Georgia's Title Defense Starts with a Terrifying Rout of Oregon

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 3, 2022

Kendall Milton | Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

If that Georgia team shows up all season, let's fast-forward the Dawgs' campaign to the 2022 College Football Playoff.

No, don't crown them champions again just yet. As the final seconds ticked away on Georgia's 49-3 demolition of Oregon, none of the nation's other Top 5 teams—Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Notre Dame—had even kicked off in Week 1.

But if that is the version of Georgia we're about to watch for three months, write a return trip to the CFP in pen.

Entering the season, the reigning national champions faced a couple of important questions.

Most notably, the Bulldogs had to replace 15 NFL draft picks—including five first-round defenders. Kirby Smart and his coaching staff have recruited at a tremendously high level, but that roster turnover is certainly not a breeze to handle. Plus, the staff itself underwent a few changes, losing defensive coordinator Dan Lanning to Oregon and a couple more assistants.

But on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, it didn't matter. None of that did.

There are plenty of words to come, but if you only remember one thing, make it this: Georgia's backups trotted onto the field—against the 11th-ranked team in the country—with 18 minutes to play. Complete and utter dominance.

Offensively, quarterback Stetson Bennett put together a fantastic game. The senior completed 25 of his 31 attempts for a career-high 368 yards and accounted for three scores in the blowout. He impressively escaped four defenders on a short touchdown to Ladd McConkey.

Georgia Football @GeorgiaFootball

Never give up on the play ✅<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoDawgs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoDawgs</a> <a href="https://t.co/dD2X9CXlPG">pic.twitter.com/dD2X9CXlPG</a>

Behind him and a reliable offensive line, Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton excelled in their first appearances as UGA's top running backs. McIntosh provided a dynamic receiving threat with nine catches for 117 yards, also scampering for a score. Milton added 68 total yards and two touchdowns on nine touches.

Offensive coordinator Todd Monken kept the play-calling simple yet diverse, rolled out various tempos and let UGA's talent shine. Nothing complicated but exceptionally effective.

It's also generally unfair that Georgia's second-best tight end is a 6'7", 270-pound anomaly. Darnell Washington caught two passes—though, hey, he's human and dropped one—made a few notable blocks and is an all-around frightening complement to All-American starter Brock Bowers. Oh, and there's another 5-star, Arik Gilbert, trailing Washington on the depth chart.

And we haven't even talked about the defense.

As a unit, the Dawgs limited Oregon to 4.6 yards per play. Ducks quarterback Bo Nix finished 21-of-37 for just 173 yards, tossing zero touchdowns with two interceptions.

Christopher Smith committed a horse-collar tackle, then promptly snatched an interception on the next snap. The safety displayed his closing speed throughout the game, particularly when he hammered Oregon wideout Chase Cota to break up what seemed like a wide-open 30-yard reception.

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Big boy hit from Christopher Smith <a href="https://t.co/aecHYeI8Gd">pic.twitter.com/aecHYeI8Gd</a>

Oregon only crossed midfield on four of its nine drives. Meanwhile, Georgia converted its first nine third-down attempts and scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions.

The performance can be best described as a comprehensive beatdown.

Now, it's not like Georgia had moderate expectations for 2022. Heck, five members of B/R's six-person expert panel picked the Dawgs to reach the CFP. They're not suddenly an underdog; they've always been a favorite.

The takeaway here is simple: Based on Saturday's display, there is no opponent on UGA's regular-season slate prepared to contain this version of the Dawgs.

As if the remaining nonconference schedule of Samford, Kent State and Georgia Tech isn't favorable enough, they have a lucky draw in the SEC. While the East is an improving and solid division, Georgia has dominated it lately.

Chiefly, none of the West's top programs—Alabama, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Ole Miss and LSU—are on UGA's schedule, at least until the SEC Championship Game.

Look, it's early. No team is ever completely perfect, and a championship-level performance—while both the UGA's internal expectation and probably not a rare sight—won't necessarily happen every week.

Sixty minutes are down. At least six-hundred sixty remain in the regular season. There is a long, long way to go.

This version of the Dawgs, however, looks every bit as dangerous as the roster that brought home a national title.


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