The 2020 SEC Eastern Division Championship slipped through Georgia football's grasp Saturday night in Jacksonville.
The now injury-prone Bulldogs lost to Florida 44-28, conceding the top spot in the SEC East standings. The loss and how the team lost are both frustrating. Georgia failed to take advantage of opportunities to create big plays, while Florida's offense marched down the field at will.
Georgia's defense isn't elite
What did anyone truly expect from a defense missing the most important players at two different layers? Just how good safety Richard LeCounte and nose guard Jordan Davis are was revealed were Saturday because their absences broke Georgia's defense.
Both players would be irreplaceable on any team's defense. LeCounte is a great all around leader, vocally and through example on the field. Davis has the dirtiest job on the defense, taking on double teams to help everyone else. Davis didn't just buy into that role; he takes ownership of it.
Of course, linebackers Monty Rice and Nakobe Dean have been banged up as well and Georgia also missed the depth defensive tackle Julian Rochester provides. Safety Lewis Cine also left the game Saturday because of with an ejection and backup safety Major Burns succumbed to an injury as well.
"Next man up" only goes so far.
Smart and Monken haven't learned anything on offense
Clearly, Georgia needs to work harder at being explosive. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken should have expanded the playbook against Kentucky to develop an explosive identity.
But it's not as if Monken and head coach Kirby Smart haven't learned anything on offense. Receivers were open, opportunities were there. Quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and D'Wan Mathis just couldn't connect with the receivers.
Officials might have missed a pass interference on a deep ball to Matt Landers. A bomb to Demetris Robertson was inches from his grasp, while another throw to Kearis Jackson sailed even further. The plays worked and the receivers found themselves wide open. The rest comes down to execution.
Smart's mismanagement of quarterbacks will cost him
What mismanagement? Neither Bennett nor Mathis would have led Georgia to victory without George Pickens to throw to. Bennett is too much of a gunslinger and Mathis can't settle himself down. That leaves JT Daniels and Carson Beck as the quarterbacks yet to take a snap.
Daniels is coming off a badly torn ACL and a freshman season where he tossed 10 interceptions and only 2,672 yards in a poor offense at Southern Cal. Despite being a redshirt sophomore, Daniels is most likely way behind in his development because of his time at USC.
Beck might be the future of the position, but let's not act like he was an elite prospect. The 247Sports Composite ranked Beck No. 250 in the nation and he dropped several spots during his senior season. For comparison, Georgia's last freshman starter Jake Fromm was ranked No. 44 in the nation by the 247Sports Composite.
Smart had his starting quarterback. He knew the kids he had on the roster after the 2019 season weren't ready, so he signed a quarterback who was; Jamie Newman. The graduate transfer was going to start, there's no argument about that. Mathis may have challenged him, but "practice Mathis" is clearly a different from "game Mathis."
Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country, cancelling spring football in the process. The pandemic stretched into the late summer and Newman was among the many players who opted out of the season.
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