ATLANTA — The defending national champions will take the field on Saturday afternoon in a venue they could call their second home. Georgia-Oregon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be one of the premier games on the slate today, based off names alone.
The No. 3 Georgia versus No. 11 Oregon matchup between coaches Dan Lanning and Kirby Smart will be a fun one to watch along the sidelines; both know each other so well. This is also not just about Georgia proving it can defend the title, but also about Oregon making a statement on a national scale, while the Ducks look for a new conference to join.
All the pomp and circumstance will make for a fun atmosphere in Atlanta. Let’s tackle five looming questions as we await the Georgia-Oregon kickoff.
Will Stetson Bennett Continue To Draw Attention With His Play?
This is key for Georgia to have sustained success in 2022. After entering last season third on the depth chart, Bennett has taken all the reps during the spring and fall for the first time since arriving in Athens. This is his team and offensive coordinator Todd Monken is banking on Bennett being the steady leader we saw in 2021.
How much will Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell get into the backfield and force Bennett to make a quick decision? My guess is a lot, but he’ll need some help from his teammates, which is where the mismatch comes into play. Stetson Bennett has tight end Brock Bowers as a safety net, but he will also take away Sewell from blitzing if Oregon decides to stick a linebacker over the middle. I am ready to see if Bennett has grown his game over the last seven months.
Can Bo Nix finally Get The Georgia Monkey Off His Back?
The former Auburn quarterback is 0-3 against Georgia in his career. Nix doesn’t have an impressive stat sheet against the Dawgs, going 72 of 128 for 639 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. If there was ever a time where Bo Nix puts it all together and shows up on the big stage, this is it. The problem for Nix is that Kirby Smart has a lot of film on the former Auburn quarterback and his tendencies, so look for Nix to try out a few new things with this Oregon offense. The biggest concern will be how much he’s running for his life with Georgia linebackers looking to cause chaos.
How Will Oregon Handle The Hostile Environment?
This will be the sixth year in a row that Georgia has played in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The last time they played here, Nick Saban and Alabama won the SEC championship in front of a pro-Bulldog crowd. Expect the same type of atmosphere for Georgia-Oregon, as Bulldog fans turn this into a home game.
There will be a nice contingent of fans wearing green and yellow, but it will pale in comparison to the red and black. Can the Ducks silence the crowd with a few big plays and get into a rhythm? This is one aspect that shouldn’t go overlooked.
How Will Kirby Smart Set The Tone On Offense?
This might actually be the first time Kirby Smart’s biggest strength could be the Georgia offense, not defense. Now don’t get my words twisted. I think the Bulldogs will be just fine on the defensive side. But with the tight-end tandem of Brock Bowers and Arik Gilbert and a wide receiver group led by Adonai Mitchell, Georgia will be hard to stop.
And having Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton carrying the rock should take pressure off Stetson Bennett. I honestly have no idea how Oregon will be able to keep up with every weapon that the Bulldogs put on the field, which is why Ducks linebacker Noah Sewell better put some early pressure on Bennett.
How Does Oregon Pull Off The Upset?
Don’t overlook the Ducks. If Dan Lanning can draw up enough blitz packages to get Bennett rattled and throw a few interceptions, this will present an opportunity for Oregon. Quick passes from Nix and pushing the tempo on offense could cause confusion with a new Georgia defense. One of the reasons why Nix ended up at Oregon was his relationship with former Auburn and current Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham. The pair know what each likes to do, so don’t be surprised when they try to open it up down the field. To me, this is how Oregon beats Georgia. Throw the damn ball, Oregon!
Georgia-Oregon Prediction: Bulldogs 31, Ducks 21