We’re only three weeks into the season, but following a 40-16 win over South Carolina, Georgia has established itself as one of the top two teams in college football. And it’s not particularly close. That’s as much an indictment of the competition as it is praise for the Dawgs.
A quarter of the way through the season, some of the teams expected to compete with Georgia for College Football Playoff spots have lost some shine. Clemson not only lost to us to open the season but has since eked out a 14-8 win over Georgia Tech. Ohio State lost to Oregon. Oklahoma, despite being undefeated, scraped past Nebraska and Tulane. Even the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama went to the wire with a Florida team few expected to challenge for titles this year.
With some of Alabama’s weaknesses exposed in that nail-biter in the Swamp, a case could even be made for Georgia as the No. 1 team, if we’re basing it solely on performance in 2021. I won’t make it, but the fact it can be made augurs well and shows we’re finally improving in the areas needed to win championships, not games.
I don’t think there is any debate over whether we have the best defense in college football. And if there is, I wanna meet the guy taking the con position, because I have some oceanfront property in Bogart I want to sell him. This defense is filled with DUDES, top to bottom.
Against the Gamecocks, the Dawgs recorded two turnovers—an interception from Derion Kendrick and a fumble recovery by Quay Walker—and three sacks, one of which was a safety by Jordan Davis and Nolan Smith. South Carolina did find some success in the air, passing for 214 yards, much of which came on chunk plays. South Carolina also scored the first offensive touchdown on the Dawgs this season. That’s a minor blip on a near-impeccable record through three games, though.
Despite the strength of the defense, it’s the improvement of the offense that catches the eye. Beating UAB and South Carolina was expected. But the manner in which the offense went about it is exactly what fans have clamored for, and what many were afraid we still lacked after a lackluster offensive display against Clemson.
Against the Gamecocks, we were a pass-first team, throwing 35 times and running the ball 31 times. And we were explosive when passing. JT Daniels returned as the starter and racked up 303 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Two of those passing touchdowns came on plays of 43 yards, to Jermaine Burton in the first quarter, and 38 yards, to Adonai Mitchell in the second. In total, nine different receivers caught passes against South Carolina.
Because of the focus on improving through the air, Georgia’s vaunted tailbacks have taken something of a backseat in the early going of the season. But it was still a good day for the unit as a whole, as the Dawgs offense racked up 184 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 31 total carries. James Cooks’ 23-yard touchdown scamper in the first showed it still has plenty of explosiveness, too.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken seems to have the green light from Kirby to play aggressively, and it’s paying off in the final scoreline. It’s easy to imagine this same game happening a year or two ago and Georgia scoring in the twenties winning by a touchdown or so because Kirby got conservative. But we’re finally winning by the kind of margins we should win by. We didn’t quite cover, but the offense did enough to make this win emphatic.
We may finally benefit from some of those style points we’ve heard so much about through the years. We look like a top team, we’re playing like a top team, and we’re beating opponents like a top team. If it’s a tight race to get in the College Football Playoff, we may get the benefit of the doubt.
The Dawgs have a lot of confidence in themselves, and rightfully so. This is the most talented group of players ever assembled in Athens, and it seems like they know it. And they know that presents an opportunity to do something special. With Alabama looking like a more manageable challenge than in years past, there may never come a better time than now to win it all.
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