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Bo Nix may be the best quarterback No. 2 Georgia faces this season. That’s no slight to No. 19 Auburn’s signal caller, who has endured an infamous roller-meet-coaster career. It’s almost an indictment of the game in 2021.
The Bulldogs have faced — in order — passing offenses ranked 116th (Clemson), 85th (UAB), 89th (South Carolina), 94th (Vanderbilt) and 98th (Arkansas). That smothering defense is the only one in the country to allow opponents to complete less than half its passes.
Nix played one of the best games of his career last week at LSU. That Patrick Mahomes-like toss to Tyler Fromm was amazing. Let’s see how the nation’s No. 17 offense (57th in passing) holds up against a generational defense.
We post those numbers to support this assertion: As good as Georgia’s defense may be, it hasn’t been pushed much. Perhaps because quarterback play is down this season. That despite the game being on pace for record completion percentage (62%) and second-most passing yards per game (234.7).
There seems to be something missing from the flash of the past. Clemson has dropped from sixth to a tie for 103rd in explosive plays. Oklahoma has gone from eighth to 68th. Maybe it’s a function of losing Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Mac Jones (Alabama) and Kyle Trask (Florida) over the last couple of years. Maybe this is just a lull before the next generation of greats comes through the pipeline. As we pointed out last week, Group of Five quarterbacks lead most of the major categories.
If you’re thinking ahead to that cocktail party, Dawg Nation, it doesn’t appear that No. 20 Florida with Emory Jones will prove be much of an offensive threat. The Gators are only 80th in passing. Whatever the case, only half of the SEC starters at quarterback returned. It’s worth asking (again) whether Nix has finally established himself as a consistent QB.
Still, there is a larger point is being made here. Nix may be the best quarterback Georgia faces because it doesn’t appear likely to face many good ones (in the regular season, Bammers. We’ll get to you later.)
To his credit, Nix is one of two SEC starters yet to throw a pick. (Matt Corral of No. 17 Ole Miss is the other.) In fact, Nix has gone eight straight games without an interception. In his career, he has never beaten the Dawgs, averaging only 4.6 yards per pass in two meetings.
Meanwhile, Georgia has prospered despite JT Daniels‘ ailments. Daniels is likely out again Saturday with a lat injury. Backup Stetson Bennett IV, the Rush Chairman, is a game manager’s game manager. Coach Kirby Smart chose to throw all of 11 times last week against Arkansas. Only 11 Power Five teams are throwing fewer passes per game than the Dawgs.
Georgia can win Saturday’s oldest rivalry in the Deep South with Bennett, but will the Dawgs win it all with a Daniels/Bennett tag team? We may not know until the SEC Championship Game.
Now, cue the Alabama fans: Yes, Bryce Young is having a Heisman Trophy-worthy season.
No. 21 Texas vs. No. 6 Oklahoma: For the first time in a long time, the Red River Showdown doesn’t necessarily come down to the quarterbacks. We’ve already told you about Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and Texas’ Casey Thompson. Rattler’s lower numbers are partially a function of an inconsistent offensive line and defenses that have figured out the spread. (See above.) More and more against OU, defenses are deploying two deep safeties and clogging the second level with defenders daring the Sooners to go for those explosive plays. Coach Lincoln Riley must find a way to be patient. If not, Texas running back Bijan Robinson is ready to pounce. The nation’s No. 2 player in rushing and all-purpose yards holds the key to this game. One truth has endured in Red River over the years: The team that wins the rushing battle has won 18 of the last 20. Take Texas in the mild upset.
By the way, this may be the last Red River rivalry contested among Big 12 teams. There are rumblings at least Texas is anxious to move to the SEC as soon as possible. Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione reiterated to CBS Sports the school still intends on staying four more years through the end of the Big 12 contract with ESPN and Fox.
The (powerful?) Big Ten East: The problem with labeling any division the “best” is that eventually its teams have to start playing each other. The number of undefeateds in the powerful Big Ten is guaranteed to decrease by one when No. 4 Penn State goes to No. 3 Iowa. Elsewhere, No. 9 Michigan (at Nebraska) is three weeks away from a showdown at No. 11 Michigan State. That same day (Oct. 30), Penn State goes to No. 7 Ohio State. With no dominant team in the East — not yet, at least — division rivals could beat each other up. That begs the question: Will the celebrated Big Ten East get out of October with a College Football Playoff contender?
No. 1 Alabama at Texas A&M: The Aggies are bordering on being one of the most disappointing stories of 2021. We knew the Kellen Mond era was ending. What we didn’t know is if there would be a serviceable quarterback behind him. Freshman Haynes King won the job but got hurt. Backup Zach Calzada was exposed in a home loss to Mississippi State. Now, Alabama visits College Station, Texas, where coach Nick Saban is likely to show no mercy. Remember all the chuckles everyone got over Jimbo Fisher’s “We’re going to beat his ass,” comment? There is a reckoning in the air.
Since Johnny Football shocked the world in 2012, Alabama has won the next eight in a row by an average of 22.6 points. Six of the last seven wins in the series, Alabama has won by at least 18 points. Fisher is 0-3 with a -69 point differential against Saban at College Station. Texas A&M has lost consecutive games for the first time since 2019. It has not lost three consecutive games in the same season since 2014. For only the second time in the 13-game series, both teams won’t come in ranked. If Alabama scores 30 this week, it will set the all-time record in doing so in a 32nd consecutive game. Good luck, Jimbo. We all know about Saban’s 24-0 record against his former assistants. The only one of those former assistants has come within 14 points? Kirby Smart, twice. Beat his ass? Saban’s response last summer was even better: “In golf?”
No. 24 SMU at Navy: Are we just going to dismiss SMU, the other Group of Five contender from the AAC? The Mustangs are 5-0 for the third consecutive season. Heisman candidate Tanner Mordecai has thrown at least four touchdowns in each game this season. If you want to look ahead to Group of Five’s version of Armageddon, SMU plays at Cincinnati later this season.
Quick Kicks: The CFP chances of No 8 Oregon (bye) continue to slip. Leading rusher CJ Verdell is out for the season, joining a growing list of injuries that include safety Bennett Williams (also out for the year) and linebacker Justin Flowe. Junior and second-leading rusher Travis Dye will now carry most of the load left by Verdell … LSU All-American cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. will be out indefinitely after a “procedure” performed on his foot. The Tigers (3-2) travel to Kentucky the week after the Wildcats’ biggest win in years (over Florida). Kentucky’s success means LSU (8-7 since the national title in 2019) could play as many as seven ranked teams this season … If Northwestern (2-3, 0-2 Big Ten) finishes last in the West, it will have gone from first to last to first to last in the division since 2018. The Wildcats (bye) are currently tied for last in the West with Wisconsin (at Illinois) … No. 14 Notre Dame (at Virginia Tech) has won 35 straight against unranked opponents. The last unranked team to beat the Fighting Irish? The Hokies in 2016 … UCF (hosting East Carolina) is 43-10 in its last 53 games but is 2-2 to start the season for the third time since 2016 … Missouri will have no depth chart this week against North Texas after giving up almost 700 yards to Tennessee. Coach Eli Drinkwitz said, “It’s almost like fall camp again” … Much love to No. 16 Kentucky linebacker J.J. Weaver. In the offseason while rehabbing a torn ACL, Weaver’s father was murdered and his high school coach succumbed to liver cancer. Weaver last week returned against the same team he tore his ACL against last year (Florida), contributing four tackles and an interception.
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