ignore the Chippewas' brutal defense. The last time CMU played a BCS team, it allowed 546 passing yards to Purdue. Before that, it allowed 315 yards passing to Clemson in a game in which the Tigers scored 70. Yes, you read that right -- seventy! And, folks, Georgia's offense is just a bit better than Purdue and Clemson.

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