NEW ORLEANS — LSU and Clemson took center stage the last football weekend, and rightfully so, but Georgia was not completely removed from the collegiate football conscience.
Coach Kirby Smart has made the Bulldogs annual College Football Playoff Contenders in his four years leading the program. ,
Georgia has won three consecutive SEC East Division crowns, the first vaulting UGA into the 2017 CFP, and the past two leaving the Bulldogs within one game in 2018 and 2019.
Already, Georgia is being talked about as a contender for 2020.
SEC Network host Paul Finebaum closed his College Football Playoff Championship pregame show discussing the Bulldogs’ championship hopes, and Caesars Sportsbook ranks Georgia fifth in its odds to win next year’s national championship, at 10-1.
ESPN analysts Chris Doering and Jacob Hester — Doering a former star receiver at Florida, Hester a workhouse back at LSU — took time with DawgNation to discuss the Bulldogs’ hopes moving forward.
“I still think they’ve got the Jimmys and Joes all over the place,” Hester said at the CFP Media Day. “They have a great coaching staff and their defense is coming back, and now, you get a grad transfer at quarterback. That adds another dimension. You look at that offense, it gives you extra juice,”
Hester said Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman, who is enrolled at UGA and is the favorite to win the starting job, indicated mobile quarterbacks are the way to go.
“As long as you can throw the football and be accurate — but he can run also,” Hester said. “The two quarterbacks here, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence, people don’t give them credit for their legs, they can be dual-threat quarterbacks when they have to be.
“But having that added layer to your offense, having the ability when it’s third-and-8 to pick up 9 yards, that’s demoralizing to the defense.”
Doering said the ability to buy the time to throw, as well as run for the yardage, is pivotal.
“What Joe Burrow does well, and Trevor Lawrence as well, they both do a good job of scrambling with their eyes up,” Doering said. “As receivers, it’s tough for guys to cover for four or five or six seconds.
“LSU has made a living out of it, I think what it does, not only puts pressure on the contain up front, but the secondary has a ton of pressure trying to cover for a long time.”
Hester likes what he sees from a Georgia defense that finished atop the nation in scoring defense and brings back 9 of 11 starters from the Sugar Bowl team.
“It already was, basically, one of the best defenses — if not the best defense — in the country this year,” Hester said, “and you mention 9 of 11 coming back, that gets them another year under their belt.
“I think Georgia, with their defense, puts them right back in the conversation to be one of the top teams in the country,” he said. “You look at maybe changing some of the offense, that’s going to be the question mark, because you have to learn to play with a new style of offense.
“You have to learn how to play defense with that style of offense, but with Kirby Smart and that personnel, I think they’re going to be fine.”
Doering, meanwhile, isn’t so sure with so many question marks on offense even after the addition of Newman.
“It is crazy to think about nine of 11 starters back on defense, but you lose 9 of 11 starters on offense,” Doering said. “You lose your quarterback, who has been that veteran leader, and the offensive line has been a strength.
“I know they have a ton of offensive line guys they’ve been able to recruit to at a high level, it’s just a matter of inexperience,” he said. “The great part about it, I’d rather have a defense that can keep teams in check while the offense is learning and getting their feet under ,them than vice versa, where the defense is unproven and the offense is carrying them.”
Hester and Doering provided great analysis in the spirited discussion with DawgNation in New Orleans, shown below:
Hester & Doering talk Dawgs
DawgNation in New Orleans
#Georgia has the best defense in the country returning, 9 of 11 Sugar Bowl starters, … led SEC in Total Defense, Scoring Defense, Run Defense and No. 8 nationally in Pass Efficiency Defense … And “IF” Jamie Newman and freshmen WRs pan out ….. 🏆very possible! https://t.co/CRj4eUgHZq
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) January 14, 2020