Welcome to this week’s DawgNation “Gimme 5″ feature, where we take your questions pertaining to Georgia football and athletics.
The Stetson Bennett bandwagon is filling up fast in Georgia.
Bennett is the latest college football rage after the 24-year-old former walk-on filled up the stat sheet in the Bulldogs’ 49-3 demolition of Oregon last Saturday.
That has led to the first question this week about Bennett’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy.
With Georgia expecting the offense to be elite this year, what does Stetson Bennett need to do stat-wise to be in consideration for the Heisman?
Georgia hasn’t had a Heisman Trophy finalist since Garrison Hearst in 1992, but Bennett stands a chance because of his improvement and irresistible story of going from lightly recruited walk-on to junior college transfer, and now rising star.
Bennett’s compelling story very much figures into his hopes; his underdog story has great appeal.
The short answer is that Bennett would likely need to win the SEC Championship Game to be a Heisman Trophy winner or finalist.
But Bennett is on fire after the Oregon game, with the OddsChecker.com website issuing a release on Tuesday that 55 percent of the new Heisman bets have been placed on the Georgia quarterback.
Bennett’s odds have moved him from 34th on the market to tied for fourth with Florida QB Anthony Richardson. The top three favorites remain CJ Stroud, Bryce Young and Caleb Williams.
As a Heisman voter myself, I can share there are many considerations that go beyond stats, chiefly in the wins column and in greatness of play.
Bennett was certainly as electric as most anyone else in Week One, his QB Rating (97.3) was tops among an elite group of SEC signal callers.
Bennett’s scrambling, tackle-breaking 4-yard TD pass to Ladd McConkey is the stuff of Heisman Trophy highlight packages.
There will be more opportunities for Bennett to make great plays this season, as last year’s Heisman Trophy winner did in leading Alabama to the SEC Championship.
Young’s 13-play, 97-yard drive in the final moments at Auburn, and then his 421 yards passing and 40 yards rushing against Georgia in the SEC title game locked him in as the Heisman Trophy winner.
Bennett will need that sort of finishing kick, as recency bias is real among Heisman voters, dating back to Charles Woodson getting the nod over Peyton Manning in 1997.
Bennett’s Heisman odds improved from 60-to-1 to 20-to-1 after the 49-3 win over Oregon, per another website, SportsBetting.ag.
Last year, Bennett was nowhere on the radar despite ranking No. 2 in the SEC in pass efficiency and quarterbacking the No. 1 team.
Part of that was Bennett started the season third string and didn’t take over until the midway point of the season, leaving his volume lacking.
UGA became a more run-reliant team once Bennett went under center — 56 runs and 11 passes in Bennett’s first start.
“Last year it was always, can they win despite Stetson Bennett?” ABC analyst Dan Mullen said. “(It was) let’s put everything on everybody else and not let him make mistakes.”
Fact is, Georgia didn’t need greatness at the quarterback position with a defense allowing just 6.9 points per game during the regular season.
A look at last year’s QB finalists’ passing yardage compared to Bennett:
Bryce Young 4,872 yards, 47 TDs, 7 Ints
Kenny Pickett 4,319 yards, 42 TDs, 7 ints
CJ Stroud 4,435 yards, 44 TDs, 6 Ints
Bennett 2,862 yards, 29 TDs, 7 Ints
With a full season as starter, it’s possible Bennett gets his numbers to that level.
The Heisman is as much about capitalizing on opportunities for greatness, and highlight moments at clutch times, and statistically, volume is as important as efficiency.
2. Was our lackluster performance in sacking the QB and shutting down the run a product of a pretty good OL and an elusive QB? Or a weakness or lack of experience in our defense? - How2Fish
MG: It’s fair to say that Bo Nix’s mobility had something to do with that, as he is one of the more athletic quarterbacks Georgia will face. UGA didn’t even register a QB hurry, but much of that was by design as Oregon coach Dan Lanning was well aware of Georgia’s ability and tendency to bring pressures, and he had his veteran offensive line coached up. The Ducks also used a quick pass game and some quick pitches to keep the UGA pass rush neutralized.
3. What are the weaknesses of this team? If Georgia and Bama play this week, who wins on paper? - DawgFanAthens
MG: The current weakness appears to be tackling on defense, and the offensive line was not as dominant as expected. The tackling will improve as the season moves forward, and with the great depth and competition on the offensive line, that area figures to improve as well.
Smart has mentioned questions about depth at the skill positions, and with inexperienced players in many back-up rolls, that has the potential to become a weakness as the season progresses.
If Alabama and Georgia played this week, the Tide would have an advantage because of its experience and salty defense.
UGA, however, has the potential to grow into a team capable of beating Alabama because it has equal talent, a genius play caller in coordinator Todd Monken and experienced staff that develops players quickly.
4. Biggest question I have right now is Christopher Smith ok? Maybe just a little dinged up after that 3rd qtr collision? - Volatillis
MG: This might be the most important question and issue coming out of the Oregon game, as I ranked Christopher Smith as the most indispensable player on the team in the preseason. The injury didn’t look good, as he got up and then went back down to the ground. Smith said it was a “stinger,” which would not indicate extended damage, and Smart said Tuesday that he was fine, and most likely that means he is. But there are different levels of “fine,” and if there is any after-effect it could make a difference. Smith is a rising star, and there’s a big drop-off to any player behind him because of his leadership and play-making ability.
5. Q: After seeing the Oregon game, do you think other opponents try to push the game to the perimeter? — Hemingway
MG: It depends on the matchups. Every team has to decide where they feel they match up best with Georgia. Fact is, the Ducks out-rushed the Bulldogs and didn’t have a three-and-out until the fourth quarter. The plan was fine, but I didn’t think Oregon had dynamic enough skill players to finish. I would suggest SEC teams will have more talent at those positions, and will certainly mix in perimeter plays.