Georgia football final tune-up includes style points, QB management decisions at Georgia Tech

Georgia coach Kirby Smart has two options at quarterback: JT Daniels is the more polished passer, while Stetson Bennett's ability to run makes him a better fit for the ground-and-pound play-action game UGA has used with several receivers sidelined most of the season.
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This is where Georgia football closes the season strong, taking over historic Bobby Dodd Stadium, the picturesque Atlanta skyline soaring in the background.

Some of the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs players, moments after completing a 12-0 season with a lopsided win over Georgia Tech, may hold up signs saying: “We run this state!”

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But this era of College Football Playoff football, especially for a championship-level program like Kirby Smart has built and maintained at Georgia, has taken away some of the relevance of such traditions by superseding them.

The Bulldogs run the state, of course, but the goal is to run the SEC Championship Game and make the College Football Playoff.

The Yellow Jackets are no more than a speck on the windshield of this big, red Georgia train speeding downhill in the direction of Alabama.

As dominant at Georgia figures to be today (noon, ABC) — the 35-point line is the largest in more than 70 years — Smart has important decisions to make.

Style points

Style points is a nice way of saying “blowout margin.”

The Bulldogs are favored to beat Alabama in the SEC title game on Dec. 4, but Smart knows better than anyone to be prepared for a “what-if” scenario.

It’s worth considering how a one-loss Georgia measures up in the CFP if chalk holds, and Ohio State, Cincinnati and Notre Dame win out.

Ohio State would be No. 1, Alabama (with wins over Auburn and UGA) would be No. 2 …. and where would a one-loss Georgia be ranked? No. 3? No. 4? Could it be left out?

The CFP looks at several “data points,” which Smart correctly asserted can and will change from year to year.

The 2018 Bulldogs were left out of the College Football Playoff despite being one of the “four best” teams in the nation.

Should this committee measure Georgia against Notre Dame, one data point — among several, most favoring UGA — would be the common opponent of Georgia Tech.

The Irish beat the Yellow Jackets 55-0 last week. As if Georgia fans needed any more incentive to pull for a blowout.

Fine line

There’s always a fine line between putting points up on the scoreboard and resting players.

Smart’s mode of operation has been to run the football, almost exclusively, in the fourth quarter of games with decisive margins to lower the number of snaps and lessen the likelihood of, One) a comeback, and, Two) player injuries.

But Smart has also spoken the past two weeks about wanting to maintain the sort of “rhythm” the Bulldogs had ripping through the SEC schedule. The league games were obviously more contested, and the intensity ran higher when prepping a more threatening opponent..

The starters do need work, but how much?

Players, like Jamaree Salyer and perhaps George Pickens, might need some rust knocked off today. At least, Smart might want them to break enough of a sweat to feel confident playing against Alabama next Saturday.

But how many snaps are enough? Three weeks ago, starting defensive end Nolan Smith injured his elbow late in the fourth quarter of a game that had been decided at Tennessee.

It’s a tough call of knowing when enough is enough, and hindsight is 20-20.

Quarterback management

There’s no quarterback controversy at Georgia: Smart picks the quarterback, and the team plays behind whoever is under center.

But Smart has said all along there is always competition at the position, like anywhere else, managed from week to week.

It’s only logical to consider JT Daniels’ prospects of playing could improve with the Georgia receiving corps being bolstered by the return of Dom Blaylock, Jermaine Burton and Darnell Washington getting closer to 100 percent, and now the prospect of Pickens’ return.

Daniels and Pickens, specifically, displayed unmistakable chemistry last season, and the offense was geared more toward a pass-first flow that loosened the box with its Air Raid concepts and set up the run.

Smart won’t make a change for the sake of change, as he has great trust in Stetson Bennett, and he values the continuity and efficiency the ground-and-pound offense has found with its play-action pass game.

But it’s worth considering Alabama ranks No. 5 in the nation against the run and figures to be the most dynamic offense Georgia will have faced, ranking second in the nation in scoring.

For those looking even further ahead, Ohio State’s run defense ranks No. 11 and the Buckeyes lead the nation with 47.2 points per game.

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