Curtis Compton/AJC
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has relied on Sony Michel and the rest of the Bulldogs running backs this season.

Kirby Smart on the ‘Catch-22’ of Georgia’s run-pass balance

ATHENS — Georgia is on pace this year to throw the ball less than any SEC team in five years, and the question going forward is whether the run-pass balance can continue if the Bulldogs want to win the SEC championship and more.

Kirby Smart, asked about that Monday, acknowledged that his team needs to run and pass well.

“To be able to win a championship you’ve got to have balance. We continue to improve on our balance,” Smart said. “Our ability to throw down the field, our ability to open things up. But if we open things up and throw the ball downfield I would beg the question what we’re doing with 27 and 1 the rest of the time.”

That would be Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, respectively now the second- and fifth-all time rushers in Georgia football history.

“It’s Catch-22 to be balanced,” Smart said. “But at the end of the day to win you’ve got to be able to do both, and when you play really good teams you’ve got to be able to do both.”

Georgia has attempted the fewest passes in the SEC, and it’s not even close: 205, which is 31 less than LSU, and 48 less than Alabama. Ole Miss leads the conference with 412 attempts — more than double Georgia’s total.

The Bulldogs are on pace, if they play 14 games, to throw it 260 times, which would be the least an SEC has passed the ball since Auburn in 2012. And that was a season that the Tigers only played 12 games.

No other SEC team since at least 2008 has thrown the ball as few as 260 times.

Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney told the CBS broadcast crew on Friday that he didn’t think Georgia could win a championship by continuing to run it 70 percent of the time. That was according to broadcasters Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson. Chaney isn’t permitted to speak to the general media other than during the preseason and before bowl games.

Of course, Georgia has two great senior tailbacks in Chubb and Michel and a fast-rising freshman tailback in D’Andre Swift. So running the ball often is the best option. But freshman quarterback Jake Fromm generally has been accurate in his passes and has produced when called upon. He just hasn’t been called upon much.

Smart also pointed out that Georgia’s run-pass ratio may be skewed a bit. The Bulldogs have won so many games in blowout fashion that they’ve run the ball exclusively in the fourth quarter, and in the second half in general.

“I think each game is different. I think each opponent is different,” Smart said. “I think you have a base foundation of balance and balance is what we want. Some of our imbalance this year has been indicated by some of the games, the scores. You know, if you take one-score games and take the ratio of run-to-pass it’s not going to be the same as the games we’ve had leads and were running the clock out. Which is a distinct difference in those.”

Last year Georgia attempted 386 passes, which was the fifth-fewest in the SEC.

Georgia ranks fifth in the SEC in total yards and fourth in yards-per-play, behind Missouri, Alabama and Ole Miss.

Georgia is second in the SEC in rushing yards (and yards-per-rush). The Bulldogs are last in the conference in passing yards (1,804), but tied for fifth in yards-per-pass attempt (8.8).