When: Saturday, September 3, 2016
Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Odds: The Bulldogs are currently 2 1⁄2 point favorites, via OddsShark.
OVERALL SERIES INFO— GridironHistory.com (@GridironHistory) September 1, 2016
Georgia leads North Carolina, 16-12-2
Conf Games:: Georgia leads North Carolina, 16-12
The No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs open the 2016 season on Saturday as they take on the No. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels in Atlanta.
Kirby Smart makes his debut as the head coach for the Bulldogs, while star tailback Nick Chubb returns to the field after a gruesome injury cut his promising sophomore campaign short last October.
The biggest question for Georgia: Who will start at quarterback? Will it be senior Greyson Lambert or freshman Jacob Eason?
Smart was mum on the situation, even mentioning that both guys could play, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.
We’re going to see how it goes. First thing we have to do is figure out who will take the first snap before we worry about the next guy coming in. I think it’ll reveal itself the next couple of days. Continue getting those guys reps and get both of them ready to play. That’s the plan.
Later in the week however, Lambert was officially named the starter for the game.
Don’t be surprised if both guys do play. However, expect Eason to take the job sooner rather than later. He offers a different element than Lambert and isn’t afraid to push the ball downfield. UGA fans certainly prefer Eason.
The Tar Heels are coming off their best season since 1997—Mack Brown’s last season—and won the ACC’s Coastal Division for the first time since the league was split into two divisions in 2005.
UNC is replacing three-year starter Marquise Williams at quarterback with junior Mitch Trubisky. The 6’3”, 209-pound junior may be the new starter, but he’s hardly inexperienced. In 18 career appearances, Trubisky has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,014 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s not the dual-threat Williams was, but he’s a better passer and should make UNC more dangerous through the air.
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: This is the first game back for Chubb and he’s fully cleared and will not be on a pitch count. Whichever quarterback is under center for the ‘Dawgs, expect a heavy dose of Chubb.
UNC was horrendous versus the run last fall. Expect Georgia to attack the Heels up front with Chubb, then look to open up the passing game. The junior running back could be in store for a big day. If Sony Michel doesn’t play, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Chubb touches the ball between 25-30 times.
Lorenzo Carter, OLB, Georgia: Carter, a 6’6’, 242-pound former 5-star recruit, finally gets his chance to shine. Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are gone, and Carter, who had 4 ½ sacks as a freshman before recording none last season, has the tools to be an elite rusher.
Smart’s defense relies heavily on the outside linebackers to pressure opposing quarterbacks, and Carter has an opportunity to make an impact in Week 1 against a prolific offense.
Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina: Lost in all the hype surrounding Chubb and his return is UNC junior Elijah Hood. As a sophomore last fall, Hood rushed for over 1,400 yards. A lot of people who follow college football don’t know of Hood because of players like Chubb, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey, but Hood is a stud in his own right.
With Trubisky under center, expect to see plenty of Hood for the Tar Heels. Georgia’s pass defense was stout last fall and the Bulldogs return the majority of their secondary so expect the Heels to test UGA’s front seven with Hood.
Ryan Switzer, WR/PR: When you play a team like Georgia, especially in the season opener, a big play on special teams could change the complexion of the game. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they have a player in Ryan Switzer who is a proven difference-maker.
Switzer, a 5’10”, 185-pound senior receiver, has seven career punt returns for touchdowns. One more and he will tie the NCAA record currently held by Antonio Perkins and Wes Welker. Switzer is also a terrific slot receiver, too, and will likely have a big game for North Carolina.
So, what happens?
This will likely be a close game and it could go either way. A lot depends on what happens under center for the Bulldogs. If Eason plays, will he have jitters? Or will he look like he did in Georgia’s spring game? The ‘Dawgs cannot win with Lambert checking down on every attempt.
Expect both running backs to have big games. Chubb, though, is the more dynamic player. He isn’t just a bruiser between the tackles, but he’s also capable of taking it the distance every time he touches the ball.
UGA’s retooled front seven will get pressure on Trubisky and force a couple of turnovers, which will be the difference in the game. And both Georgia quarterbacks will play, although Eason will get the majority of the snaps and play well.
Prediction: Georgia 31, North Carolina 24