If they truly are, then Georgia is indeed at the top of its rank. We’ll find out this week if that’s a fact.
Some takeaways from Saturday's game:
Bulldogs trending upward: Everything about Georgia's showing thus far has to be tempered by the level of competition, but there's no denying the Bulldogs looked more crisp, sharp, in sync and just plain dominant than ever in Saturday's outing against the Red Wolves. The defense got its shutout, sprinkled with coveted "havoc plays," and the offense rolled up the fifth-highest yardage total in school history (656) with a wicked display of balance (33 passes, 33 rushes) and explosiveness (seven plays of 28 yards or more).
“We probably played better today, at least defensively, than we had been playing,” Smart said. “We had some tough contested plays on the outside. And then offensively I thought we mixed tempo with playing with the ball well, and did some good things. But that’s football, and we’ve got to continue to improve. We’ve got to show improvement this week for sure.”
The 55-point victory was the largest of Smart’s career. It was also the third shutout under his watch.
VIDEO: Georgia routed Arkansas State and hosts Notre Dame next Saturday night. Video by Chip Towers.
Receiver situation perilous: There's a lot to like about Georgia's young receiving corps, and a lot about which to be concerned.
The Bulldogs’ two 5-star signees in the 2019 class were big contributors on Saturday. Dominick Blaylock of Marietta hauled in four passes for 112 yards and a 60-yard touchdown and George Pickens of Hoover, Ala., added five more catches and 84 yards to his rapidly growing highlight reel.
But you look at the young receivers' total body of work, and you start adding up all the injuries, and in creep some concerns. Georgia already is without flanker Kearis Jackson due to a broken hand. Junior Demetris Robertson did not play Saturday because “he had some nagging injuries that had bothered him,” according to Smart. Senior Tyler Simmons suffered a shoulder injury when he was dragged down outside the boundary in the first half and did not return.
Smart said he was not sure about Simmons’ status but offered an unconvincing, “I think he’s going to be fine.” He also allowed, “we’re thin at wideout. It’s tough because guys are going down.”
While the young players have been impressive catching the ball – seven wideouts had receptions Saturday – their work in other areas of the game leaves Smart disquieted. Like when Blaylock whiffed on an iso-block that cut short a Brian Herrien gain, or Pickens running the wrong route.
“All people see is the catches,” Smart said of Pickens specifically. “You don’t see what he does when he doesn’t have the ball or when he has a busted route. He had several things today that he didn’t do right, so he has a lot of improving to do.”
The early returns are good though. The Bulldogs’ receivers are improving. Now they just need to keep them on the field.
Positive havoc report: Georgia's weekly call for "havoc" on the defensive side of the ball is also trending upward. The Bulldogs recorded a season-high 20 havoc plays against Arkansas State, which included eight pass breakups, seven tackles for loss, four sacks and interception.
Add that to the season totals and that’s 47 havoc plays in three games -- or 24.7 percent. The Bulldogs’ boldly stated goal for the season is 20 percent.
“I think we’ve improved each week,” said senior safety and defensive captain J.R. Reed, who notched four tackles Saturday. “We got a lot better from last week and got a lot better in the secondary. There’s some things we’ve got to clean up, but I think we did a great job.”
Georgia is playing significantly better up front, where defensive tackle Tyler Clark and outside linebacker Robert Beal Jr. led the team with five tackles each. Down linemen Tymon Mitchell and Devonte Wyatt added four stops apiece.
That group’s superiority will be put to the test in the next game as Notre Dame brings in a veteran offensive line that returns four starters and, including some experienced backups, a total of 68 career starts.
Ready for primetime?: Jake Fromm and most of the offensive starters played most of the Vanderbilt game in Week 1. But they've played just half of the last two games, and that goes for most of the defensive side of the ball as well.
The thinking is that the Bulldogs might have to exert more energy against No. 7 Notre Dame, and that is something that has been on Smart’s mind.
“I worry about the physical conditioning of playing a four-quarter game,” Smart said. “There's only one way to simulate that is to play it and we haven't. I can't rightfully just keep the guys out there and not play other players. That's the toughest thing. We've got to be in shape, ready for a four-quarter game. The rest of the season is going to be that way.”
Notre Dame is in a similar situation, having beaten Louisville and New Mexico by the combined score of 101-31. Meanwhile, neither team has been in a bright-lights, whole-nation-watching contest yet.
Smart believes his guys are up for the moment.
“We’ve got a lot of kids in that team room that have played in big football games, so they’re not going to be intimidated by that,” Smart said. “But Notre Dame has a very good football program, a very good team. They have a coaching staff that does a tremendous job. They were one of the top four teams in the country last year. They played Clemson super tight throughout the game. I’ve got a lot of respect for them and their program and they do a great job.”
Bulldogs' heart of pink: Georgia fans have a big collective heart, and the rest of the country is taking notice.
The grassroots #WearPinkForWendy movement that began early in the week on social media developed into a full-blown, institutional initiative that included everything from ESPN cameramen to stadium personnel decked out in one shade or another of pink. ESPN, the SEC Network and every media outlet providing sports coverage called attention to it.
But it was the people UGA was doing it for who were most affected by the gesture.
"I'll be a Georgia fan the rest of my life," Arkansas State center Jacob Still said. “Seeing the fans walking into the stadium wearing pink really meant a lot to me. People will probably never understand how much it meant to Coach Anderson. It just puts everything in perspective, college football and all the athletes, this is bigger than football. Georgia didn't have to do that. It just shows that Georgia fans have big hearts and they care and we're all kind of in this thing together.”
Wendy Anderson, the wife of Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson, died 26 days ago after a two-year battle with breast cancer. The coach remained with his family until last week, when he returned to the team.
Georgia fans already had a reputation for good will toward others. They responded en masse to the #ForTheLoveOfLindsey campaign two years ago when the daughter of an Austin Peay assistant coach needed help. And Devon Gales, a Southern University player who was paralyzed in a game against Georgia in 2015, now lives in Athens in a house bought from the donations of UGA people.
“I’m very grateful, honored and, honestly, overwhelmed,” Anderson said after the game.