On Sunday morning, after another Georgia bludgeoning, Paul Finebaum finally said what has become so apparent.

“In many ways, Georgia is the new Alabama,” the veteran college football analyst and SEC football savant said on SportsCenter, putting brutally honest words to what all of us dipped in reality have seen on our TV screens since the end of last season.

Right now, on Sept. 21, the Bulldogs are better than Bama. Maybe not by a wide margin, at least not right now. But the Dawgs have surpassed the Tide in the general eye test. It doesn’t mean Georgia is definitely going to win its second national title in a row and it doesn’t even mean things can’t change in 2022 because it’s still very early and the unexpected can never be discounted.

But Finebaum is paid a lot of money to transfer what he sees on SEC football fields into bold opinions, and last Sunday he told a national audience and specifically his loyal followers in the South that the program that has ruled the region and the national scene for most of the past 15 years isn’t at the very top anymore. Again, that doesn’t mean the Tide can’t turn the tide and win another crown in January, it just means that right now it is doing the chasing instead of being chased, for a change.

Georgia snatched away Alabama’s No. 1 ranking in the AP and coaches’ polls over the past 2 weeks and last Saturday the Bulldogs blew the doors off South Carolina in Columbia in their SEC opener. They put up 48 points, 45 in the first 3 quarters, and they’ve allowed a grand total of 10 points combined in their first 3 games. This is pure dominance on both sides of the ball, all on the heels of winning the program’s first national championship since 1980 by outlasting and outclassing the Crimson Tide 8 months ago.

This brings us back to Finebaum, who said he isn’t counting out Bama but that the Tide have deficiencies and the Dawgs don’t.

“They look like the perfect team,” Finebaum said. “They look like you went into a lab and put them together.”

So what exactly is Georgia doing better than Bama? Well, a lot of things right now, but we’re going to talk about the 5 things that stand out the most as we sit here today, with a whole 2.5 months before these behemoths could collide in Atlanta.

1. That dominant Dawgs defense

Look, Alabama has only given up 26 points in its first 3 nonconference games, which is pretty darn good, too. But look a little deeper and you’ll recall that Texas was having its way with the Tide for much of that Week 2 battle in Austin. Especially before Quinn Ewers left with an injury. The Longhorns left some points out on that field, including a chip-shot missed field goal at the end of the first half that ultimately came back to haunt them. The total yards were almost even, with Texas putting up 371 yards against a gassed Bama defense that looked a step behind all day.

The Horns had 25 first downs, 9 more than the Tide, and the disparity felt like a lot more. Bama dug in when it had to, and at the end of the day it only gave up 19 points on the road against a team that’s now ranked in both polls. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, at all. But we’re used to seeing dominance from Nick Saban defenses, including the ones Georgia head coach Kirby Smart directed for 8 seasons as Saban’s defensive coordinator. Right now, the Tide defense is far from dominating.

Look at last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe. Again, Bama only allowed 7 points, that’s the bottom line, and it’s a positive bottom line. But the Tide defense also let a Sun Belt team come into Bryant-Denny Stadium and push it around for most of the second quarter, when the Warhawks possessed the ball for over 11 minutes. That’s not supposed to happen.

It certainly hasn’t happened to Georgia. All the Bulldogs did to start the 2022 season is basically shut out a ranked Oregon team on a neutral field in an eye-popping season-opening performance in Atlanta. The Ducks put up 1 field goal on the day and limped back to the West Coast. There was zero letdown in the home opener in Week 2 against FCS Samford, as the Dawgs pitched a shutout and allowed just 128 total yards.

Then last Saturday afternoon in an equally eye-popping SEC opener, Georgia went on the road and nearly shut out South Carolina, the reserves giving up a meaningless touchdown with 53 seconds left. The Bulldogs made Spencer Rattler’s life miserable, limiting him to 118 yards passing and forcing him into 2 interceptions. His QBR was a microscopic 26.2.

It remains to be seen whether this is merely a great Georgia defense or a historically great Georgia defense. Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky are all ranked right now, and the Bulldogs will undoubtedly get all of their best shots. But what’s not up for debate is that right now the best defense in the SEC — and maybe the country — resides in Athens, not Tuscaloosa.

2. Yes, the quarterback position

Let’s preface this by saying that Bryce Young is still capable of winning another Heisman Trophy, although, like Bama, he’s doing the chasing in that department right now. Young has been very good so far this season. He has a 68.2 completion percentage, has thrown for 644 yards and has 9 touchdown passes to just 2 interceptions, although both of those picks were against a Sun Belt defense. His passer rating is 162.1, not far off from the 167.5 number that he had last season in capturing that Heisman.

Young also ran for exactly 100 yards in the season-opener against Utah State. But there were 0 explosive runs in the past 2 games, as Young combined for just 44 yards on the ground, including a paltry 6 last Saturday against a Sun Belt team. He did have a nifty 7-yard TD run against the Warhawks, but that was about it. The dazzling Young that we saw in 2021 hasn’t been there so far. There have been moments, but that sizzle we got used to has subsided.

Young is still searching a bit when it comes to finding a rhythm with his new weapons, especially Jermaine Burton, who caught passes from Stetson Bennett last season in winning a national title but wanted to come to Bama to catch them from Young instead. So far, Burton has only caught 8 of those passes in 3 games, including just 3 catches in the past 2 games. Young has had a B- sort of start to the season, maybe a B, and we’re obviously used to much better than that.

Meanwhile, Bennett is thriving once again. Georgia’s QB has completed an astounding 74 percent of his passes and already has 952 yards passing. He only has 5 TD tosses but has yet to throw an interception, and because his team has been so dominant, Bennett has yet to complete a pass in the 4th quarter of any game.

Bennett’s passer rating is a ridiculous 183.5, which speaks to his overall efficiency. Last season, it was 176.7, when the Dawgs won it all. Plainly put, Bennett has come back to school this fall determined to go back-to-back, and he has everything around him to do just that. Bennett might not be the flashiest QB in the SEC, but right now he’s the league’s best quarterback.

3. Not a single Georgia turnover

That’s right. The top-ranked Bulldogs have not turned the ball over once in their first 3 games. It’s one thing to be dominant along the lines of scrimmage, and Georgia has been that. But when you do that without a single turnover, without giving the other team anything easy, it creates an aura of invincibility and drives already overmatched opponents crazy.

The Bulldogs have truly taken on a championship personality since winning it all in 2021. Georgia will eventually turn the ball over, with either a Bennett interception or a fumble, but right now that big 0 in the turnover column is a sight to behold a quarter of the way through the season.

This isn’t to say Bama has been a turnover machine through 3 games. It hasn’t been at all. Young had only those 2 interceptions against Louisiana-Monroe and backup QB Jalen Milroe had a pick in the opener. That’s been it so far, as the Tide have yet to lose a fumble. Three turnovers in 3 games is nothing to scoff at, it’s just that Georgia has been flawless, and a lot of times that’s the difference between a team being very good and great.

4. 3rd-down conversion rate

On the money down, when a drive is in jeopardy of ending, the poised Bulldogs have acted like a program that just won a championship. Georgia is a combined 19-for-32 on 3rd downs so far, including a jaw-dropping 9-of-10 in that opening beatdown of Oregon. Converting big 3rd downs is what makes champions and dynasties, and the Bulldogs are acting the part by continually keeping drives alive in the big moments.

Meanwhile, as is the case in most areas so far in 2022, Bama is a notch or 2 below Georgia in this category. The Tide are a combined 12-of-31 on 3rd down in its first 3 games. Those 7 extra 3rd-down conversions that the Bulldogs have over the Tide are, again, what separates a strong contender and a champion.

5. Better disciplined

We end with the one that ultimately proves why Georgia is better right now. The penalties, or lack thereof for the Bulldogs, who have a combined 14 in 3 games to the Tide’s 27. Yes, this stat is skewed because of those 15 penalties Bama was called for against Texas — its most ever under Saban. That day was likely an extreme exception to the norm, but it did happen, and something like that hasn’t happened to the more disciplined Bulldogs.

So far, Bama hasn’t been called for less than 6 penalties in a game, and that’s not a great sign. The Texas game was a fiasco, complete with personal fouls that were totally out of character for a Saban team. Even Will Anderson Jr. got caught up in the flag frenzy in Austin. But Georgia has kept the penalties in check, and that’s a sure sign of a program that’s learning how to win, with the attention to detail to match. The Bulldogs don’t beat themselves anymore, so good luck to anyone trying to beat them.

Just ask Finebaum.