The nation’s No. 1 team spotted Missouri three points and won by 37. JT Daniels made an appearance, his first since September, after Stetson Bennett, the quarterback whom some insist can’t throw, threw for 255 yards in a half plus 2-1/2 minutes. The Tigers called two timeouts in the final 23 seconds and couldn’t score from the 1-yard line. Anything else you need to know about this one?
Georgia has gotten so good that its games have become bores. Not since Labor Day has anyone come within two scores of the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs clinched the SEC East with a month to spare. There’s no chance they’ll lose before they play Alabama (or maybe Auburn again) for the conference title and the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff. Should Georgia lose that game, it would still make the field of four. Oh, and its defense is a creature of brutal beauty.
There’s nothing bad to say about Georgia, unless you’re among those who believe Bennett can’t throw, which he demonstrably can. (His is among the more remarkable careers in the annals of college football.) After dispatching Mizzou 43-6 on Saturday, even Kirby Smart couldn’t find much gripe-worthy, though he made a modest effort.
Said Smart: “We started out kind of sloppy. We had a little lack of focus, especially on defense.”
Then: “We didn’t run the ball really well.”
Then: “Some guys (meaning players) didn’t feel it was our best effort. We were a little lackadaisical at times, especially on defense.”
This was, we note, boilerplate stuff. No coach ever says, “I’m happy with everything everyone did today,” because if that were so, who’d need coaches? Credit Georgia for sticking to business when it became clear a while ago that this team was talented and driven and attentive to detail in a way few ever are. Since Sept. 4 against Clemson, they haven’t given any opponent any chance of winning. Maybe Alabama will be different, but Bama still must earn its passage to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Georgia already has.
Said Bennett, who has, among other things, a way with words: “I guess if you look at our record, having that zero on there is pretty cool, but we’re just trying to go 1-0 each week.”
Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@
Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@
In his postgame remarks, Smart did mention that his team shouldn’t “buy into the narrative that’s out there,” presumably meaning that Georgia is too good to lose to anybody except Alabama. This outside observer would say that these Bulldogs have stuck to its weekly tasks in a way few collegiate assemblages ever do, a way that would earn the approval of Nick Saban himself.
As his team has risen to 9-0, the thought has occurred that Smart is settling old business, sort of like – “sort of” because “The Godfather” was a film, with much gunplay involved – the fictional Michael Corleone in the montage at the end. Stracchi in the elevator. Moe Greene on the massage table. Cuneo in the revolving door. Tattaglia in repose. Barzini on the courthouse steps. Poor Tessio offscreen. Carlo Rizzi in the car in need of a new windshield. All gone.
Here’s Georgia’s list. Clemson, which had the temerity to win national titles with quarterbacks from Georgia: beaten 10-3. South Carolina, which hired former Smart assistant Shane Beamer: beaten 40-13. Arkansas, which upset Texas A&M under former Smart assistant Sam Pittman: beaten 37-0. Auburn, under new management: beaten 34-10. Kentucky, getting bolder by the year: beaten 30-13, the Wildcats scoring with four seconds left after calling timeout. Florida, which beat Georgia last season, briefly breaking the Bulldogs’ hold on the SEC East: beaten 34-7.
The cold-eyed excellence of these Bulldogs has been so sweeping that, a year after his Gators made their seeming breakthrough, Dan Mullen could babble his way out of a job. Mullen has so wearied of hearing about Smart’s recruiting that he attempted to shrug off the concept, prompting Florida – which pays Mullen handsomely not just to snap at reporters but to sign the occasional big-time prospect – to cut off interviews this week before its titanic tilt with South Carolina, which likewise entered at 4-4.
We’ve been saying since 2017 that there’s only one thing left for this coach and his program to win. This is Georgia’s best team since that one came so close. It might be Georgia’s best team since 1981. (Which was slightly better than its immediate predecessor, which won the national championship.) We’ve just seen that it is in fact possible for a team from these parts to win all there is to win. Come Jan. 10 in Indianapolis, the Braves could well have company in their title-taking.
Speaking of whom: Joc Pederson, wearer of pearls and prompter of bleeps, watched Saturday’s game from the Sanford Stadium sideline. Oh, and there was another distinguished guest. Said Bennett: “We saw (Braves mascot) Blooper during the Dawg Walk. That got us fired up.”