ATHENS, Ga. — At his final Georgia football banquet two years ago, Mark Richt tearfully told the Bulldogs players, “I’m 100 percent convinced that the University of Georgia and the University of Miami are on a collision course for a national championship.”
Those words may prove to be prophetic sooner than anyone could have imagined. Sure, both teams still have a lot of work ahead of them in the coming weeks if that is to happen this season. And there’s still the no-so-small matter of beating Alabama — Georgia might have to do it twice — for any team with national championship aspirations.
But last weekend’s events made that possibility much more realistic than it was before. Clemson, Washington and Washington State all suffered their first losses. Meanwhile, Georgia and Miami stayed perfect with wins that might prove to be growth points for both teams. The Bulldogs edged up to No. 3 in the AP poll behind Alabama and Penn State. The Hurricanes jumped up to No. 8.
Shortly after Miami escaped with a 25-24 win over Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs commenced putting on an offensive show against Missouri, winning 53-28 at Sanford Stadium. The decisive outcome itself wasn’t unexpected. Georgia was a 28-point favorite because Missouri’s defense is simply awful.
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But here’s what was revealing. Georgia’s individual stat sheet from its win over Missouri looked like something from a G-Day game.
Seven Bulldogs ran the football. Eight different players caught passes. And no, that was not simply a by-product of the lopsided score. Elijah Holyfield (not Evander, as announced in the press box) was the only back who came in late to get in on the fun. Brian Herrien, the fourth string tailback, had the second offensive touch of the game for Georgia, a pass from Jake Fromm.
Fromm’s first eight completions went to six different receivers. In all, five running backs, five receivers and two tight ends had offensive touches. And that doesn’t even include Jake Fromm’s four quarterback keeps, one of which went for an 11-yard touchdown.
This was what offensive coordinator Jim Chaney envisioned all offseason as he poured in hours and hours of film study and brain-storming with his offensive coaching staff, trying to find a way to utilize a wealth of skill position players.
Well, maybe not so much the quarterback keepers. After all, the offense was built around the powerful arm of Jacob Eason.
Georgia has been scoring in bunches of late — 42 points against Samford, 31 against Mississippi State, 41 against Tennessee and 45 against Vanderbilt. And Missouri’s easily has the SEC’s worst defense.
Even so, this was the most versatile offensive showing Georgia has enjoyed since Mike Bobo was calling plays. It was also a measure of exoneration for Chaney, who target of much criticism last season and in the offseason.
“Much is made about that, but ultimately you want to be balanced,” Smart said. “We want to be able to throw and catch the ball. We want to be able to use our wideouts. Riley (Ridley) made some big plays. Terry (Godwin) made a big play. Javon (Wims) made some big plays. They make those plays in practice when they get the opportunity to. They stepped up tonight and made them. Certainly to be able to have a balanced offense, that’s what everybody wants. You have to be able to do that in this league.”
It would be nice -- and appropriate -- to let you hear from Chaney himself. But Kirby Smart subscribes to Nick Saban’s “one voice” philosophy and does not allow his assistant coaches to talk to the media during the season. But Chaney did address the media before the season and did not try to shirk the blame.
“My job is to freshen things up and take my responsibility in it,” Chaney said. “Because, I’ve said before, I’ll say it again, the buck stops here when it comes down to production of offense.”
Saturday night’s win was a bit of role reversal as the offense helped cover some sloppy defensive play.
“I thought they grew up from a passing standpoint,” Smart said.
Now the question is how well can the Bulldogs continue to handle success and expectations. They have a bye this week before heading to Jacksonville to play Florida. That’s followed by South Carolina, Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech -- not a breather in the bunch. But it’s certainly a manageable homestretch for a team with championship hopes.