ATHENS — The Florida Gators — not three-time defending champion Georgia — are the team to beat in the SEC East Division this season, says Danny Kanell.
“I think this is the year they take that big step, I think this is the year they win the division,” Kanell told CBS sports on Tuesday.
“They’ve got an outstanding quarterback in Kyle Trask, who not enough people talked about this past season, with the success he had with Dan Mullen.”
They certainly weren’t talking about Mullen or Trask through the first three quarters of last season’s game.
The Mullen and Trask offense managed just 3 points, had negative yardage rushing and 175 total yards entering the fourth quarter when Georgia relaxed its pass defense while guarding a big lead.
Kanell, a former Florida State quarterback who often takes up for the ACC, had a different spin where Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman was concerned.
“I think too many people are plugging in Jamie Newman, the transfer from Wake Forest to Georgia, and just assuming it’s going to work,” Kanell said. “I need to see it. Georgia has a bunch of issues across the offensive line they need to fix.
“I don’t know if Jamie Newman is going to be the next coming of Joe Burrow. I would bet against it, considering that standard that Burrow set.”
Fact is, Kirby Smart has said he’s not sure what he has at quarterback with Newman coming in and getting limited in-person exposure to the offense before the COVID=19 pandemic brought sports to a standstill.
And, yes, the Bulldogs did have three offensive linemen selected in the NFL draft.
The good news is three of the five starters from the 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor return. This, in addition to former starters Ben Cleveland and Justin Shaffer, who did not play in the bowl game.
As for Newman, there’s no way he’ll replicate Burrow’s success for a couple of reasons.
One, Georgia doesn’t have the experienced talent LSU brought into last season at the receiver position.
But two, the Bulldogs won’t ask Newman to have that volume of pass attempts, with Smart preferring a more balanced and efficient approach that plays to his defense.
Georgia has an experienced defensive unit that appears to be the best in the nation — on paper — returning from last season.
Kanell is certainly entitled to his hot take in May, but the Oct. 31 meeting in Florida between the Gators and the Bulldogs is a long ways off.
“The Florida Gators are the team to beat in the SEC East,” Kanell said.
“And then if they get to the championship game, who knows if they can mount that big challenge. But in a one-game scenario, why not the Gators?”
“The Florida Gators are the team to beat in the SEC East.”
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) May 12, 2020