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Picking the top five Georgia players from every game is getting more difficult every week. There were more stellar individual performances than you can shake a stick at in the 41-0 shutout. But somehow I managed to narrow down all the amazing performances from the beatdown on Rocky Top to a list of five.
5. Johnathan Ledbetter — The junior defensive lineman has been a disruptor all season, but this was the first game that showed up on the stat sheet. Ledbetter had 3 solo tackles and 1 sack in the win. He’s improved game-by-game this season, and the trip to Knoxville was his best outing yet.
4. J.R. Reed — The safety is always around the ball, and that paid off big against Tennessee. When Deandre Baker got his hand on a Quentin Dormady pass, Reed was in perfect position to snag the interception, the first of his Georgia career. I expect we’ll get a few more of these ballhawking picks before the sophomore’s time in Athens is done.
3. Tyrique McGhee — McGhee has been the weak link of Georgia’s secondary this season, and it’s clear Tennessee planned to target him. Bad plan. McGhee played the best game of his career, highlighted by his fantastic interception on the first play from scrimmage. That play wasn’t enough to make Dormady stop targeting him, so he threw in 4 pass breakups to boot.
2. Nick Chubb — Chubb returned to Neyland for the first time since that gruesome knee injury two season ago and put on a show. He didn’t get in the end zone, but he paced Georgia with 109 rushing yards. When the game was still tight at 10-0 late in the second quarter, he reeled off runs of 14 and 23 yards to get the offense clicking again on a touchdown-scoring drive.
1. Roquan Smith — What more can be said about Smith that hasn’t been said? He’s the cog that makes the defense go, and once again led the team in total tackles (11) and solo tackles (6). Smith is the best player on this football team and one of the best linebackers in college football.
Honorable mentions: Davin Bellamy, Julian Rochester, Javon Wims, Tyler Clark, Sony Michel, Mecole Hardman
Dawgs in the polls
The rout of Tennessee was enough to give Georgia a bump in both major polls. The Bulldogs jumped from No. 7 to No. 5 in the AP Top 25 and from No. 8 to No. 6 in the Amway Coaches Poll. They stayed at No. 2 in the SEC Country Power Poll.
Jacob Eason got his first live snaps Saturday since he sustained a knee injury in the season-opener. He handed the ball off a few times and threw one incomplete pass in garbage time against the Vols, but that was it. Now that he’s back, the obvious question is who gets the start at quarterback going forward. Jake Fromm went 7 for 15 for 84 yards with 2 rushing touchdowns, a passing touchdown, and an interception in the win. Not a great performance by any stretch, but another winning performance nonetheless.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart didn’t tip his hat toward either quarterback in his postgame comments. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:
“It was great to get Jacob in there because I thought it was getting the rust off the kid,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the game. “Get him back out there, get him comfortable, get him functioning and he’ll continue to do that in practice.”
“Fromm did some good things. He made some poor decisions. I mean there were some plays where he didn’t make the right decision on it,” Smart said. “We evaluate quarterbacks on decisions. Did he make the decision to pull it down and run it a couple times, absolutely, and I thought he did a good job with it.
“Jim [Chaney, the offensive coordinator,] called a good game for him, some zone reads where he was able to get a first down or a touchdown. Those were good calls and good decisions by him. But we have to be more consistent with that. And there’s some throws in there where I don’t know what he’s thinking or what he’s doing; he shouldn’t do that. He knows that. And he knows he can correct those.”
Smart’s comments can function a Rohrshach test sometimes: What you hear depends on you own perspective of the situation. To me, that sounded like he’s keeping the door open for an Eason return as starter. One way or the other, though, he’s going to have to make a decision soon.
A Mel Tucker special
Honestly, it may not really matter who the quarterback is. This team can stay in every game based on the play of its defense alone. The Bulldogs have the second-ranked scoring defense in college football behind only Alabama. In just his second year at the helm, Smart has fielded a defense with the potential to be Georgia’s best in more than a decade, maybe longer.
But don’t call it a Kirby Smart defense. Call it a Mel Tucker defense. From Emerson:
In fact, it rivals the defenses that Kirby Smart coached at Alabama. Now Georgia’s head coach, he stopped a reporter who referred to “your defense” after the Saturday game.
“That’s not my defense. Coach Tucker does a tremendous job with that defense,” Smart said, referring to defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “They play hard for Coach Tucker. At halftime I didn’t have to go over and see the defensive players. They had it under control, the adjustments, doing a really nice job. So give credit where credit is due.”
No halftime adjustments and Georgia still got the shutout. That’s some killer preparation. Credit given.
The spread: Vanderbilt
Dawgs on Twitter
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) October 1, 2017
— Marshall Hughes (@marshallhughes) September 30, 2017
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) October 1, 2017
UGA fans sang Rocky Top after the win yesterday I'm dead 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/Bh907A1ykz
— DawgStool (@DawgStool) October 1, 2017
Tennessee fans right now, probably.
If an artist's work is truly a reflection of the world the way it is or a fear of what it could become, no one does 2017 like Brian. pic.twitter.com/lMMRiBvauV
— Paul Bronks (@BoringEnormous) September 29, 2017
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