ATHENS — Georgia football is back in the spotlight with ESPN College GameDay and the SEC Network’s SEC Nation headed to town to promote its game with Kentucky.
The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs are a 23.5-point favorite over No. 11 Kentucky, both teams entering the action 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC (TV: CBS).
Stetson Bennett is expected to make his third start in a row in place of injured incumbent JT Daniels.
Daniels, who passed for more than 400 yards in his Georgia debut last season and is 6-0 as the team’s starter, has been dealing with the same sort of strained lat injury that sidelined Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the preseason.
Unlike Prescott, however, Daniels is not assured of getting his job back once healthy.
Smart refuses to speculate on what he refers to as “hypotheticals” of how he might handle the quarterback rotation once Daniels is 100 percent and cleared to play.
Former Georgia players Matt Stinchcomb and Aaron Murray get paid to speculate, and bot said this week they would stick with Bennett over Daniels.
Stinchcomb loosely compared Bennett to how former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench in 2017 during an appearance on WJOX radio in Birmingham.
“As it is right now, I don’t know how you take 13 (Bennett) out at quarterback right now,” Stinchcomb said, “because of the way he’s playing, (and) because of the way the team is playing.”
In SEC games, Daniels is 9-of-9 passing on third downs for 118 yards and 9 first downs. Bennett is 8-of-14 passing on third downs for 43 yards with 2 first-down conversions.
Regardless, Smart has made it clear the team believes in Bennett, who has improved to 6-2 as the Bulldogs’ starter over the past two seasons.
Bennett will make it 7-2 with a win over Kentucky on Saturday as the Wildcats have had turnovers issues at quarterback and are missing their No. 2 receiver in addition to having two key defensive linemen out.
Smart and his coaching staff can figure out their quarterback situation over next week’s open date leading into the Florida game the following Saturday.
The pick: Georgia 34, Kentucky 10
Other SEC Games
Vanderbilt at South Carolina -18.5
South Carolina will snap a nine-game SEC football losing streak that dates back to last season’s win over Auburn. The Commodores rank last in the nation in scoring offense (13.3 points per game).
The pick: South Carolina 41, Vanderbilt 13
Texas A&M -9 at Missouri
The Tigers are catching the Aggies at the wrong time. A&M is riding high after beating former No. 1 Alabama in a 41-38 shootout last Saturday night — looking nothing like the team that struggled past Colorado 10-7 earlier this season.
The pick: Texas A&M 34, Missouri 13
Alabama -17 at Mississippi State
The Maroon Bulldogs are coming off a bye week looking for what would be their first win over the Tide since 2007, Nick Saban’s first year as head coach in Tuscaloosa. It’s hard to imagine the upset, but it’s not a stretch to think Mississippi State could make it interesting for a bit.
The pick: Alabama 37, Mississippi State 21
Florida -10.5 at LSU
Coach Ed Orgeron has his back against the wall, desperately needing a home win over the Gators in Death Valley. The revenge factor works in Florida’s favor, and so does the Gators’ momentum and the Bayou Bengals’ growing injury list.
The pick: Florida 33, LSU 20
Ole Miss -3 at Tennessee
Lane Kiffin has built momentum in Oxford, but this game is in Knoxville, where Vols fans have not forgotten how Kiffin triggered a three-year NCAA investigation before leaving the program after just one season. Josh Heupel has the Vols’ offense white-hot, and Neyland Stadium has its first sellout in four years.
The pick: Tennessee 47, Ole Miss 38
Auburn at Arkansas -3.5
The Razorbacks felt like they got robbed at Auburn on a bad call last season, and these teams are even enough that the Arkansas home field and revenge factor should be enough for the Hogs to win and cover against a Tigers’ team that lacks the sort of receivers needed to exploit the Arkansas secondary..
The pick: Arkansas 31, Auburn 27
Record last week: 5-1 straight up, 4-2 against the spread