Big thanks to Macon Dawg over at DawgSports.com for taking the time to answer some of our pressing questions about Georgia. The other half of our Q&A will be posted on their site sometime on Saturday morning, so keep your eyes open there.
1) I’m sure you’re tired of talking about QBs by now, so I’ll get that out of the way first. After the rather disastrous experiment with D’Wan Mathis, UGA swapped to Stetson Bennett and has done pretty well. Are Georgia fans happy with him, or is there still some grumblings that the Bulldogs need more of a playmaker at QB? And as a follow-up, how long is the leash Kirby Smart has on Bennett before we see JT Daniels?
We’ve reached the point at which this is Stetson Bennett’s team, for better or for worse. So far, it’s been for the better. “The Mailman” is completing 63% of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception yet this season. That’s the kind of steady leadership you want when you’ve got the league’s top ranked defense. At this point it’s hard to see Daniels unseating him midseason absent injury or illness.
2) Running back Zamir White and receiver Kearis Jackson have accounted for nearly half of Georgia’s offensive production so far as first year starters. Did you Georgia fans expect those two to step up the way they have so far? And if Alabama manages to lock on to those two guys, is the offense dead in the water, or will someone else pick up the load?
Georgia fans were definitely looking for White to take a step forward in 2020. After coming to Athens as the top tailback prospect in the class of 2018 “Zeus” (our people are big on nicknames) was in line for significant playing time as a true freshman before tearing an ACL and missing the season. In 2019 he took some solid steps back, playing in 13 games behind junior starter D’Andre Swift and senior Brian Herrien and averaging 5.23 yards per carry. This year he’s looking like the bellwether of a five man platoon with James Cook, sophomore Kenny McIntosh, and blue chip freshmen Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards.
Jackson is a bit more surprising. Everyone expected sophomore George Pickens, the Bulldogs’ leading returning receiver, to pick up where he left off after a standout freshman season. But defenses have keyed on Pickens, forcing Bennett to look elsewhere. Kearis has stepped in as a reliable big play alternative, averaging a solid 15.80 yards per catch.
3) While the entire SEC seems to have devolved into playing Big 12 defense (and by that, I mean just not bother to, you know, defend), Georgia is the only holdout still actually tackling people. Alabama gave up as many yards to Ole Miss as Georgia’s defense has in 3 games combined. Obviously, Felipe Franks, Bo Nix, and Jarrett Guarantano aren’t exactly world beaters at QB, but is the Bulldog defense really that good in all phases? Are there any weaknesses?
This unit appears to be on track to be as good as the 2017 unit. The Bulldog defense’s strength is stopping the run. UGA fans are only just now getting over our collective case of the giggles after watching Tennessee’s “best offensive line in the SEC” manage -1 rushing yard for the game. In total opposing offenses are averaging 1.49 yards per carry and 38.33 yards per game on the ground.
If there’s a weakness for this UGA defense it’s in pass coverage. The ‘Dawgs still have the top rated passing offense in the SEC. But Tennessee managed a couple of long touchdown passes in one-on-one matchups. Dan Lanning and Kirby Smart bring pressure and sometimes that means putting corners on an island. Usually it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Against Alabama’s receivers, it could be a big gamble.
4) Give me one player on offense and defense who isn’t a household name and will make a big play Saturday.
Offense: I’m going to go with tight end Tre McKitty. The Florida State transfer missed the Arkansas and Auburn games but earned the starting nod against Tennessee. If Georgia stretches the field with George Pickens, Kearis Jackson, and Jermaine Burton I think it will open up the middle.
Defense: Sophomore defensive end Travon Walker has looked really good so far this season on a unit that doesn’t really have a lot of stars. This one is sort of a hunch, but I think he makes a play.
5) Are there any particular positional matchups (e.g. Corners vs receivers) that you believe Alabama has a strong advantage in, and vice versa?
You nailed it. Bama’s receivers terrify me. Georgia is talented and deep at corner, but you can only stick your finger in the dam against Waddle, Smith, and Metchie for so long before there’s a leak. If Georgia gives up one or two shots downfield they can stay in this one. Much more than that and things will get out of hand.
6) What’s your prediction for the game?
I long ago swore off picking Georgia to beat Alabama, at least until it actually happens. Tide 38, Dawgs 24.
7) What’s your prediction for the rest of the season for Georgia?
The gameplan for Georgia was always to get to this game undefeated. From here the ‘Dawgs should be favored in every game going forward. A 9-1 Georgia would likely then get another crack at the Tide in Atlanta. I’m not picking the Red and Black to win that one, either.