Georgia football: Stock report after Week 13
It wasn’t the prettiest win of Georgia’s season, but it was a win nonetheless. With a 31-23 victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday, the Bulldogs notched their 29ths consecutive win to set a Southeastern Conference record.
Quarterback Carson Beck had his fewest passing yards of the season, going 13-of-20 for 175 yards and a touchdown with 1 late interception. Kendall Milton had his best game as a Bulldog, though, carrying 18 times for 156 yards and 2 touchdowns.
What does it all amount to?
A perfect regular season and a date with Alabama in the SEC Championship next Saturday, where Georgia will try to clinch a College Football Playoff berth and a chance at its third consecutive national title.
Before we move on to bigger and better things, though, let’s take a look back at the season that was. There were ups and a few downs, but all of Georgia’s goals are still in front of it as it continues its pursuit of history.
Most improved: QB Carson Beck
This may be cheating a little bit. We’re not entirely sure just how good Beck was a year ago, because he sat behind Stetson Bennett as the Bulldogs rolled to a perfect season and a national championship.
But there’s no denying the progress we’ve seen from Beck throughout the season. What began as solid numbers but somewhat inconsistent offense has grown into a bona fide juggernaut on that side of the ball. Beck is one of the finest pocket passers in the country, and Georgia is one of the most explosive units on that side of the ball.
The questions surrounding Beck, who is on track to break Bennett’s single-season passing yards record, are now: 1) Can he lead Georgia to another national title? And 2) Will he return for one more season?
Biggest surprise: K Peyton Woodring
Many of us expected to see Jared Zirkel kicking field goals for the Bulldogs this season. After all, he was next in line after sitting behind Jack Podlesny for the past couple of years. And when Woodring stumbled with a couple of bad misses inside of 30 yards early in the season, the kicking job was back up for grabs.
With the regular season now complete, however, it was Woodring who took every field goal attempt this season. And, boy, was he good. He made all 59 extra point attempts and 20 of 23 field goals. His 86.9 percent field goal percentage ranks 8th in Georgia single-season history, and with at least 2 games remaining he still has room to move to top 5 on the single-season made field goals list.
Not bad for a freshman.
Best win: 30-21 over No. 12 Missouri
This category could have gone to any of 3 games. You could look at the 52-17 blowout of No. 9 Ole Miss — it was the highest ranked win for the Bulldogs and in absolutely dominant fashion. You could also have taken the 38-10 win over Tennessee. Again, it was dominant, and it was against the team most people perceived to be the biggest threat to Georgia in the East.
But we have the benefit of hindsight in this column, and we now know what we should have known then: Missouri was the second-best team in the division behind Georgia and probably the third best team in the conference behind Alabama.
Georgia won by only 9 points, and it had to grind it out against a very capable team with a strong quarterback, one of the best wide receivers in the country and an incredibly capable running back.
This was the game that made Georgia look again like it was the nation’s top contender.
Play of the Year: 39-yard TD pass to top Auburn 27-20
It’s hard to pick out just one play. Especially when, to my memory, there isn’t just one incredible feat that any one player pulled off this season. So I’ll revert to the one that may prove to be the most consequential to Georgia’s season.
I’ll paint the picture for you.
There’s 3:03 remaining on the road against Auburn, and the score is tied 20-20. The Tigers were a seemingly formidable threat but have gone on to finish the regular season just 6-6. It was only Beck’s fifth start, and questions about the offense remained.
Then, from the Auburn 39-yard line, Beck silenced Jordan-Hare Stadium with a crisp pass to a wide-open Brock Bowers, who split the defenders and took it to the house. The score gave the Bulldogs the win, something to build on, and helped catapult them to another perfect regular season, their third in a row.
Most unheralded star: WR Dillon Bell
We’ll call this unheralded from a national perspective, because I think Georgia fans know what they have in Dillon Bell. Bell’s numbers are modest — 22 receptions for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns; 25 carries for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns; 1-for-1 passing for 18 yards and 1 touchdown — but his importance to this offense can’t be measured statistically.
Bell has been the guy who has done whatever the offense needed of him. Early in the season, with questions surrounding the running game, Bell became a fill-in piece in the backfield, changing the pace and spelling leading rushers Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton. Buried in the passing game behind guys like Bowers, Ladd McConkey, Dominic Lovett, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and Rara Thomas, Bell has nonetheless made his presence felt. He gets open, he makes big catches in big situations, he moves the chains.
And trailing early against Tennessee, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo dialed up a pass from Bell, which he put on the money to Rosemy-Jacksaint to give Georgia a lead it would never relinquish.
The receiving game is still in pretty good hands next year.