ESPN expert: ‘Gap’ separates Georgia, even though Bulldogs have ‘limitations on offense’

ESPN College analyst Chris Fowler, shown here with Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, put this Georgia team into perspective. (Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)

ATHENS — ESPN analyst Chris Fowler says “Georgia is a dominant No. 1 for a reason,” discussing the so-called gap between the Bulldogs and the rest of college football.

“All of us have felt there was a gap, (but) how big is the gap?” Fowler said on the McElroy and Cubelic show on Birmingham’s WJOX.

“Offensively, Georgia is not going to match those two other teams you mentioned (Alabama, Ohio State),” Fowler said. “I don’t put them in that category of dominance, because I still think there are some limitations on offense, where they’re not going to overwhelm you.”

The numbers bear that out, with Georgia abandoning the pass game relative to others since Stetson Bennett took over for an injury JT Daniels.

Bennett is expected to start again when the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs play at Tennessee at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Neyland Stadium.

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The Bulldogs rank 44th in the nation in total offense and eighth in the SEC, but they are averaging 6.89 yards per play which is eighth in the country. UGA has not thrown more than 20 passes in a game since Daniels was the starter and exited the Vanderbilt game with a 35-0 lead in the first quarter.

But as Fowler points out, Kirby Smart doesn’t need to be “throwing uppercuts from the opening bell,” or spreading the ball around to a ton of receivers, for that matter.

“They’re playing to the strength of their team, so they don’t have to go out and score 50 points a game,” Fowler said. “They know they’re going to be really tough to score on, they haven’t really been seriously threatened.”

Fowler believes that Smart, as he has done in past seasons, will be willing to dial up more offense once in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.

“They will cook some things up for the Tide,” Fowler said. “They know stepping in there in Atlanta, that’s a serious challenge.”

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Beyond the Alabama game, however, Fowler said one would have to “use your imagination” to conjure up a team that could challenge Georgia.

“There are quality teams out there, but if you are going to talk about matchups, can you hold up against Georgia’s running game?” Fowler said. “You have to make Bennett try to beat you or bring Daniels off the bench cold.

“You have to make them throw to beat you, so you talk about a team that’s stout enough to hold upfront, and then have an experienced quarterback to sort through things pre-snap and make quick decisions and have escapability.

“That’s the package of things that it would take to hold up against them.”

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