It’s SEC FCS Saturday, which means it’s the week before rivalry week.
By Matt Zemek
Teams throughout the conference play their paycheck game to give their starters a breather before the big bragging rights battles which are part of Thanksgiving weekend. Georgia’s FCS game is against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers. Winning the game isn’t really a question. The game keys need to have bigger goals and priorities in mind.
1 – Give J.T. Daniels some work
The debate about whether Georgia needs J.T. Daniels to win the national championship (phrased differently, whether it can win the national title with Stetson Bennett) is a false debate. Georgia will win the national title because it has the best team. Georgia’s main pillar is its defense. The quarterback debate becomes relevant only if this defense gets exposed and plays poorly. If the defense keeps allowing fewer than 20 points in every game it plays, the QB question simply won’t matter.
Kirby Smart doesn’t need to worry about which quarterback is under center. He knows his team, his defense, his offensive line, and his overall philosophy are all working according to plan this year.
Playing J.T. Daniels for significant minutes against Charleston Southern is not – and should not be perceived as – an attempt to say that Georgia needs Daniels to win the national title. Daniels can get work against an inferior opponent to sharpen his skills so that if Bennett falters against Georgia Tech or Alabama, Daniels would be ready to step in.
Keep in mind that Georgia would have made the College Football Playoff in 2018 had it not been for Jalen Hurts, who relieved an ineffective Tua Tagovailoa in that year’s SEC Championship Game. Kirby Smart, if he is thinking about the long-term needs of his team, will give Daniels work so that he is prepared to fill in for Bennett in any circumstance. That’s simply being wise about this larger situation. Bennett is the starter, but Daniels needs this game as a time to polish his skills. We don’t know if UGA will need him, but this game is the obvious chance to make sure Daniels will answer the bell if his services are needed in the SEC title game or the playoff.
2 – Rotate bodies
This is a chance for Smart to give his starting defense a light day and refuel the tank heading into the Georgia Tech rivalry game and the SEC Championship Game. This is also a chance to develop backup players for next year, a precursor to December practices before the playoff semifinal, leading into spring ball.
3 – Plant some seeds
Alabama and Nick Saban will be looking at plenty of game film, assuming they reach the SEC Championship Game. This is a moment for Georgia to give Saban a few formations to study, just so Alabama has more things to prepare for. Georgia doesn’t need to run a play it will use against Alabama; Georgia needs to run plays so that it can throw Saban off the scent and use variations in Atlanta.