ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart has an off-week to recalibrate and make his Bulldogs better after Alabama did him the favor of exposing all of his team’s weaknesses.
The Tide won 41-24, but the place to begin is on offense, because Smart has put Georgia in a place where the primary goal every season is to win the SEC Championship Game.
No, the Bulldogs’ program is all grown up and playing for keeps these days, and that means beating Nick Saban and Alabama on Dec. 19 in Atlanta.
Georgia has to get there first, some remind, and that means beating the likes of Kentucky, Florida and a forgettable season-ending slate of Missouri, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt
Here are three questions for Georgia moving forward:
1. Who is at quarterback
Stetson Bennett led Alabama 24-20 at the half before hitting the proverbial wall.
The Tide adjusted, defenders moved closer to the line, and Georgia was unable to score any points for 30 minutes against a unit that surrendered 48 points the week before to Ole Miss.
Bennett proved his critics wrong by beating Top 25 teams Auburn and Tennessee, and showing the skills to beat most Power 5 opponents.
But the list of quarterbacks who could pilot a team over Alabama is a short one, now that it has become obvious no defense can hold down this healthy version of the Tide offense.
The linemen in front of Bennett aren’t getting any shorter, and his arm isn’t getting stronger in the next two months.
USC transfer JT Daniels arrived at Georgia in May with his sights set on wining the job. It seemed he was doing just that when Wake Forest grad transfer Jamie Newman opted out after one scrimmage.
But then Daniels’ knee wasn’t cleared for the opener and Bennett seized the moment after D’Wan Mathis’ shaky start at Arkansas.
Since then, Daniels has removed his knee brace, a sign that he feels he’s ready to compete. Daniels has an NFL arm and acumen, that much was obvious from watching 30 minutes of scrimmage.
It’s up to the head coach this week.
2. Ball distribution
How does Georgia get the ball into the hands of its best skill position players, and is that a priority?
Alabama handed off or passed to its three best skill position players — Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — on 67 percent of its snaps.
How does Jermaine Burton get 11 targets to George Pickens’ and Kearis Jackson’s 7? Why didn’t Tre’ McKitty get more attention?
The backfield rotation defies logic and can only be explained by loyalty and/or a lack of having other talents prepared to play.
Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh have both displayed the sort of vision and cutting ability that leaves room for speculation that one or both could evolve to greatness.
Running back is a key position where “good” is not good enough — not at a place that trumpets itself as “RBU” with a head coach that insists the run game remain a staple.
3. Defensive psyche
What happens to a proud, veteran unit after it gets lit up for 41 points and 564 yards on national television?
Smart admitted he and his staff got out-coached, but why?
As mentioned, the Tide did it with their primary players, coming through the front door and right down Georgia’s throat — as opposed to LSU last season, which had Joe Burrow scrambling around doing Superman things off broken plays.
There’s a very interesting week ahead in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, likely with some hurt feelings and potential collateral damage.
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