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It’s Stetson Bennett IV’s Time to Shine

Stetson's the man now, dog. Credit: Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics

A year ago, in my infinite shortsightedness, I declared Georgia’s 56-7 win over UAB “The Stetson Bennett IV Game.” 

In that game, Bennett made big plays and efficiently led the Georgia offense in the absence of the injured JT Daniels, who was sure to return in short order and lead the Dawgs to a national championship. It was a deserved, brief moment in the sun for a guy who had been loyal to Georgia and taken some undeserved heat. But now he could bow out for the real starter, because a guy like Stetson Bennett just can’t win on the big stage.

It made sense at the time. I didn’t receive any angry emails from readers. Everyone thought that was about the long and short of it. Hell, as little as 10 months ago, after losing the SEC Championship Game, I was ready to throw him back on the bench. He was too small and lacked the God-given gifts of the quarterbacks we should be playing.

But as we saw borne out in the myriad upsets from this past weekend, college football does a wonderful job making fools of us all.

A guy like Stetson Bennett could win on the big stage. And he did. Now he’s trying to do it again, but with a little more respect on his name. 

That started last week against Oregon, when he had a career-high 368 passing yards and led the Dawgs on seven consecutive touchdown-scoring drives. Going back to last season, Bennett had led Georgia on nine straight touchdown-scoring drives, having defeated Alabama with consecutive touchdown drives in the National Championship Game.

That streak was snapped on the first drive of the 33-0 win over FBS team Samford last weekend. Bennett and Georgia performed poorly in the red zone against Samford, scoring touchdowns on just three of seven trips. But it’s a testament to how this offense has developed that Bennett went 24-for-35 with 300 yards passing, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown, then say, “We can play much better.”

The story of last season was the historic defense Georgia fielded. With Bennett under center after a full offseason of first-team reps and performing with the confidence of a wizened veteran, the story of this season could be the development and evolution of the offense under Bennett and offensive coordinator Todd Monken. We’re no longer talking about “The Stetson Bennett Game.” We’re talking about “The Stetson Bennett Season.”

With his early-season performances, the crowd of Bennett doubters—which once included me—is thinning. Following the win over Oregon, Bennett saw his Heisman trophy odds jump from a 100-to-1 longshot to 19-to-1. I still find it doubtful he’d win, but if he keeps performing well and Georgia wins as it should, there’s no reason he can’t be invited to the ceremony in December. That would be big for a program that hasn’t had a real contender since Garrison Hearst in 1992.

Suffice it to say, alongside Kirby Smart, Bennett is the face of Georgia football. On top of how he’s playing, the man is stacking cash from NIL deals. He has deals with AARP and Synovus Bank that reportedly put him near $1 million in NIL earnings.  He’s the dude in Athens.

Last year, Bennett was just a dude, on a team that was led by its defensive stars. With most of those stars now in the NFL and the coaching staff attempting to push the offense to new limits, he has an opportunity to become a true star. He could be idolized like a modern-day Herschel Walker, but hopefully without the shitty politics.

In some ways, Bennett is the perfect avatar for Dawg fans. Our fanbase is full of goofy-looking dudes from The Middle of Nowhere, Georgia, who like to wear polo shirts and boat shoes. It just so happens that this one, through a confluence of good fortune and hard work, won us a national championship and is trying to win us another. 

I said it a year ago thinking it would be a one-off, and now I say it again knowing full well I’ll be saying it for the rest of my life: Stetson Bennett IV, DGD.