Stetson Bennett shouldn’t be long shot to win Heisman. He’s not anymore

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

What I think about some things I saw on college football’s first big Saturday ...

For much of the offseason, you could get 100-1 odds on Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett to win the Heisman Trophy. More than 40 players were getting shorter odds than Bennett. You’ve probably never heard of some of them. There is one name you may know.

West Virginia’s JT Daniels was 50-1 to win the Heisman before the weekend. Daniels left Georgia after Bennett took hold of the starting gig and never let go. Bennett led the Bulldogs to their first national championship since 1981. His backup, Daniels, went to play for a lesser team and yet he was getting a lot more respect from oddsmakers and the betting public.

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Hopefully someone reading this is holding a 100-1 ticket for Bennett. Those odds are looking great after Bennett’s big day against Oregon, and you won’t get them after this weekend. The word early Sunday from Sportsbetting.ag is that Bennett’s Heisman odds were down to 20-1, sixth shortest. The market moved after Bennett made it obvious that he never should have been such a big long shot to win the Heisman.

Bennett was sensational at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He hit on 25 of 31 passes for 368 yards with two touchdowns throwing and one running. Bennett ran away from pressure and made plays, as always. He never put the ball in danger, as usual. The Bulldogs couldn’t be stopped because Bennett couldn’t be bothered.

By now, this kind of performance by Bennett shouldn’t be surprising. I concluded long ago that Bennett is a good quarterback, not just a caretaker. Todd Monken believed the same thing. He built an offense that takes advantage of Bennett’s skills and smarts. We saw the results in the playoff against Michigan and Alabama, and again on Saturday at MBS.

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Daniels, by the way, lost his debut with West Virginia on Thursday. Archrival Pittsburgh returned his interception for the go-ahead touchdown with three minutes to go. The pick-six wasn’t Daniels’ fault; it went through the hands of his targeted receiver. After injuries derailed what once seemed to be a surefire path to the NFL, I’d like to see that guy catch a break.

Bulldogs are nation’s best in Week 1

It’s possible Oregon is overrated. There’s no way the Ducks are this bad. Georgia just made them look that way.

Oregon has a good, experienced offensive line. The Bulldogs overwhelmed that group. Tosh Lupoi, who coordinated a championship defense at Alabama, has stars playing in his front seven at Oregon. Georgia had no trouble handling them.

When Kirby Smart said flatly that “we have better players,” he wasn’t just covering for Oregon coach Dan Lanning, his former assistant. Even after half of Smart’s all-time great defense went to the NFL, top-ranked Alabama is the only college team that might have better players than No. 3 Georgia.

Nobody was better than the Bulldogs on Saturday of Week 1. Alabama came closest.

Utah State couldn’t score on the Tide, who put up 55 points with ease. Bryce Young was as good as Bennett. The Aggies won 11 games last season, including two against Pac-12 foes. But they lost key players from a defense that surrendered a lot of yards and a ho-hum offense. What Georgia did to Oregon was more impressive than Bama’s beatdown of Utah State.

The Bulldogs also looked better than No. 2 Ohio State. OSU’s defense was great in a 21-10 victory against fifth-ranked Notre Dame. The Buckeyes held the Fighting Irish scoreless on their final six possessions. However, Ohio State trailed at halftime after producing one touchdown, three punts and a missed field goal.

Notre Dame plays good defense. OSU’s offense was better after halftime, but that was an underwhelming performance by what’s supposed to be another high-scoring group. They’ll get better because quarterback C.J. Stroud, the Heisman favorite, is a special talent. He saved the Buckeyes with some great throws outside of the pocket in the second half.

That was a good early test for Ohio State. We’ll know more about the Tide after they play at Arkansas and vs. Texas A&M in back-to-back weeks to open October. The Bulldogs won’t be tested until they play Florida about two months from now. That game is intriguing even beyond the rivalry because ...

Florida opened the Billy Napier era with a big upset

Don’t scoff at the Utes because they play in the Pac-12. Utah has long been the most physical squad from that league. Coach Kyle Whittingham builds good lines on both sides of the ball, and the Utes play a punishing style. The No. 7 Utes knocked the Gators back for three quarters before Florida pushed back for a 29-26 victory in The Swamp.

Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson made winning plays in his first game as the undisputed starter. He finished with 274 total yards and three touchdowns. Richardson is still raw. His passing accuracy is sometimes lacking. But, man, that dude is big, fast and athletic with a strong arm.

Richardson also is unafraid. He’s under a lot of pressure because he’s the key to the Gators making a quick turnaround after the Dan Mullen era fizzled. New coach Billy Napier told Richardson to go out and win the game against a Top 10 opponent in front of 90,799 fans, a school record for an opener. Richardson did it.

Napier wrote an open letter to Florida fans in June. He was trying to calm the nerves of fans after he’d missed out on some key recruits. Napier earned lots of goodwill by winning his debut against a good opponent. He can squander it by losing at home to No. 20 Kentucky next weekend.

Welcome to the SEC, Coach!

What the coaches said

Napier to reporters after Richardson’s big day: “My wife can call plays with that guy at quarterback.”

Smart after UGA’s big day: “I think when you watch what they did today, if you’re watching from home, you’re saying, ‘Man, I’d love to play in that offense.”

Saban after Bama’s big day: “I was really pleased with the way the players approached this game. I thought we had good energy, good intensity, good preparation throughout the week.”

It sounds like Saban is excited for another season of Joyless Murderball.