ATHENS – Javon Wims swears this doesn’t come as a surprise. Going back to offseason workouts, seeing the combination of talent and work ethic, there was a sense among Georgia football team this could happen.
“We understood early that this year could be special if we did the right things,” said Wims, a senior receiver.
It may be easy to say that in retrospect. It’s likely that few in the locker room, deep down, knew that six games into the season they would be this good, ranked fourth in the country and squarely in the national championship picture.
It is apparent, however, that having arrived at this point the team appreciates its position, and knows how it got there: Avoiding trap games the past few weeks, and thus ready to avoid another one on Saturday when struggling Missouri visits.
“We feel like we have something special here,” senior linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “But we’re taking it a week at a time.”
Missouri (1-4) on paper is the weakest remaining opponent for Georgia. The Tigers are ranked last in the SEC in total defense, while the Bulldogs are first. And while the Tigers are second in offense (the Bulldogs are seventh), those offensive stats largely came against two opponents (Missouri State and Kentucky) while the other three held Missouri to an average of 10 points a game.
Georgia (6-0, ranked no. 4 in the country) is favored by 30 points, an incredible number for an SEC game. This also isn’t one of those dreaded noon games when the underdog sneaks up on the sleepy home team. It’s a night game.
Kirby Smart, fulfilling his head coaching job description, still preached various concerns about Missouri. There’s that pass-happy offense, led by quarterback Drew Lock and several tall and athletic receivers.
They were very hard to defend last year,” Smart said, recalling that Georgia had to rally to win at Missouri by one point. “And they are very hard to defend this year.”
There’s also the turnover margin: Missouri is last in the SEC and it’s not even close, at minus-10. Yes, that points to a mistake-prone team, but Smart worries what happens if the mistakes stop.
“They stop themselves,” Smart said. “People don’t stop them.”
The one thing Smart didn’t worry about publicly this week was complacency. Georgia has blown out five opponents this year, taking care of business even when heavily favored.
This game is followed by a bye week, smack in the middle of what appears will be a 14-game season. (Perhaps more, you never know.) For many teams, the impending bye week would be a relief, looking ahead for a chance to heal bruises and take a breath before the final stretch.
That doesn’t appear to be the case around the Bulldogs this week.
“Not at all. We’re not trying to get by,” Wims said. “Pedal to the metal.”