Matt Hinton hits the sweet spot of where I’m at after Notre Dame with this:
So in that respect — even if only in that respect, on just the one side of the ball — Saturday night looked like the realization of the job Kirby Smart was hired to do: Elite athletes executing at an elite level. For a program that’s spent years watching decorated recruits flirt with their potential before ultimately falling short, Notre Dame’s status in the national pecking order was entirely beside the point.
If you’re feeling less optimistic, you can point to the fact that Georgia’s offense struggled to score points, too, and the fact that wet-behind-the-ears QB Jake Fromm looked every inch the freshman in his first career start. Long term, the looming tug-of-war behind center between Fromm and Jacob Eason has the potential to send the entire season careening off course. Nagging concerns over Nick Chubb and Sony Michel’s durability and explosiveness haven’t entirely gone away. The receivers remain largely unproven; the reshuffled offensive line is just hoping to get by as it gels, maybe, into a cohesive unit.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not new that Georgia remains a work in progress. It’s a given. That project in Athens has been under perpetual construction for at least a decade, spanning full recruiting cycles, myriad injuries and defections, and coaching changes. In that context, it’s rare to see the work result in actual progress in real time. Strictly speaking, Saturday night may not have revealed much more about Georgia or its immediate prospects of a championship run than we already knew. But it did look an awful lot like progress on a big stage, and the best indication yet that the Smart era is on schedule.
There’s no question that plenty of work on offense remains to be done before we can label this program elite. But between a defense that appears to have earned that label Saturday night and special teams that have removed themselves from being the outright liability they were last season, it’s okay to feel like things overall are heading in the right direction. For the moment, that works for me.