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UGA’s Top Defense Still Improving

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Entering this season with the best defense in the game, the Bulldogs, somehow continue to improve.

Georgia led the nation in scoring defense and rush defense last season. Already this college football season, the unit has been even better. After giving up 275.7 yards per game in 2019, the Bulldogs are allowing just 236.7 three games into 2020, tops nationally for teams who have played multiple games. Once more, Georgia ranks number one in the country in rush defense and does so by a wide margin, giving up only 38.33 yards a contest, compared to a national-best 75.64 a year ago.

Entering this season with the best defense in the game, the Bulldogs, somehow continue to improve.

Not only does Georgia lead the nation in rush defense, the Bulldogs lead the Power Five in opponent quarterback rating. Georgia is giving up merely 5.2 yards per pass, good for fourth in the country. The Bulldogs, for any team which has played at least three times, have allowed the fewest plays of at least ten yards or more and are tied for first in plays of 30, 40 and 50 yards plus. Additionally, Georgia ranks number one in redzone touchdown defense, having not yet allowed a single one.

In a top 15 tussle with Tennessee, Georgia's defense made another statement. The Bulldogs remarkably held the Volunteers to -1 yards rushing on 27 carries. Linebacker Monty Rice put an exclamation point on the performance with a 20-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tennessee had the same number of first downs, 13, as penalties and turnovers.

The consistency of Georgia's dominant defensive play has been impressive. Georgia recently held Auburn to 216 total yards and 3.48 yards per play and then Tennessee to 216 yards and 3.40 yards per play. In three consecutive outings, the Bulldogs limited Arkansas, the Tigers and the Volunteers to 15, 15 and 13 first downs, respectively. No team has scored a second half touchdown or a fourth quarter point on Georgia, with its three opponents combing for just two third quarter field goals after the break.

What is interesting is that the balanced Bulldogs, playing remarkably well as a collective unit, don't have a defender in the top 30 in the SEC in tackles. That said, Rice was recently named the Chuck Bednarik Award National Defensive Player of the Week. Richard LeCounte and Eric Stokes are tied for tops in the conference with two interceptions. Azeez Ojulari is second in the league with five tackles for loss and three sacks.

Everything this group does is done well and done together.

The Alabama challenge will be as tough as it gets. Fresh off 63 points and 723 total yards in a win over Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide lead all of college football in points per game with 51, yards per play at 8.66 and pace all teams which have played multiple games with a 64.52% conversion rate. Quarterback Mac Jones ranks number one in the country with a 220.35 passer rating, running back Najee Harris is tops in the game with ten rushing touchdowns and Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith are both averaging over 100 yards per game out wide.

Saturday awaits as a historic showdown.

There aren't many defenses in recent memory quite like what Georgia has. The Bulldogs have talent, depth and experience at every position, all of which are strengths. Results suggest there aren't any weaknesses. Kirby Smart, a former All-SEC safety in the Athens, and the defensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-2015, along with current UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning appear to have the perfect scheme in place.

Georgia is already as good as it gets and the season is just now settling in.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports