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George Pickens made an unreal catch in the win over Arkansas State.

Winners and losers as Georgia football readies for Notre Dame

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Georgia football winners and losers after as Bulldogs prepare for Notre Dame

Winners: Newcomers at wide receiver

Georgia’s three leading receivers in terms of catches on Saturday were Dominick Blaylock, George Pickens and Lawrence Cager. Blaylock and Cager each caught touchdowns, while Pickens made another string of unreal catches.

None of those three were on the team a season ago. The fact that three of them have gelled so well with quarterback Jake Fromm is a big reason why the wide receivers have alleviated some of the concerns that existed in the preseason.

“When they’ve had an opportunity, they’ve done well,” Smart said. “They continue to improve. I’m proud of them. All the words, all the criticism that was out there, concern I should say. I think they’ve responded well.”

We went in-depth about Pickens and Blaylock on Sunday. As for Cager, while his touchdown catch to cap the two-minute drill was impressive, he also helped spring two touchdowns with his downfield blocking.

Related: As George Pickens, Dominick Blaylock continue to shine, let’s remember they’re still freshmen

That was something that Georgia was going to miss after wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman’s dismissal from the team. To see Cager impact the game in that way should bode well for his future playing time at the position.

Loser: Depth at wide receiver

However, it wasn’t all good with the wide receiver position on Saturday. Demetris Robertson — who caught a touchdown in each of Georgia’s first two games — was held out of the game with what Smart called nagging injuries.

Then Tyler Simmons left Saturday’s game with what was called a right shoulder injury. In addition to starting at wide receiver, Simmons doubles as the team’s starting punt returner. Blaylock took over for Simmons after the senior left the game.

Related: More on injuries to the Georgia wide receivers

Those two injuries, in addition to Kearis Jackson and his broken hand, put a lot on Pickens, Blaylock and Cager. They came through on Saturday, but the Bulldogs face a much tougher task against an experienced Notre Dame secondary. It will be worth watching how active Robertson and Simmons are in practice this week.

Winner: All of Georgia’s running backs 

All five of Georgia’s scholarship running backs found the endzone on Saturday. And what’s most encouraging is that they all scored in a variety of ways.

Zamir White and Brian Herrien both scored in goal-line situations, an area where Georgia struggled a season ago. D’Andre Swift took a screen pass for a 48-yard touchdown. James Cook had an end-around that went for another touchdown.

And all of those paled in comparison to what Kenny McIntosh did. The freshman from Miami did his best D’Andre Swift impression, left a defender in the dust with a dead leg and scored on a 62-yard touchdown.

“I’m excited for him. I told him like I tell everybody, go out there and play like you’re a senior in high school,” Herrien said of McIntosh. “Because as a senior in high school, it didn’t matter who was out there. You’re the biggest, strongest and fastest out there and you’re gonna go get it.”

That Georgia can use all of its running backs as a different tool in a Swiss Army Knife is a real testament to how well the offense has looked under new offensive coordinator James Coley. And it’s just another reason why Georgia should be considered ‘RBU’.

Winner: Georgia fans

No one connected to the Georgia football program had a better week from a national perspective than the Georgia fan base.

National media outlets from across the country praised the effort made by Georgia fans after their efforts in the Pink Out in support of Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson.

Georgia players also took notice of the effort made by fans in a game that wasn’t exactly a marquee match-up.

“It just shows how great a community, a fan base it is to support something like that,” Cager said. “That really touched me. It’s big when something like that happens, so I love it.”

Related: Arkansas State coach ‘overwhelmed’ by pink-clad Georgia fans show of support

Then on Saturday night, Georgia fans got rewarded, as ESPN’s College GameDay announced it would be coming to Athens for the first time since 2013.

What was already going to be a supercharged environment, just got upped to another level. Saturday is going to be a very special and memorable day in Athens.

Loser: The SEC East

In the first week of the season, South Carolina lost starting quarterback Jake Bentley to what turned out to be a season-ending foot injury. Then in week two, Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson had a knee injury that put an end to his season.

On Saturday night, Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks suffered a dislocated ankle that will ‘likely’ put him out for the rest of the season, according to Florida coach Dan Mullen.

Franks’ back-up, Kyle Trask, did end up leading to No. 9 Gators to a comeback win over Kentucky. The injury to Franks now means that three of the seven starting quarterbacks in the SEC have seen their seasons end due to injury.

Hopefully, all three players heal from their injuries. But for the rest of the conference, it’s going to much harder to take down the Bulldogs with half of the challengers relying on their back-up quarterbacks.

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