ATHENS — Georgia football holds the No. 1 ranking, the Bulldogs have yet to look like the best team in the nation for a couple of reasons.
Number one — no pun intended — the Bulldogs have not had to on account of the lower level of competition they’ve seen in wins over UT-Martin (48-7) and Ball State (45-3).
But the bigger reason has been injuries to key players at the skill positions.
Ladd McConkey (back) and Daijun Edwards (knee) have yet to play.
Kendall Milton (hamstring) and Brock Bowers (groin) have been slowed by injuries.
“He’s been banged up too,” Smart said about Bowers after the opening game. “You wouldn’t have seen it or noticed it the way he played.”
It was more noticeable the last game, and Milton’s not in his most elite form, either.
Milton had 7 carries for 16 yards against Ball State (2.6 yards per carry), and Bowers had an uncharacteristic dropped pass and caught just one pass for 3 yards on three targets against the Mid-American Conference Cardinals.
Georgia can and will look like a different, more explosive team when its most elite runners and pass catchers get healthy.
Ring the Bell
The Bulldogs backfield needs help, looking as limited as it ever has in the Kirby Smart tenure on account of injuries and inexperience.
Enter receiver Dillon Bell, who stepped into the backfield and broke off a 21-yard touchdown run last Saturday.
Smart said he has seen Bell’s running abilities before in practices, so it’s not a complete shock to the coaching staff.
Bell should continue to see some work in the backfield, where he brings an explosive pass-catching element that has been missing through the first two games.
The last time ….
Georgia brings a nation-high 20-game home win streak into the contest dating back to a 20-17 loss to South Carolina in 2019.
Kirby Smart is 65-1 at UGA in games allowing 20 points or less, and he said he didn’t want to bring it up to his team because he didn’t want to give UGA defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and receivers coach Bryan McClendon any “pleasure.” Muschamp was Carolina’s head coach McClendon was then the Gamecocks’ offensive coordinator.
The Bulldogs have also won a school-record 19 games in a row dating back to a 41-24 SEC title game loss to Alabama in 2021.
There will only ever be one Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, but South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler started to carve his own SEC legend last season.
Rattler and the Gamecocks essentially knocked rivals Tennessee and Clemson out of the CFP Playoff field last season with stirring upsets.
Rattler enters Sanford Stadium leading the SEC in passing yardage per game (349).
Sanford Stadium pride
This marks Georgia’s 67th consecutive home sellout dating back to the 2012 season, including a record 93,246 that packed into Sanford Stadium to see the Bulldogs play Notre Dame.
Georgia’s other SEC home games this season are against Kentucky (Oct. 7), Missouri (Nov. 4) and Ole Miss (Nov. 11).
Player to watch: Carson Beck showed modest improvement from the first game to the second game, but now the competition levels upon another notch.