There are so many question marks for the Bulldogs heading into Kirby Smart’s first game as head coach: Who will be the starting quarterback? Are Nick Chubb and Sony Michel healthy, and is Chubb the same player he once was? Can UGA’s defensive line, being so thin, keep up with Carolina’s fast-paced offense? What will Kirby Smart be like as a head coach?
Those are all relevant questions, and I’m not sure I have an answer or a feel for all of them. But the Bulldogs are only one side of the equation. North Carolina gets to play offense, but they have to play defense.
That’s the problem - Carolina has to play defense.
If this were a competition between the two offenses I don’t think I would have much doubt about who I think would win this game. North Carolina’s offense is a more defined entity. I’ve seen how many points the Tar Heels can score.
Carolina’s problem is they have to play defense - run defense specifically - against Georgia. That’s a problem for a number of reasons.
Consider that UNC gave up 645 yards on the ground in its last game - a 49-38 loss to Baylor. 645 yards rushing. That's quite clearly is an outlier as it is nearly double any run defense total they had the rest of the season. But the game before that, against Clemson, UNC allowed 319 yards on the ground. The game before that, NC State, Carolina gave up 308 yards on the ground. It goes without saying that the Tar Heels lost two of those three games.
Nine times last season the North Carolina defense allowed more than 200 yards on the ground (South Carolina, Illinois, Delaware, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Duke, NC State, Clemson and Baylor). One of the few times UNC didn’t allow 200 yards on the ground came against Jim Chaney’s Pitt offense, which still managed to rack up 415 yards of total offense.
The 200-yard mark is a significant one when taking into consideration what UGA has done with Nick Chubb over the last two years. In games that Chubb played in and completed (18 games), the Bulldogs have rushed for 200 yards 15 times (83%). UGA is 14-1 in those games with the only blemish coming at South Carolina in 2014. Georgia lost the other three games in that time (2014 UF, 2014 Tech and 2015 Alabama) where it didn’t top the 200-yard rushing mark.
In other words, the outcome of the UNC-Georgia game seems pretty simple. The leading indicator in this game isn't which quarterback will be under center for the Bulldogs. It isn't about how many yards Carolina throws for. This is about if UGA can run the ball with Nick Chubb the way it always has.
If that’s what happens there could be drama that comes in the final quarter of the game, but the numbers say Georgia will win - I would give it a 93% chance of happening.