The Irish and Bulldogs are feeling the pressure after Week 1 losses.
Notre Dame had almost everything go wrong that could go wrong in its 23-20 loss to South Florida. Despite doubling the Bulls in total yardage, the Irish had five turnovers and two weather delays on a dreary Saturday in South Bend. There was a ton of optimism for Georgia fans coming into this season with quarterback Aaron Murray and an improved defense returning. The party in the Georgia Dome turned into an ugly showing quickly in Week 1, with Boise State cruising to a 35-21 win over the Bulldogs. Both ND and UGA need to avoid an 0-2 start but have extremely challenging games in Week 2. The Irish travel to Michigan, while the Bulldogs host South Carolina.
More Likely to Start 0-2: Notre Dame or Georgia?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Well, I am picking both Georgia and Notre Dame to win this weekend, but I’d have to say that of the two, Georgia is more likely to be 0–2. A loss is a loss, but Notre Dame was far more impressive in its loss than Georgia — and, yes, I understand that Georgia’s opponent (Boise State) was better than ND’s (South Florida) The Fighting Irish rolled up 508 total yards against South Florida but struggled to score in the red zone and got crushed in the turnover battle (5 to 0). They were, to be fair, the victims of some bad luck (Jonas Gray was stripped at the 1-yard line and USF brought it back 96 yards for a touchdown) and some questionable officiating (borderline pass interference call in the end zone on third down early in the fourth quarter). Georgia simply looked outclassed against Boise State. This week, the Dawgs return to their home stadium, but they will be tested by a very good South Carolina team that boasts some serious star power on both sides of the ball. I believe Georgia can win this game, but the Dawgs will have to show some significant improvement in several key areas. The offensive line will have to create more holes for the running backs, and Aaron Murray must get some help from his wide receivers.
Mark Richt’s emotionless, stunned blank stare or Brian Kelly’s eye-popping, purple-faced screaming? Tough choice. Georgia is more likely to start 0–2, if only for the simple fact that South Carolina is a better team than Notre Dame’s opponent, Michigan. The fans Between the Hedges will be on edge early, and unless the Bulldogs show more life than they did in the opener against Boise State, the home-field advantage may not be as great as a typical Saturday at Sanford Stadium. It’s statement time for the Gamecocks. This is Steve Spurrier’s signature USC team and if the ol’ ball coach is going to make a splash, this week in Athens will be the time and place to do so. Workhorse back Marcus Lattimore and big-play wideout Alshon Jeffery will be too much for the Dawgs’ defense. Richt’s only hope is Spurrier pulling a Kelly, slamming his visor, panicking and benching quarterback Stephen Garcia early on in the game... There’s always that.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think it may actually be Notre Dame. Georgia is an easy target right now for criticism, but it’s hard to see them not coming out ready to play against South Carolina. The Gamecocks were down 10 at half to East Carolina but then pounded the Pirates into submission in the second half with their physical running game. That should not happen against Georgia’s athletes on defense. Stephen Garcia has talent, but he’s nowhere close to being as efficient a quarterback as Boise State’s Kellen Moore. Plus, ECU’s Dominique Davis threw for four touchdowns against South Carolina, so Aaron Murray should find some holes in the Gamecocks’ defense. While Notre Dame’s loss to USF was flukish (the Irish outgained the Bulls 508-254), Brian Kelly’s offense may be tentative after committing five turnovers. Michigan will be much better on defense this season with new coordinator Greg Mattison, whose unit scored two touchdowns while only giving up one in a 34-10 win over Western Michigan. I think Notre Dame is probably a better overall team than Michigan, but young Tommy Rees and the Irish offense will have to avoid the critical mistakes that caused them to lose last Saturday.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’m picking Georgia and Notre Dame to win on Saturday, so I’m going to say neither will start 0-2. Losing to South Florida was a disappointment for the Irish, but they significantly outgained the Bulls, but turned the ball over five times. If the Irish clean up the mistakes and continue to play solid defense, they should bounce back on Saturday. I feel less confident about Georgia, but think the Bulldogs will get on track against South Carolina. After allowing six sacks against Boise State, Georgia has to get better play from its offensive line. South Carolina owns one of the best defensive lines in college football, which will be a tough challenge for the Bulldogs. Considering what’s at stake for Georgia, they should come out with more energy and passion than they did against Boise State. If the Bulldogs show up flat once again, going 0-2 and dropping a key SEC game to South Carolina could begin to spell the end for Mark Richt in Athens.