AUBURN, Ala. — Georgia got served up a dose of reality, with all of the concerns Kirby Smart voiced coming to fruition.
Still, the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs found a way to overcome two costly turnovers and the momentum generated by one of the most raucous crowds in college football, winning 27-20 over Auburn in a classic rivalry showdown.
The Georgia fans expecting the 2023 version of their Bulldogs to roll out their helmets and dominate haven’t been paying attention or listening to their head coach.
Here are answers to the three burning questions many have about No. 1-ranked Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) as it readies to play host to No. 20 Kentucky (5-0, 2-0) at 7 p.m. next Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Defensive front issue
It’s real, and while Glenn Schumann can dial up pressure packages to compensate in the pass rush (3 sacks Saturday), the Bulldogs got what they got with run defense.
Georgia yielded more than 200 yards rushing for the first time since 2018 (at LSU) — a string of 65 games.
UGA has lost five first-round NFL Draft picks off its D-Line over the past two years, and the returning veterans aren’t as good as those they replaced and the young talent has been slow to step up.
It’s a chatty and fun D-Line group, but the production has yet to match the talk as a powerful Kentucky run game coming to Athens.
Sputtering run game
Stetson Bennett said it best at the CFP celebration, “It’s the Jimmies and the Joes, not the Xs and the Os,” and this is where injuries have hit hard.
Kendall Milton played five snaps, working his way back from a sprained knee by helping in pass protection against Auburn.
Milton was projected to be the bell cow back, and once healthy has the upside to carry the run game.
But until then, it’s up to Daijun Edwards to churn out the blue-collar yards and get what’s there, while converted receiver Dillon Bell has flashed some explosive running ability and is learning more of the RB playbook each week.
The offensive line has not been as dominant as expected, but it has been and will be adequate, likely to improve as season progresses.
Quarterback / Offensive coordinator
The easiest-second guess in sports and the lowest hanging fruit on the tree, it’s easy for anyone to say a different play should have been called or call for a new quarterback.
Fact is, OC Mike Bobo has dialed up the No. 7 third-down conversion rate in the country despite injuries at receiver and running back and working with first-year starting quarterback.
Beck is 28th in the nation with a 162 pass efficiency rating, but more importantly, has answered the bell when challenged to rally the offense from double-digits down.
If Georgia makes a QB change this season — and there’s no indication there are any plans to do so at this moment — it likely won’t be because of Beck’s performance.
Rather, Smart has shown he’ll make a QB change generate a different kind of offense with a mobile quarterback based on supporting personnel or lack thereof.
In short, Bobo and Beck aren’t the problem, so much as it remains an unknown if they can present enough answers should the offense have to carry the team amid a defensive drop-off.