There should be no doubt that Stetson Bennett is the guy for Bulldogs

College Football Playoff rankings Week 12-Georgia football



November 13, 2021 Knoxville, TN - Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) leaves the football field after Georgia won 41-17 over Tennessee during a NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Hyosub Shin /

Stetson Bennett knew where he was throwing the ball before the snap. Georgia’s quarterback didn’t want to tip off Tennessee, so he looked to his left soon after he got the ball. Then Bennett looked to the other side of the field for the matchup he wanted: running back James Cook vs. linebacker Solon Page.

Cook sprinted past Page and caught Bennett’s perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown. That score just before halftime started the top-ranked Bulldogs on their way to a 41-17 rout of the Volunteers on Saturday in Knoxville. It was the kind of play that should leave no doubt that Bennett is the quarterback the Bulldogs should ride for the rest of their national championship run.

If that play wasn’t convincing, then look at the many times Bennett ran for yards when none were available through the air. That included a nifty 9-yard score that put Georgia ahead for good. See all the times that Bennett made quick throws before the pass rush reached him or sidestepped it to make plays. Don’t overlook the many moments in which he avoided danger by getting got rid of the ball safely.

Bennett did a lot of the right things against the Vols, and not many wrong ones. He’s been doing that all season, really. Bennett began the day ranked second among FBS quarterbacks in yards per pass attempt and third in passing efficiency. He’d run for 216 yards on 27 attempts, a number that includes yards lost on sacks.

And yet there have been persistent questions about why coach Kirby Smart has stuck with Bennett even with JT Daniels healthy and available. If Bennett’s great day on Rocky Top doesn’t end that talk, then so be it. Bennett still will keep on quarterbacking the Bulldogs toward the prize that’s eluded them for so long.

The Bulldogs finished 8-0 in the SEC for the first time. (The league went to eight conference games in 1992.) They are 10-0 for the first time since 1982. They’ve won seven consecutive games with Bennett as the starting quarterback.

“I’m not going to overthink it with Stetson,” Smart said. “We are trying to go game-by-game to get him better.”

Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) runs for a touchdown in the first half during a NCAA football game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Hyosub Shin /


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Bennett was 17-of-29 passing for 213 yards against the Vols with the touchdown and no interceptions. Those are his season-high for attempts and completions. Bennett also ran for 58 yards on six carries, not including sacks. The rushing touchdown was his first of the season. The score seemed to settle the Bulldogs after their defense was on its heels for the first time all season.

Said Smart: “His feet were a big difference in this game, his athleticism. The play he made on the touchdown run was special. ... He can still play better. He can make (better) decisions and not try to make every play an elite play.”

The Vols came out with a relentless pass rush that had Bennett backpedaling early. After that, he picked them apart with his arm, feet and smarts. Bennett again showed why Smart is right to keep him under center and Daniels on the sideline.

Full disclosure: I supported Smart’s decision to stick with quarterback Jake Fromm over Justin Fields during the 2018 season. Georgia won big games with Fromm and Fields was a freshman. Picking Fromm was the safe choice but, in my view, the right one. It ended up looking too safe and very wrong.

Fields went on to star for two-time College Football Playoff entrant Ohio State while UGA made the CFP only once with Fromm. In my defense, I didn’t have nearly as much information on the matter as Smart. His ultimate insider’s knowledge didn’t help him make the best decision.

That episode seems to color everything Smart has done this season with Bennett and Daniels. Can Bulldogs backers really trust him to handle his quarterbacks? That question echoed the many times Smart insisted that he believes Bennett is a very good quarterback and not just an injury replacement for Daniels.

Pedigrees also play a part in the perceptions of the two QBs. Bennett is a relatively small QB who, we are constantly reminded, is a former walk-on. Daniels is a five-star recruit from California who looks the part and once started for USC.

There also are the recollections of Bennett’s subpar performance in some big games. He wasn’t good in losses at Alabama and vs. Florida last season. Bennett wasn’t sharp when Florida beat the Gators last month. Also, before Saturday, Bennett hadn’t thrown many passes when the Bulldogs were under pressure to put up points.

I get why those factors might make Georgia supporters nervous about what could happen with Bennett in the future. The Bulldogs will face championship-caliber opponents with explosive offenses and, in the past, they haven’t been able to keep up.

But I don’t see what Bennett has done in the present to show he doesn’t deserve to start. I do see that he’s a better quarterback now than last season and has gotten better throughout this one. He’s a better runner than Daniels, which is no small thing in today’s game.

I also think there’s some selective memory when it comes to Daniels. He’s had some shaky performances, too, including at South Carolina last season and vs. Clemson in this year’s opener. The Bulldogs won those games by riding their running game and great defense.

How is that any different than what happened with Bennett under center against the Gators at the end of October? Against the Vols, Bennett made plays as the Bulldogs turned a tight game into a runaway.

“It was a more balanced effort, I thought, which is what you want from your offense,” Bennett said.

The drive that ended with Bennett’s touchdown pass to Cook began at Georgia’s 10-yard line. The Bulldogs led 17-10 with 3:05 until halftime. Bennett expertly directed the up-tempo march while finding a connection with freshman wide receiver Adonai Mitchell. Bennett was 5-for-8 for 80 yards on the drive as the Vols unsuccessfully tried rattling him.

The Bulldogs got the ball first after halftime. A holding penalty set them back and they ran five plays before punting. Georgia got the ball back when its defense stopped Tennessee on fourth down 17 yards from the end zone. Bennett got the Bulldogs in scoring range with a 14-yard strike to Brock Bowers on third-and-10.

Jack Podlesny’s 26-yard field goal pushed Georgia’s lead to 27-10. Tennessee’s next possession ended with another turnover on downs, this time at Georgia’s 40-yard line. The Bulldogs needed one more score to put the Vols away.

They got it with a touchdown drive that featured Bennett running for one first down and throwing for two, including a 21-yard completion to Jermaine Burton. Georgia’s running game took care of the rest. Cook scored a 5-yard touchdown for 34-10 lead. After Tennessee gave the ball back on a fumble by quarterback Hendon Hooker, the Bulldogs bullied the Vols on the ground during a six-play touchdown drive.

What started as a tough test for Georgia ended with another blowout.

“This is a tough place to play,” Bennett said. “They’ve got an explosive offense and talented people on defense, and there are 102,000 people in the stands. We weathered the storm, and we just kept chopping, and you saw it at the end.”

I saw that Bennett is the best quarterback for the Bulldogs during their national championship run.