1. GEORGIA’S DEFENSE IS GOOD ENOUGH TO CARRY THE DAWGS
Quarterback Stetson Bennett deserves credit for managing the game, not making mistakes and moving the chains. Running back Zamir White got his. But let’s not bother with any pretense: Georgia’s best hope this season is its defense overwhelming opponents like it did Auburn on Saturday evening.
The Tigers managed just 39 yards in the fourth quarter. They had only 42 in the second. Things got crazy in third when Auburn put up 113.
Auburn finished the day averaging just 2.73 yards per play and a paltry 1.8 yards per rush. That’s pure dominance. Remember, the Tigers came into the day ranked as the No. 7 team in the country. It didn’t matter a lick to a Bulldog defense that’s easily college football’s best early in 2020.
That’s critical, because it’s likely how Georgia will have to keep winning. Bennett’s final stat line was fine (17-for-28, 240 yards, 1 TD). He made a few really nice plays, particularly on the opening drive when he spun out of pressure and hit Kearis Jackson for 17 yards to push Georgia into the red zone. For the record, backup QB D’Wan Mathis registered a rush in a package and JT Daniels did not play. Those two will have a chance to factor into Georgia’s season as the schedule marches on (Daniels especially). For now, the job is Bennett’s. He’s capable. But I have a hard time exiting that game thinking Bennett, if he’s asked to start the rest of the year, is going to lift Georgia to a championship.
Rather, if Georgia is going to go where it wants to this year, it will be up to this ferocious defense. Is that a 2010 mentality in the SEC? Maybe. Georgia’s defense is good enough to hold up in any era you stick it in. That group is special, and it’s going to make the Bulldogs relevant every week.
Georgia’s response to a mediocre effort in its season opener against Arkansas was to flex all over Auburn in a game that has felt like it was decided on National Signing Day the past couple years. The Bulldogs just have better players, particularly on the line of scrimmage, and their 27-6 victory was a reminder of why so many people buy into Georgia despite red flags about their offense over the years.
The speed on defense, the brutally effective pass rush, the running game that you can rely on? It’s all there. They always look like a traditional powerhouse SEC team. And when it works as well as it did on Saturday, it’s incredibly impressive to watch.
The Bulldogs throttled Auburn in every way, allowing just 216 yards and making Tigers quarterback Bo Nix (21-of-40 completions, 177 yards, 1 interception) look like he hasn’t progressed at all from last season.
At the same time, Georgia looks like this several times a year. But in the big games at the end, we frequently look up and realize that its offense is too pedestrian and doesn’t generate enough big plays in the passing game against the top-level opponents you have to beat to win a national title.
Stetson Bennett, the former walk-on, did a nice job at quarterback. He didn’t make any big mistakes and completed 17-of-28 passes for 240 yards. It was good enough against Auburn, but will it be good enough against Alabama? We still have our doubts.
The question, I think, at this point is whether you believe the offense is a work in progress. I saw enough last night to make me hopeful that is indeed the case, but I have to be honest enough to admit I felt really good about the 2019 offense until the Notre Dame game. For me, “Todd Monken is better at his job than James Coley was” is doing a lot of heavy lifting, but I believe it’s justified.
Skeptical or not, though, about the offense, there’s no denying what an overpowering force Georgia’s defense has been through its first two games. It would be fun to watch this team blow up the current “you don’t need great defense, just enough defense to win titles these days” conventional wisdom.
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