My answers to his questions are posted on Dawg Sports.
FTRS: After losing Aaron Murray, what were the overall expectations for Georgia going into this season? The schedule seemed fairly attainable compared to most years. Were there SEC Championship hopes? How do you feel the team has lived up to those expectations thus far?
DS: I think most Georgia fans expected a 9-3 to 10-2 team and to have a chance to emerge from a weak SEC East and make it to the SEC Championship Game. However hope is a fickle thing, and even despite the early loss to South Carolina, a first year starter at QB, the loss of Todd Gurley, and a very green defense, the 'Dawgs won enough to give hope that a playoff berth was possible. In light of everything working against them, this team is right about where they should be.
FTRS: After the loss against Florida, many fans seemed to have given up on the season for the most part. Why do you think UGA has been able to turn it around since then and put themselves in position for a potentially special year?
DS: The Bulldogs are really playing about as well as they were before that Flirida game. They had smoked Missouri 34-0 and then scored 38 straight on Arkansas after giving up a touchdown on the first series of the game. But that Florida game set up poorly in a lot of ways. There was the distraction if Todd Gurley's request for reinstatement, a Gator team closing ranks around their embattled coach, and frankly a Florida team that matched up better against Georgia than many gave them credit for.
But make no mistake about it, this Bulldog team didn't take the reeling Gators seriously enough and it may end up keeping them out of the inaugural playoff. That's a bitter pill, but I think it has paid off with renewed focus. If there's one thing that has improved since that regrettable afternoon that's it. An understanding that every game requires total focus and preparation. It's sad that was required but, welp, they you go.
FTRS: I've seen some UGA fans say they would take a Missouri loss for a Georgia loss this week. What's your opinion on that?
DS: I mean this with no disrespect to the Yellow Jacket fan base. But if Georgia loses on Saturday Mark Richt is still 12-2 against the Engineers. While a loss would be annoying, if it were required for a shot to play for an SEC title most Bulldog fans would take that proposition in a heartbeat. Sure they'd love to beat Tech and play for a title. But if forced into that dilemma yes, I and many Georgia fans would swallow hard and tell you to make it so.
FTRS: How do you feel about the game being played at 12:00 on the SEC Network. For a matchup of two teams in the top 16 who will potentially be playing for a conference championship next week, this game deserves a little more doesn't it?
DS: One could certainly make that argument. But it's ultimately a television decision, and the choice the TV folks made is sound. CBS will be airing the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Miss. St., which should be a great matchup of teams which are better than they've historically been. The game also has SEC West title implications. ESPN has the Iron Bowl between Bama and Auburn, which will also help decide a divisional race and is, pardon my language, just a big damn deal.
Both those games will also have a very direct bearing on the college football playoff, and will therefore draw a national audience of Oregon, Baylor, and Ohio State fans which our game would not. Would I like for this game to get the prime national treatment a rivalry matchup between top 20 teams deserves? Sure, but so would the teams playing in those other big games.
FTRS: Georgia has now won another five in a row in this series. A) What reasons do you see that would create a different outcome this Saturday? B) What reasons do you see that would result in more in the same this Saturday?
DS: The one area in which Georgia has been consistently vulnerable is setting the edge against the power running game. Arkansas and Florida both did very well against the Bulldog defensive ends, linebackers, and corners outside the tackle boxes. If Tech can force Georgia to defend the pitch or if Thomas can do good things keeping it around the end on the option, Georgia may be in trouble. I know Paul Johnson runs his offense from the A gaps out, but repeatedly going up the gut on this Georgia team would probably be a mistake.
FTRS: Give me your opinion on the play of Hutson Mason so far.
DS: Outstanding. And the numbers back it up. Hutson Mason is completing 68.4% of his passes and has thrown 19 touchdowns against only 3 interceptions. He doesn't throw throw the ball as much as an Aaron Murray, but Mason has been incredibly effective at making the throws he's asked to and getting the offense into the right play. When you run the ball as well as Georgia has this year anything beyond that is window dressing.
FTRS: DeAndre Smelter has been fairly dominant against any corner that has guarded him when his name has been called this season. Who should be defending him on Saturday, and how do you feel about that matchup?
DS: First a quick story. I watched Smelter a lot when he was in high school, both baseball and football. He remains among the most intimidating high school pitchers I've ever seen, throwing 95+ and maintaining that velocity from start to finish. I really hate that baseball didn't work out for him.
Georgia is likely to play a good bit of zone, but when they do man up the job of guarding Smelter will likely fall to senior corner Damian Swann. The 5'11, 180 pound Grady High product will give up some size to Smelter but is very physical in coverage with excellent speed. It should be an interesting matchup.
FTRS: Finally, how do you see it all playing out on Saturday?
DS: If Georgia Tech gets a lead and with it the option of playing their preferred game offensively then Georgia may be in some trouble. I expect Georgia, the SEC's leader in turnover margin, to force some turnovers however, and that may well be the difference. My prediction is Georgia 38, Tech 31.