August 31, 2012

Preview: Buffalo at UGA



What: Buffalo (0-0) at No. 6 Georgia (0-0)

Where: Sanford Stadium (92,746)


When: Saturday, 12:21 p.m.

TV/Radio: SEC-Network (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano) Georgia Bulldog Sports Network from IMG. (Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, Chuck Dowdle, Loran Smith, Charlie McAlexander, Neil Williamson, Jeff Dantzler, Kevin Butler); Sirius/XM 137/200

Players to Watch: Georgia - QB Aaron Murray (6-11, 210, Jr.), RB Ken Malcome (6-0, 224, RSo.), RB Todd Gurley (6-1, 218, Fr.), RB Keith Marshall (5-11, 216, Fr.), LT Kenarious Gates (6-5, 318, Jr.), FLK Tavarres King (6-1, 200, Sr.), SE Marlon Brown (6-5, 216, Sr.), SE Michael Bennett (6-3, 204, RSo.), TE Arthur Lynch (6-5, 258, Jr.), OLB Jarvis Jones (6-3, 241, Jr.), DE Abry Jones (6-3, 308, Sr.), N John Jenkins (6-3, 358, Sr.), ILB Michael Gilliard (6-2, 230, Sr.), ILB Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 245, So.), SS Shawn Williams (6-1, 217, Sr.), K Marshall Morgan (6-3, 201, Fr.). Buffalo - WR Alex Neutz (6-3, 2-5, Jr.), QB Alex Zordich (6-3, 222, Jr.), RB Branden Oliver (5-8, 202, Jr.), DE Steven Means (6-4, 250, Sr.), N William Cahill (6-3, 280, Sr.), ILB Lee Skinner (6-2, 226, So.), OLB Isaac Baugh (6-0, 209, Sr.), CB Najja Johnson (6-0, 182, Jr.), SS Okoye Houston (6-0, 201, Jr.).

Saturday's game

A long and sometimes difficult off-season officially comes to an end just after noon on Saturday as the Bulldogs open their 2012 season against the Buffalo Bulls, the first meeting between the two schools. For those keeping score, under Richt, Georgia is 44-8 all-time against teams from outside the SEC, 30-1 at Sanford Stadium.

Buffalo offense vs. Georgia defense

Even with the possible suspensions of starting linebacker Alec Ogletree and free safety Bacarri Rambo, Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn knows his team's offense has a difficult task against a defense that ranked fifth nationally a season ago.

"Our offensive line is going to be challenged, tight ends, our running backs, our fullbacks … everybody," he said. "We need to continuously keep an eye on Jarvis (Jones). He's such a great player, if you put him on a lot of single-up matchups with our offensive line and out backs, he's going to win most of those battles. We have to be very, very conscientious of our schemes and structure and our protections, so our quarterback can get the ball out of his hands."

But that won't be easy.

Bulls starting quarterback Alex Zordich didn't have many opportunities in 2011, but he sure looks the part. At 6-foot-3, 222 pounds, Zordich only had 12 pass attempts and three rushes last season. With so few attempts, it is tough to know much about arm strength or tendencies, but the quarterback position in the Bulls' offense is relied on more to move the chances and to direct a short, calculated passing game. Although the Buffalo offense threw the ball an average of 33 times per game last fall, only they only scored 12 times through the air and threw nine interceptions. The starter in 2011, Chazz Anderson, was the team's second-leading rusher with 309 yards on 85 carries and seven touchdowns, so Zordich could be asked to do more of the same on Saturday.

Regardless, the Bulls will likely need a big day from running back Brandon Oliver to have any success. Oliver is the heart and soul of the Buffalo offense. Oliver had a dynamite sophomore campaign with 306 carries for 1,395 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also caught 38 passes for 365 yards. Oliver is a short back at 5-foot-8, but runs with a great deal of power at 210 pounds. He has excellent burst and runs well to daylight. Once he gets to the second level, he does a great job of using his lateral quickness to make big linebackers miss, and he has the ability to lower his shoulder and punish defenders once he gets to the secondary. Oliver is really the only back Buffalo used in 2011 as the next closest back had only 19 rushing attempts all season. Oliver is used in the screen game as well as in angles out of the backfield to find open space, and has the ability to hit the big play if a seam is present.

Key Matchups

1. Buffalo center Trevor Sales (6-2, 318) vs Bulldog nose John Jenkins (6-3, 358)

2. Running back Branden Oliver vs. Georgia linebackers Jarvis Jones, Mike Gillard, et al.

3. Bulldog cornerbacks vs Buffalo receiver Alex Neutz.

Coach's comment:"The year we were preseason No. 1 (in 2008), that was the year Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones started as freshmen, and it's hard to think you're the preseason No. 1 team when you have a lot of freshman linemen starting for you. We have a brand new punter, kicker, tailbacks. There are a lot of question marks, no doubt, but I think everybody in the country have some kind of issue. Sometimes teams look more glamorous when they are far away. You don't see all the warts."." - Georgia head coach Mark Richt

Buffalo defense vs. Georgia offense

New Buffalo defensive coordinator Lou Tepper has employed a 3-4 defense at his previous stops, and will do the same for the Bulls. The Bulls are small up front but fairly athletic. Starting nose tackle Wyatt Cahill is 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, and is a good bit smaller than most zero techniques in the 3-4 scheme. Steven Means will start at one defensive end and is quite undersized at 250 pounds while Colby Way will draw the starting nod at the other end position and he has more of a 3-4 defensive end's frame at 6-foot-4, 280 pounds. Playing in a new front can be challenging and especially when undersized. Based on Tepper's reputation, the Bulls will do a great deal of stunting up front to confuse Georgia's offensive linemen.

However, the Bulls will be without their team leader in sacks from 2011 as linebacker Khalil Mack is suspended for the game. Dalton Barksdale, who is listed a 290 pounds, will get the start at one outside linebacker position while Issac Baugh, a converted defensive back, will start at the other outside linebacker position. A couple of sophomores will start at inside linebacker for the Bulls in Jake Stockman and Lee Skinner. Neither put up big numbers in their freshmen season, but both have solid size. Both are listed at 6-foot-2, and weight in the 230-pound range. Due to the lack of size and experience up front, the linebackers will likely have to play off more blocks than Tepper would like. Based on the fact the Buffalo is running a new system, it is fair to say that there will be a lot of movement with the linebackers as well. The Buffalo defense won't be able to afford to sit still and react as they will have to be moving pre and post snap to fill gaps and force the Georgia offense and quarterback Aaron Murray to adjust on the fly.

Key Matchups

1. Bulldog center David Andrews vs Buffalo nose tackles Wyatt Cahill and Kristjan Sokoli.

2. Georgia running backs Ken Malcome, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall vs Buffalo's linebacking corps, playing their first game in new defensive coordinator Lou Tepper's 3-4 scheme.

3. Quarterback Aaron Murray vs a young Bulls' secondary.

Coach's comment: "Certainly, when we talk about the consistency of our football team - to play against a quality caliber opponent like Georgia - it's going to make for some difficult moments in the game but our kids have got to continue to dig deep and try to keep it close." - Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn

Injury update

The Bulldogs appeared to be in prime shape for Saturday, until the school announced the starting cornerback Malcolm Mitchell would miss the game with a sprained ankle suffered during Thursday's walk-through. With Mitchell out, look for Damian Swann to start opposite Branden Smith. … Tight end Jay Rome is also a question mark with a strained hamstring which has kept him out for the past two weeks.

Synopsis

What a difference a year makes. This time a season ago, the Bulldogs were getting primed for their nationally televised encounter against Boise State, compared to this year's opener against Buffalo, a team coming off a 3-9 campaign and one that was beaten by Tennessee 41-7. Although Richt had nothing but glowing words to speak about the visiting Bulls, there's no question Buffalo is not in Georgia's class, and barring something totally unforeseen will nothing more than a scrimmage for the Bulldogs before next week's huge SEC opener at Missouri.

Prediction

Despite the fact that the Bulldogs will be without the services of linebacker Chase Vasser (suspension), cornerback Sanders Commings (suspension), Mitchell (ankle sprain), and services of linebacker Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo with their pending suspensions, Georgia should not have any trouble disposing of the visiting Bulldogs, who last year were drubbed by Tennessee, 41-7. Defensively, the Bulldogs are simply too stout, to strong and too athletic while the offense should have no trouble gobbling up yards and cruising to an easy victory. Prediction: Georgia 48, Buffalo 10.

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