Georgia football: 3 things I want to see as the Dawgs travel to Vanderbilt
The “warm-up” period is about to end for Georgia football.
That excludes the season-opener against Clemson, of course (is that concern or panic coming from Upstate South Carolina, by the way?), but the Bulldogs expectedly handled their business against UAB and South Carolina. They’ll stand a strong chance to run it up to 4-0 against Vanderbilt in Nashville.
And rookie Commodores head coach Clark Lea has a little bit of recent history with Kirby Smart and company as he was Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator when the Dawgs beat the Fighting Irish in 2019 and linebackers coach during the 2 teams’ meeting in 2017. Things haven’t gotten off to the best start as his ‘Dores suffered a 23-3 loss to FCS ETSU in their opener, and after knocking off Colorado State on a last-second field goal, they were dropped by Stanford.
So an undefeated record before a sharp turn into the meat of the schedule for Smart and his team is well within reach. Here are 3 things I want to see from the Dawgs on Saturday:
1. Kirby Smart sticking with 1 quarterback (unless it’s a blowout, of course)
I have no idea why Smart pulled JT Daniels in favor of Stetson Bennett IV against the Gamecocks. It wasn’t the first time this year he swapped his starter early in a game, either: we saw it against UAB with Carson Beck even though Bennett (clearly) had the hot hand, and then some.
As if on cue, Bennett threw an interception on his 1st drive against South Carolina.
I guess I understand that Bennett “looked good in practice” and was assured that he’d play at some point (and he did come back in when the game was out of reach), but why play him in the 1st quarter? Daniels is the starter, so the switcheroo doesn’t make sense to me at all. Hopefully, we don’t see it on Saturday outside of mop-up duty.
2. The team keeping its foot on the gas pedal offensively and defensively
With the game secured, Georgia made some mistakes during the end of the South Carolina game: Daniels threw an interception late in the 3rd quarter and Kendall Milton fumbled, which led to a Josh Vann touchdown.
Sure, it was a blowout. But things like that stick in the craw of a head coach like Kirby Smart even in a rout like the one on Saturday. (Nick Saban would have been chewing someone out on the sideline.)
“We will not be a good football team if we turn the ball over 3 times,” Smart said during his postgame press conference.
He’s right. The Dawgs need to ensure that they’re maintaining pressure on a team that they should beat handily on the road, and that includes mistake-free football throughout the afternoon.
3. A breakout performance from Kendall Milton
It’s looking like Kendall Milton may be “the guy” once Zamir White and James Cook leave after the season. Going into the game, the depth chart had the familiar “or” between White and Cook, but Milton had a pretty good game against South Carolina, registering 10 carries for 66 yards to lead the team.
Saturday presents the perfect opportunity for the sophomore to flex his muscle and make a bold statement that he’s ready to be RB1 for the Dawgs come 2022. He hasn’t found the scoreboard yet this year — his only touchdown to date coming in the Peach Bowl against Cincinnati — and his 10 touches against the Gamecocks were the most he’s had in his career to date. I’m in favor of giving him about 15 or so against the Commodores and letting him go at it.
Much of that depends on the offensive line, so hopefully, it’s doing its part against the Vandy defensive front and living up to Smart’s challenge after the UAB game to step things up.