Well...the SEC slate begins and it starts with the best team in the East and I don’t even think it’s close. The Bulldogs are on a mission this year. As a born and raised Georgian, I can’t begin to tell you the awfulness of sports fandom in the state. Blown Super Bowls, forever underachieving teams, constant beratement from the media about the two aforementioned facts, it’s truly a perpetual state of torture. One day, SOME team from the State of Georgia is going to break through. Which team that will be is usually a cyclical hope springer that goes every five years or so. This year it is this Georgia football team. The good news, for the purposes of this preview, is that Georgia’s offense is not the strength of the team. Fortunately, I do not have to do the defensive preview, and Tom will likely be much more of a harbinger of doom there.
Last Week: Georgia 40, South Carolina 13
During the Spurrier/Richt era, this game was always a close one. Not anymore. Kirby Smart has taken the program to new heights, while South Carolina suffered through mediocrity under Will Muschamp, and now is trying to regain footing under Shane Beamer. Georgia dominated this game pretty much from the jump and ended up getting what it had hoped to get out of JT Daniels. They were 9 of 12 on third downs. They threw for 8.8 yards per pass. They rushed for 5.9 yards per carry. Georgia turned the ball over three times and lost the time of possession, but that didn’t much matter because the South Carolina offense couldn’t get a thing going. Georgia’s talent on offense is unquestioned. The primary question is their execution, and that all falls back on their quarterback.
There’s no doubt that JT Daniels is the best option for the Dawgs at QB. The only question is which version of Daniels shows up. If it’s the one that played against Clemson (68.2 QBR), then the Dawgs are vulnerable. If it’s the one that played against South Carolina (96.5 QBR), then it’s going to be a long day. Daniels was hurt for their non-conference matchup against UAB and was replaced by Stetson Bennett, who is a competent backup but not a starter against good opponents. (Edit: Daniels started. I should have gotten this right out front. Kirby chose to give Bennett some run after he led two early TD drives. I won’t quit my day job). Bennett started the South Carolina game but was quickly replaced after three attempts and the Dawgs never went back. I think Daniels is good, but he’s not a certainty against good defenses as evidenced by his Jekyll and Hyde performances against the South Carolina flagships (don’t worry Coastal, I do have a lot of respect for you too). Unfortunately, I also don’t think our defense is the type to be able to slow him down. Read further as to why.
Georgia just loves to produce great running backs. Sometimes they have a bell cow, sometimes they have a stable. This year, it’s the latter variety. Zamir White is quite talented, but so are Kendall Milton and James Cook. Each of the three are averaging over 5 yards per carry. Don’t look for any of these three to necessarily rock in the passing game, they’ll leave that up to their fourth back Kenny McIntosh.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Brock Bowers is a stud at tight end, leads the Dawgs in receptions and yards, and is a solid red zone threat. After that you have Jermaine Burton and Adonai Mitchell, both solid players. The Georgia passing game really clicked last week and it’s largely because their receiving corps and Bowers is tremendously talented. If George Pickens wasn’t a tremendous knucklehead, this group would be even better. But because he is, they don’t quite have the same panache. (Edit: Yes, he tore his ACL six months ago and that’s why he is not presently playing. Regardless, Pickens has been frustrating for the Dawgs. He is without question their best receiver and has done some stuff that isn’t level headed as indicated here and here.) That being said, they can be lethal when they are rolling.
(Further Edit: Pickens may be coming back soon from his ACL injury soon.)
Just read this. This offensive line is stacked. They’ve allowed 2 sacks all year. They help to produce 156 rushing yards a game at 4.7 yards per carry. It’s an extremely talented group. Former Ole Miss coach Matt Luke runs the group now that Sam Pittman is the head coach at Arkansas.
The line is 34.5 for reasons beyond the outstanding defense. When this offense clicks, it scores. I wouldn’t classify the offense as elite, but they aren’t slouches. It’s probably the best offense in the SEC East. I frankly think they’ll beat the spread against our defense. Jesse Minter and Clark Lea will have their work cut out for them on Saturday. I wasn’t a big fan of the whining that the Dawgs had last year when we opted not to play (mostly because I don’t think it’s worth our guys getting hurt playing essentially on one limping leg after injuries/COVID/generally getting torn up all year by other SEC opponents), but there’s no doubt they were pretty angry about it. This year, at reasonably full health, I want to see us throw some things at Georgia they haven’t seen before and be a little bit more creative with our defensive schemes. Probably a little early in the year to be able to do that as our defense is still trying to find some footing. Regardless, it’s not gonna be a pretty one. Sorry.