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NCAAF: No. 1 Georgia continues making history on defense

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Every time top-ranked Georgia takes the field, the Bulldogs’ defense will be facing more than an opposing offense.

The Bulldogs’ underlying opponent each week is history.

Georgia’s defense, through nine games, has rivaled any unit that has ever played. The Bulldogs have given up 59 points — and average of 6.56 per game — after holding Missouri to just two field goals in a 43-6 win last week.

Georgia is the first team since Alabama in 1992 to hold each of its first nine opponents under 14 points. And even 2011 Alabama, which featured at least statistically, the best defense that coach Nick Saban has fielded in Tuscaloosa, allowed 64 points through nine games and 106 in 12 regular-season games before blanking LSU, 21-0, in the BCS title game.

This season, the Bulldogs (9-0, 7-0 SEC) could have given up 73 more points than they’ve allowed so far and they’d still be leading the Football Bowl Subdivision, ahead of Texas A&M who is ranked second having allowed 132 points (14.67 points per game).

The Bulldogs have also done it against one of college football’s toughest schedules, as four of Georgia’s wins are against teams that were ranked at the time of the teams’ meeting — Clemson (No. 3), Arkansas (No. 8), Auburn (No. 18) and Kentucky (No. 11). Those four opponents scored 26 points combined.

The Bulldogs’ 59 points are the fewest the program has allowed through nine games since the 1971 squad allowed just 53 en route to finishing 11-1. Georgia gave up 115 points that year.

Georgia’s final three regular-season opponents — Tennessee (5-4, 3-3 SEC), Charleston Southern (3-5) and Georgia Tech (3-6) — should all face a daunting challenge moving the ball against the Bulldogs. Georgia ranks second nationally in total defense (231.8 yards per game), first downs allowed (119), rushing defense (80.7 yards) and passing defense (151.1 yards

But all Georgia coach Kirby Smart is focusing on is stopping Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and the Volunteers, who are averaging 38.2 points per game, on Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn. Hooker threw for a career-high 316 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-42 win at then-No. 18 Kentucky last week.

“Hendon Hooker is a tremendous athlete,” Smart said Monday. “He’s hard to tackle. He’s big, physical and has a strong arm.

“They’ve got an extremely good group of wideouts. They’re extremely physical, big, have size and speed. They are really fast on tape. We know the players they are running past. They are good football players that they are running past, making explosive plays.”

The Bulldogs have shown balance throughout their defense.

Seven players have made at least 29 tackles, led by Channing Tindall (45), Lewis Cine (40) and Quay Walker (39). Eight have at least one interception, led by safety Christopher Smith and linebacker Nakobe Dean, who each have two.

Fourteen players have at least one sack and four have at least three, including Dean (3.5), Travon Walker (3.5) and Jalen Carter (3). Linebacker Adam Anderson, who leads the team with five sacks, was suspended indefinitely last week after being accused of raping a 21-year-old woman.

“They are big, long, physical, athletic and they play with speed,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “They do a great job of retracing on perimeter screens, and when you think you got space, it closes down pretty quickly. … The depth of their football team is a big part of their success.”

–Field Level Media

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