It was a game that fans in Athens will not want to remember. For the third straight time, the Georgia Bulldogs went into the half leading the Alabama Crimson Tide and for the third straight time, Nick Saban led his team to a victory.
Georgia vs Alabama Takeaways
It was undoubtedly the game of the week in college football. It is also likely not the last time we will see these two teams meet this season. Despite Georgia fans wanting to forget the 41-24 result and move on, there are some key takeaways from the game.
QB Play Must Improve
This should go without saying, but the quarterback play must be immensely better for the Bulldogs if they hope to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship and compete for a national title. It has been said since before the season started, but Stetson Bennett is not the guy to lead this team to the promised land. Sloppy quarterback play was overshadowed in the early weeks by receivers getting themselves wide open and making great catches. This week, with a better defense on the other side of the ball, Bennett’s mistakes really came back to bite him.
Completing just 18 of 40 passes and throwing three interceptions is not going to win any football games. There were far too many passes that were off the money or wobbly coming into the receiver. Even more, passes were thrown too low and were batted by the defensive line. This week, the defense actually capitalized on these errant throws. It is understandable that Bennett likely has one of the higher floors in the current Georgia quarterback room. However, the ceiling is far too low to lead Georgia to a win over any of the big three current teams in Ohio State, Clemson, and Alabama.
Georgia has three other quarterbacks on the roster with much higher potential than Bennett. D’Wan Mathis, JT Daniels, and Carson Beck are all viable options to take the field at some point and should all definitely be getting a shot considering the lackluster play we have seen at the signal-caller position.
Run. The. Ball.
This one is super simple. Run the ball early and often. The offensive line (and the Georgia defensive line for that matter) controlled the trenches for the vast majority of the night. Because of this, the running backs were able to average just under five yards per carry. Workhorse back Zamir White averaged just under six yards per carry on his 10 touches. If you remove the rushes by Bennett and Jermaine Burton, the four running backs (White, Kendall Milton, James Cook, and Kenny McIntosh) average just under six yards per carry. Despite this, they only got 23 carries between the four of them.
Obviously, Todd Monken’s play-calling is going to be more focused on an aerial attack, as he runs a spread offense. However, an aerial-based offense does not work effectively if you are not playing a quarterback who can throw the ball with strength and accuracy. And yes, you can not run the ball as much while trying to get back into the game. But if the Bulldogs start running earlier in the game, there is much less of a chance they find themselves in that position.
This is an offense that has a lot of options when it comes to the rushing attack. A great offensive line and multiple options to carry the ball means that the rushing game is definitely the better option on the offensive side of the ball. That does not mean they should abandon the passing game, but the team should find a better quarterback to sling the ball and/or run the ball more heavily early on.
Georgia is currently 16th in the nation in penalty yards per game with 72.25 penalty yardage on average. That is by far the worst in the SEC, as Auburn currently sits second with 60.5 penalty yards per game. This week was below average with just 52 penalty yards, but that is still too many in such an important matchup. Of the six penalties the Bulldogs had on Saturday, four were against the defense. Three of those four were defensive holding with the fourth being a pass interference. These four penalties led to extending four drives that resulted in 10 points for the Crimson Tide. Admittedly, a lot of people did not believe that some of those holding/defensive pass interference calls were warranted, but they were called nonetheless.
On the offensive side of the ball, Georgia was hit with a holding and a delay of game penalty. The holding ended up putting the Bulldogs behind the sticks and ultimately caused that drive to end without a first down. The offensive side obviously was not as costly as they were on the defensive side of the ball, but either way, the team can not be taking these penalties in a game as important as this one.
Overall, the Bulldogs have a lot to work on. Luckily, they have a week off to try to fix the mistakes and bounce back against the Kentucky Wildcats in two weeks. That game will be the second to last of the tough patch of games that Georgia plays. If they can make some sort of patchwork for these next two games, they will be good to go for the rest of the regular season.