Game week has arrived.
After a grueling month of preseason practice in the heat and humidity, Georgia will now immerse itself even deeper into its game-plan preparation for the season opener against North Carolina. The Bulldogs started working on the Tar Heels Thursday and spent more time preparing for them over the past two practices.
On Monday, the routine of a game week will set in, which has the Bulldogs excited.
"Everybody’s been working," outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. "We made it through this fall camp and now it’s time to actually go and play ball."
The Bulldogs will have their hands full in preparing for the Tar Heels, which finished the 2015 season as the runners-up in the ACC.
Here are three areas Georgia will look to improve upon entering its first game week of the season:
Strengthening the run defense
Georgia will have to figure out a way to slow down running back Elijah Hood, who exploded for 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns a season ago.
Hood has the Bulldogs’ attention, but stopping him has been tough for a lot of opponents. Hood ran for over 100 yards in eight games and will look to do the same in 2016. A bowling ball of a runner, Hood can bounce off tacklers and has shown good vision in picking the right holes to run through.
The run defense has been an area of concern, considering eight of Georgia’s nine scholarship defensive linemen are either freshmen or sophomores. Between the defensive line committee and the inside linebackers – Natrez Patrick, Roquan Smith and Reggie Carter – Georgia will have to make sure Hood is contained up the middle.
If Hood gets going then all facets of the North Carolina offense will open up. From there, Georgia would have to match the Tar Heels point for point on the scoreboard.
The benefit for North Carolina’s offense is that quarterback Mitch Trubisky was able to get some playing time in relief of Marquise Williams a season ago. Trubisky actually threw for 555 yards, 6 touchdowns and zero interceptions, while averaging 6.3 yards per carry running the ball.
This means North Carolina shouldn’t have any issue running a high octane offense at the fast speed it’s become accustomed to operating it at.
The Tar Heels want to churn play after play as quickly as possible. A year ago, head coach Larry Fedora’s team averaged 40.7 points per game is this uptempo offense.
"Energy-wise, we gotta be hyped up and ready to get back to the ball," junior safety Dominick Sanders said. "If anything happens, get up, get back to the huddle, get the play call and keep going. It’s a fast team, a fast-ball team."
Having a sound and balanced offensive attack
While the defense has to worry about slowing down North Carolina’s vaunted attack, Georgia’s offense needs to develop a plan to limit mistakes and win the time of possession battle by a large margin.
The Bulldogs should be able to hold the ball longer due to the fast-paced nature the Tar Heels play at. But sustaining long drives and keeping North Carolina off the field will likely be a big part of what Georgia continues to install this week.
It’s no secret that the Bulldogs will rely on a healthy dose of Nick Chubb and the rushing attack. Getting some balance out of the passing game will be crucial too, especially in the event of a close game.