The No. 2-ranked Georgia Bulldogs will host the UAB Blazers out of Conference USA on Saturday evening between the hedges in Athens. This will be the third meeting ever between the two schools. Georgia is 2-0 all-time against UAB. The Bulldogs defeated the Blazers 16-13 in 2003 and 34-0 in 2006.
Georgia is riding high heading into its home opener on Saturday following a dominant defensive performance in a 10-3 victory over Clemson last Saturday night in Charlotte. A ferocious Georgia pass rush produced seven sacks, and the Tigers’ offense was limited to just 180 yards (3.0 yards per play) and three points (fewest scored in the Dabo Swinney era). Kirby Smart’s Dawgs will now turn their attention to one of the more dangerous Group of 5 teams in the country.
UAB also put together a masterful performance last Saturday in their 31-0 win against Jacksonville State, a top-10 FCS program entering the season. The Blazers racked up 518 yards of offense and held the Gamecocks to just 154 yards in the shutout victory. Head coach Bill Clark will now lead the defending Conference USA champs into Sanford Stadium to face the heavily favored Bulldogs from the SEC, a daunting endeavor to say the least.
UAB at No. 2 Georgia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 11 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN 2
Spread: Georgia -24
When UAB Has the Ball
Fifth-year quarterback Tyler Johnston III spearheads the Blazers’ passing attack. Johnston couldn’t have possibly gotten off to a better start to the season, completing 17 of his 21 attempts for 320 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, averaging a ridiculous 15.2 yards per pass attempt in the shutout win.
The Blazers have big shoes to fill with the departure of their top two pass catchers from last season in Austin Watkins Jr. and Myron Mitchell. They seem to have found their guys in Trea Shropshire and RaJae’ Johnson-Sanders, along with tight end Gerrit Prince. The trio combined for 11 catches for 254 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win, with each player averaging more than 20 yards per reception. Hayden Pittman also returns at tight end after earning second-team all-conference honors in 2020.
UAB was tasked with replacing leading rusher Spencer Brown as well. Fortunately, the Blazers already had several solid candidates in place, led by DeWayne McBride (439 yds., 4 TDs, 9.3 ypc last season). McBride joins forces with Jermaine Brown Jr. and Lucious Stanley to form a potent trio in the backfield. Brown led the Blazers with 78 yards and a score on 14 carries last week, but McBride might still be in Clark’s doghouse following a pair of fumbles in the opener.
The strength of the UAB offense lies in an offensive line that returns seven players who have all started at least three games, led by All-C-USA talents Colby Ragland and Sidney Wells.
UAB is undoubtedly deep and talented on the offensive side of the football. Unfortunately, the Blazers will have to face the ultimate test on Saturday against what looks to be the best defense in the country. The Bulldogs are loaded with elite talent at every level, and as we witnessed against Clemson, this group is absolutely relentless. It will be interesting to see if UAB’s offensive line can hold up better than Clemson did against the stout Georgia pass rush. Regardless, the Blazers will have a tough row to hoe against this defense on Saturday.
When Georgia Has the Ball
It was a lackluster showing for a Georgia offense that generated just 256 yards and failed to produce a touchdown on that side of the football in its opening game, albeit against a very stingy Clemson defense. The Bulldogs also found themselves without several key starters heading into the matchup with the ACC champs. While they could get a couple of those guys back this week, the big news out of Athens this week was that starting quarterback JT Daniels was dealing with an oblique injury. Smart also stated on Monday that a couple of players may be dealing with COVID, although he did not name names. The good news is that Daniels did practice on Wednesday and is expected to play barring any setbacks. If he’s unable to go, highly touted backup Carson Beck will lead the Bulldog offense on Saturday against UAB.
If healthy, Daniels will look to improve on a disappointing performance in which he completed 22 of 30 pass attempts for a pedestrian 135 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. With wide receiver Dominick Blaylock (ACL) and tight end Darnell Washington (foot) unlikely to return, and Kearis Jackson relegated to punt return duties only, the Bulldogs will once again be shorthanded in terms of pass catchers on Saturday. That leaves sophomore Jermaine Burton as the only experienced receiver on the roster. However, freshman tight end Brock Bowers was solid in his debut, hauling in six catches for 43 yards against Clemson. And the Dawgs hope to get better results from promising wide receivers Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Adonai Mitchell, Arian Smith, and Jaylen Johnson this week.
The Georgia run game also hopes to put forth a better effort after failing to gain much traction against a Clemson defense that held the Bulldogs to 121 rushing yards on 31 carries. Zamir White led the way, producing 74 yards on 13 carries, followed by Kendall Milton (6 att., 24 yds.) and James Cook (5, 19).
The Georgia offensive line held up well in pass protection, surrendering just one sack, but failed to get much push in the run game. The Bulldogs also lost starting guard Tate Ratledge for the season with a fractured foot.
The Bulldogs will be paired against a talented and deep UAB defense that returns nine starters and ranked seventh nationally last season in total defense (311 ypg). First-team all-conference linebacker-turned-safety Kristopher Moll headlines a gifted secondary that also ranked seventh nationally last season against the pass (173.2 ypg). The Blazers' defense could give the Georgia offense a run for its money, but the Bulldogs' overall edge in talent should ultimately prevail, particularly in the run game.
This isn’t a matchup that Georgia should take lightly. UAB is as talented and well-coached as any Group of 5 team in the country. The Blazer defense also has the potential to give a beat-up Georgia offense some problems. However, it’s going to be a real struggle for the UAB offense to move the football and put points on the scoreboard against the Bulldogs' star-studded defense. UAB will go on to have a very successful season, but the Blazers will be out of their league against Georgia on the road.
Prediction: Georgia 31, UAB 10
Podcast: Week 2 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.