Georgia’s championship aspirations are all but toast following a 44-28 defeat to the Florida Gators. The loss drops the Bulldogs to 4-2 and essentially puts them two games behind Florida in the SEC East.
The Gators must lose two of their final five games and the Bulldogs must win each of their final four games just to get the chance to play the SEC West winner, which in all likelihood will be Alabama.
So clearly Georgia is going to have to find something else to play for as it wraps up its 2020 slate with games against Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
But these games still offer Georgia the chance to get better and prepare themselves for the future.
“We’ve got to get better and that starts with me,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I’ve got to do a better job and we’re going to do a better job but I’m not frustrated with the plight we’re in. We made our bed.”
Evaluate the quarterback position
Whatever you want to call the quarterback performance against Florida, it was not good. Stetson Bennett went 5-of-16 for 78 yards. He threw a touchdown early in the game to Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. But on the play, Bennett got hit and ended up suffering a sprain to his AC joint. Bennett stayed in the game after heading into the locker room.
But Bennett was 3-of-11 after the play and his stint ended with an interception. His sixth in the past three games.
“He wanted to keep playing. He came in and got a shot,” Smart said. “He was able to come back but I didn’t think he was real effective when he came back. He was timid with it. He didn’t have great accuracy.”
Related: Kirby Smart explains Georgia QB rotation in 44-28 loss to Florida
After the third-quarter interception, Mathis took over the reins for Bennett and it wasn’t much better. He went 4-for-13, throwing two interceptions and a touchdown.
Bennett’s injury will be worth monitoring in the coming weeks and it opens the door potentially for more reps for Mathis or JT Daniels or Carson Beck.
Mathis has the physical gifts but it’s clear the speed of the game is a little too much for him. Does he improve with more reps? Potentially.
As for Daniels, Smart once again said that his knee injury is not an issue for the transfer quarterback.
“He takes reps with the scouts and moves them around and gives us a really good look,” Smart said. “I think he’s still growing and getting better in the offense, but obviously right now with where we are we feel they give us the best shot.”
Georgia has bodies to throw at the quarterback position. But it still lacks a clear answer, especially going forward. All four players have another year of eligibility so they could conceivably return next year. The Bulldogs have to get a better idea of what they have at the position.
Continue to develop skill players
“You saw it tonight,” Smart said. “Anybody with an open eye could say, ‘Well they did have some guys open.'”
Patch up the pass defense
As bad as the quarterback play was on Saturday, the pass defense was maybe worse. Kyle Trask threw for a 474 yards, the most ever against a Smart defense. Four of his passes went for touchdowns.
But it wasn’t like the Alabama game where Mac Jones was threading the needle time and time again. Trask was hitting guys who were wide open.
“What I can’t live with is leaving a guy wide open on a wheel route,” Smart said. “When you’ve got him, you should be looking at him. That’s your guy, look at him, and somehow you don’t look at him and he’s wide open. Those were the breakdowns we had.”
The wheel route was always open on Saturday. So to were the Florida running backs. The trio of Malik Davis, Nay’Quan Wright and Dameon Pierce caught 10 passes for 213 yards.
Now is where we can mention that Georgia is without Richard LeCounte. Then in the second quarter, it lost Lewis Cine on a targeting penalty. Georgia was playing with first-time starter Christopher Smith and freshman Major Burns on the backend.
Georgia won’t face a passing offense as good as Florida’s for the rest of the season so that should help. CBS stated that LeCounte is expected to be out 4-to-5 weeks. Cine was visibly shaken up following his ejection and it will be worth monitoring his status in the coming days.
The secondary for so long has been a strength of the Georgia team. It was anything but that on Saturday and Smart and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren will need to rebuild the confidence of the beleaguered unit.
Georgia’s final four games are against Missouri, Mississippi State, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs, even with all the issues, should be double-digit favorites in each of those games.
And the Bulldogs have to win each of those games. Preferably in a comfortable fashion.
For Georgia, Saturday has to be the nadir of the season. It was bad against Florida. While the potential exists for the season to get worse by losing to any of those four teams, Georgia really can’t let that happen.
This season represents a step back from where Georgia has been in recent years. How big of a step backward depends on how the Bulldogs respond in these next four games. Win out and things aren’t quite as bad.
Lose to one of these though and this season will feel like Georgia got knocked on its behind. And that’s a little harder to bounce back from.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation