The what-if game – about as unrewarding a diversion as one-handed poker – will involve Jake Fromm and Justin Fields for as long as the two throw an NCAA regulation football, and likely beyond.
Fromm struggles against South Carolina and he and the Bulldogs treat a wet ball like it’s a live squid against Kentucky. While Fields, the high-pedigree recruit who moved on from Georgia after he did not unseat Fromm, takes wing at Ohio State. Why, he even managed to throw for a couple touchdowns in the rain on Saturday, proving it humanly possible.
Let the game begin. For Georgia fans, everything Fields accomplishes – and that may be epic – will be done with the full knowledge that he was a Bulldog first and that the kind of dynamism he has brought to the game would look awfully good dressed up in red and black.
Magnanimous ones will realize that they hardly have been left with a can of Spam in Fromm. He is steady and sturdy and true. They will understand the machinations forced on Fields to gain his right to play this year for Ohio State, for it was really nothing personal. They may even realize that this new spasm of movement in college football has led to a wealth of great quarterbacking spread over the fruited plain from Norman, Okla., to Baton Rouge, La., to Columbus, Ohio.
It would have been a crime against competition if Fields couldn’t have played every possible down this season. However Georgia might have deployed him, it would have wasted some part of him.
The small-minded in the crowd will find some way to resent Fields’ success and to dismiss him just because he doesn’t answer to their cheers. Their loss.
And everyone will wonder what, if anything, would have been different had Fields won Kirby Smart’s favor. That’s just human, I guess. Even if it is pointless.
Fields’ high school coach, Matt Dickmann at Kennesaw’s Harrison High School, is surrounded by Georgia people. He says they are largely fine with how this quarterback roulette has resolved itself.
But let someone try to tell him that Fields is secondary to Georgia’s starter because he couldn’t beat Fromm out of the job when both were on the same field, and he will get protective.
“Who says he never beat out Fromm?” Dickmann was saying last week, speaking for the Fields faction out there. “(Fromm’s) a great quarterback but I don’t think Justin was ever given the opportunity to do that.
“I think he’s showing everybody now that if he had gotten more opportunities that he would have excelled. Justin has excelled at everything he’s done. I don’t know why he wouldn’t excel at playing quarterback anywhere.”
Opportunity really can be everything.
Watching Fields work up close and personal Saturday against Wisconsin, I found myself trying to put what he's doing for the unbeaten, third-ranked Buckeyes in a Georgia context. A couple thoughts occurred.
For one, barring injury or the unforeseen, Fields has the much greater chance to gain acclaim than Fromm. Call it the difference in offensive approaches between Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Georgia’s Smart. Call it the greater catalog of athletic gifts that Fields possesses.
Already, he is appearing on certain tote boards as a Heisman candidate (listed last week on BetOnline.ag at 9-to-1 behind LSU’s Joe Burrow, 5-to-4, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, 2-to-1, and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa 3-to-1).
Fields is made for the SportsCenter highlight. Why, one spin move against a poor Wisconsin defensive back Saturday turned a modest first-down gain into a sheer delight. And that’s before you even dig into the ridiculous touchdown passes-to-interception ratio (24-to-1).
Second thought: The team Fields went to is performing at a level significantly higher than the one he left.
Once he ventured out from the Bulldogs bubble, something occurred to Fields’ father, Pablo Fields. “I got (to Columbus) for spring practice and was able to make the comparisons between two blue-blood programs like Georgia and Ohio State. They got dudes, too. You look at Chase Young and can’t believe there’s a human built like that,” he said. Young is the defensive end that Wisconsin found unblockable, and should be a Heisman hopeful if this hadn’t this award become such a quarterback-only club. The Buckeyes also have maybe the best running back in the Big 10 (J.K. Dobbins) and an offensive line that did much damage to Wisconsin’s No.-1-against-the-rush defense (gaining 264 yards against a D that had yielded just 58 yards per game entering Saturday).
“It’s been great,” Fields said Saturday. “Coach Day is a great coach, he has a great offensive mind. We have athletes on the outside and a great offensive line so that makes my job easier. And, of course, a great running back.”
Basically, consider this a plea not to get lost in the what-ifs as the Georgia and Ohio State seasons follow their courses. The what-ares hold plenty of fascination on their own.
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