UT-Martin at UGA Preview and Prediction – September 2, 2023
UT-MARTIN AT UGA PREVIEW AND PREDICTION – SEPTEMBER 2, 2023 – The back-to-back national champions start their ‘23 campaign off against the UT-Martin Skyhawks in Athens this week.
Here’s the truth: you should not watch this game. Heck, not even ESPN wants you to watch this game.
That’s why they relegated it to streaming on SECN+. I don’t even know if I’ll watch the game, because I have no idea how to find that channel. I’ll Google it like the rest of you an hour before the 6:00 pm kickoff. UGA didn’t get a single home game during prime time last year, and so the TV networks threw the Dawgs a bone by giving them a home night game against an FCS team. Thanks a lot, networks.
However, if you’re like me, and you’ll throw a tantrum Rush Propst would be proud of if you can’t watch your favorite team play on opening weekend, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy watching the Dawgs drub the Skyhawks on Saturday night.
Is there a line for this game? Who knows?
Georgia will win and the game will be over by half time unless Carson Beck decides to play like the next Faton Bauta for the Dawgs. And if you understand that reference, you’ve been through some painful years as a Georgia fan.
When: Athens, Georgia
Where: Sanford Stadium
Odds not provided at this time.
What You Need to Know About UT-Martin
It’s “lotta respect” season from Kirby Smart. He has and will use his rehearsed response for how he feels about his opponents each week. So, it goes without saying that Coach Smart has a “lotta respect” for UT-Martin and their coach Jason Simpson.
The Nighthawks are actually one of the best teams in nation (in FCS) and they managed to score 24 against Tennessee last year. I’ll consider that impressive despite the fact I think the average high school team could manage a couple of tds against the Vol’s defense. Unfortunately, the Skyhawks gave up like 60 points in that one too.
The Skyhawks are reigning Ohio Valley Conference champs and have only lost one conference game in the last two seasons. They are led by head coach Jason Simpson, who has been at the helm since 2006.
UGA DL coach Tray Scott came from Simpson’s coaching tree, which has put 11 staffers into the NFL. Simpson will have his team prepared and won’t be overwhelmed by playing an SEC team with all of his experience.
The Skyhawks are breaking in a new QB after Dresser Winn left for the NFL. He’s currently with Stetson Bennett and Matt Stafford on the Rams.
Kinkead Dent was recently announced as the starter. Dent was formerly at Ole Miss, but was stuck behind Jaxon Dart, so he hit the portal. He lacks experience, with only 9 pass attempts for 14 yards combined with 4 carries for 37 yards in his career so far. The former 3 star prospect from Mississippi primarily helped Ole Miss as a holder in recent years.
Related: UGA’s Fall Injury Report
“You don’t prepare for the guy, you prepare for the offense,” Smart noted when asked about preparing for Dent. Well, when there’s no tape on a guy, you can’t really prepare for him, coach.
UT-Martin have 3 preseason FCS All-Americans on their team in DE Daylen Dotson, TE DJ Nelson, and OL Gavin Olsen. Dotson is the one to keep your eye on. A Georgia native, he recorded 9.5 sacks last season, leading the Ohio Valley Conference. He wears #1 as a lineman, so he’ll be easy to spot while watching the game. While the school he represents won’t frighten the Dawgs, Dotson presents a formidable opponent for our offensive line to deal with.
I expect Dotson to test LT Earnest Greene early and often in this game. Nelson, a 6’5 sophomore tight end, amassed 6 touchdowns in his first year for the Skyhawks. Olsen anchors an offensive line that allowed only 2 sacks in just over 400 passing attempts last year. He brings 4 years of playing experience to the line, and started all 11 games last year at left tackle.
How ‘Bout Them Dawgs
After a litany of injuries to start off fall camp, the Dawgs may be getting healthy once again.
WR Ladd McConkey should be good to go after being held out with a back injury. RB Daijun Edwards is recovering from an MCL injury but Smart was optimistic on his return.
Fellow back Kendal Milton is still somewhere between 80-90% healthy according to Smart in Monday’s presser. Safety David Daniel has been dealing with a turf toe injury, and CB Kamari Lassiter has practiced but has been limited recently.
Tight End Lawson Luckie continues to recover after having the tightrope procedure done on his ankle. RB Branson Robinson is out for the year with a torn patella tendon.
What to Watch For
Anytime UGA is heavily favored against an opponent, it is hard to predict how Georgia will come out.
Will they let Carson Beck rip it in order to get his confidence up? Will they keep the play calling as vanilla as possible? Will they risk further running back injuries in an already banged up room?
My best guess is that Georgia will try to strike a balance between the two. Beck won’t be fully unleashed, but they’ll want him to make some intermediate throws and take a couple deep shots.
I anticipate the majority of Beck’s work will screen, slants, and other short throws. Georgia will use at least two walk on running backs in Sevaughn Clark and Cash Jones to handle some carries.
Loco for Bobo
Does Georgia’s base offense change under Mike Bobo? I think it will, but not because Bobo is the new OC. It’s more because Darnell Washington is now playing for the Steelers.
The last two years, Georgia lined up in 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TEs) as their standard offensive formation. With Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington as the tight ends, it gave you both threats in the passing game and mismatches in the run game.
Oscar Delp’s skill set is closer to Brock Bowers than Washington’s, so I won’t be surprised if Georgia goes to 11 personnel (meaning 1 RB, 1 TE, and therefore 3 WRs) as their base formation this year.
They won’t abandon 12 entirely, but I think with the depth and talent UGA has at receiver, they’ll present more match up problems under 11 personnel this year.
I’m excited to see how Missouri transfer Dom Lovett fits into Georgia’s offense. I’m expecting big things from him this season out of the slot.
Between Lovett and Arian Smith, Georgia has two scary players with different skill sets they can rotate in that role. I’m also looking to see if senior receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint steps up into that #1 X-receiver role. He and transfer RaRa Thomas will battle it out for most snaps.
Defense wins…FCS Games?
Defensively, Javon Bullard’s switch to safety will be something to keep an eye on. He and fellow safety Malaki Starks share 3 goals they have each day to get better with each other.
They have the potential to be the most dynamic safety tandem UGA has seen in many years. Also in the defensive backs, while I’m curious who gets the nod to start at corner across from Kamari Lassiter, I’m more interested to see how DC Will Muschamp will rotate players in that spot on the roster.
Julian Humphrey, Nyland Greene, and Daylen Everette are competing for the job. While the Dawgs lack experience in that corner spot, the depth of talent they have at DB is unparalleled.
How does Xavian Sorey do as the primary Will linebacker in Smael Mondon’s absence? He and Jalon Walker will fill that role and I think both are prepared to take the next step. Walker presents a fearsome ability to get to the QB and will likely be the guy in on passing downs.
It’s possible Georgia also tinkers with its defensive alignment this year, using two outside linebackers rather than just one on a more frequent basis.
Kirby Smart rarely covers the spread when its high.
The biggest win for Georgia will be getting Carson Beck comfortable and keeping everyone healthy.
I don’t know if Kirby will decide to let the boys play and send a message as they drop 60 on an inferior opponent, or if Kirby will take his foot off the gas after a 3 score lead and let the Dawgs coast to a 30+ point victory.
I don’t love the odds of an inexperienced QB going up against this Dawg defense, so I don’t think the Skyhawks are able to score many points.
However, as the game goes on, I think the reserve defenders make some mistakes that allow UT Martin to find the end zone. In a game that’s hard to predict because of the mismatch, I’m going with