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Just How Good Is Georgia? We’re About to Find Out

Kirby Smart, wearing a mask correctly. Credit: Perry McIntyre

Despite what the media said before the season, it looks like another run of Dawg dominance in the SEC East.

Georgia dispatched Tennessee 44–21 Saturday in a game that was closer than the scoreline indicates. Well, at least for a half. Much like the opener against Arkansas, self-inflicted mistakes—including a high snap that went into the end zone for a Tennessee touchdown on the second play of the game—led to Georgia trailing 21–17 at halftime.

In the end, though, Georgia’s defense was far too good, and our offense was just good enough. In the second half, the defense started creating HAVOC and ended the game with five sacks, three forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles—including one returned by linebacker Monty Rice for a touchdown—and an interception. 

Meanwhile, Florida traveled out West and lost to Texas A&M 41–38 on a last-second field goal. And while Georgia’s defense is the best in the nation and probably the best in school history, the Gator defense is feeding off table scraps we threw out seven years ago. Florida’s Todd Grantham-led defense has given up 113 points through three games. That’s 38 points per game. The Dawgs have given up 37 points all season.

There’s still a lot of football to be played, and we still have to, you know, beat Florida. But that looks to be an easier task than it did a week ago. As things stand, we’re trending toward a fourth consecutive SEC East title for the Dawgs.

But winning the East is only part of the equation. SEC East titles are a minimum requirement at Georgia these days. We’re looking for more SEC titles and to get our hands on that elusive national title. That means going through the best team in the West: Alabama.

And wouldn’t you know it? Next up on the Dawgs’ slate is a trip to Tuscaloosa to face Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide. It’s No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Alabama. Regular season games don’t get any bigger than this.

It’s strange to say, considering we’ve played and beaten two top-15 teams in Auburn and Tennessee, but an away game against Alabama feels like it will be the true measuring stick of how good these Dawgs are. Alabama is the golden standard for excellence in college football, and we slipped just short of that standard in our last two meetings, the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game and the 2018 SEC Championship Game.

But there is a different context to this matchup from those two. Namely, for the first time since Saban landed at Alabama, Georgia has a better defense. Like, unquestionably better. Conversely, however, the Tide undoubtedly has the more explosive offense.

For comparison’s sake, Alabama racked up 723 yards of total offense and 63 points in a win over Ole Miss on Saturday. Georgia has only allowed 710 yards of total offense and 37 points through three games. Alabama’s superstar tailback Najee Harris rushed for 206 yards and five touchdowns against the Rebels. Georgia held the Vols to minus-one rushing yards (not a typo) and has not let a tailback in the end zone since 2018. It’s a classic case of unstoppable force versus immovable object, and something has to give.

Considering the comparative strength of those two units, the game may come down to the Georgia offense versus the Alabama defense. The key for Georgia in that battle is establishing the run. Alabama gave up 268 rushing yards to the Rebels and is allowing 150 rushing yards per game. That’s a far cry from the vaunted Bama run-defenses of years past. If our offensive line can get a good push that allows Zamir White and freshman Kendall Milton—who I believe is our best tailback—to get going, we can put up some points on the Tide.

This matchup may be somewhat pre-climactic because, in all likelihood, the Dawgs and Tide will meet again down the road in the SEC Championship Game. A loss on the road to the No. 2 team in the nation would not be a death blow for our season. But a win would give these Dawgs a ton of confidence heading into the rest of a tough schedule and a second showdown in Atlanta, as well as a nice safety net for our playoff chances, should that hypothetical SEC Championship Game end in a loss.

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