Georgia Faces Tough Tests Early
By Anthony Richards
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The Bulldogs open up with three of their first four games against teams that finished in the top 15 of the BCS standings last fall.
Georgia’s quest for a third straight SEC East title will be put the test early and often during the 2013 season. The Bulldogs open up with three of their first four games against teams that finished in the top 15 of the BCS standings last fall.
The season kicks off Aug. 31 in a hostile road game environment against Clemson, which is carrying the momentum of its season-ending 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
“Death Valley, you hear legends about that place,” said senior tight end Arthur Lynch.
Senior Tajh Boyd and junior Sammy Watkins are the focal points of an explosive offense that led the ACC in passing the last two seasons. The combo of Boyd and Watkins will be an immediate test for a Georgia defense that is rebuilding after having seven players drafted in the 2013 NFL draft.
Freshman Tray Matthews came out of spring as the projected starter at free safety and he will have to learn in a hurry against one of the nation’s most prolific offenses.
“Until you have the ball thrown over your head a couple of times, you don’t know how they’re going to react,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
Fellow teammates, such as senior defensive end Garrison Smith, have already noticed the ability and work ethic that Matthews exhibits on a daily basis.
“He’s got extra motivation because he saw Alec Ogletree getting drafted in the first round,” Smith said. “Everyone’s going to contribute.”
After Clemson, the Bulldogs make a quick turnaround to open up SEC play the following week between the hedges against South Carolina. The Gamecocks have given the Bulldogs a hard time of late and have reeled off three straight victories in the series.
Senior quarterback Aaron Murray has yet to beat the Gamecocks in his career and this is his last opportunity to do so. Last fall, Murray had his worst game against the Gamecocks, completing 35.5 percent of his passes for 109 yards and one interception.
“It will be good for us to get that train going,” Murray said about the momentum a win over South Carolina would provide.
The Gamecocks defense led the SEC with 43 sacks in 2012, 13 of which came from unanimous All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
“He’s a well-regarded player, a guy who really changes game plans,” Murray said.
After a bye week and a home game against North Texas, the Bulldogs welcome LSU to Athens and look for revenge after the last meeting between the two was a 42-10 Georgia loss in the 2011 SEC Championship Game.
The Bulldogs also face Florida in the annual rivalry game in Jacksonville, Fla., where Georgia has changed the fortunes of the series after winning two straight.
Murray believes that Georgia has learned from its 32-28 loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game and hopes that 2013 will have a special ending for Bulldog players and fans.
“It taught us that we’re right there as a team,” Murray said. “I think Georgia’s back to where we want to be and now we just have to push the door open.”