Georgia football: Championship season arrives as Bulldogs aim to continue 'ascending'
Kirby Smart must have a thesaurus in his office.
The Georgia coach seemingly chooses a word of the week to highlight in his message to his players. Sometimes it’s “elite,” while other times it’s “composure” or “toughness.” Saturday after a wreck of Georgia Tech, it was “ascending.”
Even though getting over the Alabama curse will be on the minds of Georgia players and coaches this week, Smart would love to play a great game but still have some meat on the bone to improve ahead of the College Football Playoff.
Another word for Georgia, particularly on Saturday, but throughout the season is “discipline.” The historically elite defense is almost never out of place. The Bulldogs stay in their rush lanes, and hardly ever overlap one another except when they’re swallowing a ball carrier. That leads to shut downs like they did against Tech.
It leads to elite numbers:
- 6.9 is the fewest points per game allowed by a defense since 1986 Oklahoma
- 17 by Tennessee was the most points allowed by Georgia this season
- 3 shutouts recorded thanks to the Tech performance
Even Smart’s thesaurus might not have enough synonyms to describe what his defense has done this season. But it’s been the offense that answered more of the questions, both coming into the season, and since the team has racked up injuries. But that offense showed it can beat teams like Tech in multiple ways. Case in point, Georgia in the first half only had 46 yards rushing against 226 yards passing. In the second half? Georgia had 162 rushing yards and 29 yards passing.
That shows a multi-dimensional team in a season where plenty of teams, even the Playoff contenders, have holes.
Georgia now turns its attention in the ascending department to Alabama, and for comparison, they have 4 common opponents: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee. Georgia won those games by an average of 4 touchdowns, while Alabama had 2-point wins over Auburn and Florida, and a 7-point win over Arkansas, while both teams coasted over Tennessee.
Georgia will try and take its impressive defense and exploit the suspect Alabama offensive line, which nearly saw its roof cave in during the Iron Bowl. Even Auburn didn’t have to blitz to get pressure and build a double-digit point lead until Alabama adjusted to an up-tempo attack. That’s a big edge for Georgia in this matchup in Atlanta.
It is easier said than done, but Georgia has to be aware of Edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., who had a sack on Saturday and came into the week tied for the lead in the country in sacks with 13.5. Neutralizing him while Stetson Bennett finds any of the 10 receivers he connected with on Saturday will be a big key.
One of the subplots to Saturday’s win was the return of star wide receiver George Pickens, who made his first catch of the season and received a warm welcome from the fans.
But the most clear explanation for Georgia having a championship-level offense and team overall, is that Pickens is just another ingredient Todd Monken and Bennett can use; he’s not the end-all, be-all threat for the offense.
On offense, Georgia has the 10 receiving options. On defense, it has 4 players with at least 4 sacks on the season and had 4 players pick up at least a half of a sack in the win over Tech.
Put it all together and Georgia has enough dimensions to reach that elusive championship level, and on the way, Smart will use the elite standard to motivate the players to push a little harder to reach that next level.