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If you take a look around the college football landscape, you’ll notice that there are a number of quarterbacks who fit the superstar narrative. Take a closer look at what is going on at Georgia and you might see the same thing, but in this instance, the star quarterback is not the talk of the town.
When we entered the 2021 season, Georgia fans thought that JT Daniels would be the guy getting all the praise after starting the season 6-0. But he isn’t. Stetson Bennett is at the center of the Georgia quarterback problem.
Now, it isn’t a bad problem. It’s actually a mighty good one to have, as the backup quarterback has now made a case to be the starter from here on out. I surely didn’t see this coming and I doubt Dawgs fans did either. Though Daniels prepared for a season with title hopes, we’ve now got proof that Bennett is the best backup quarterback in the country. The 2nd string QB at Georgia has the second-highest QB rating in college football. This story has become crazy enough to be fiction, and now, the story is starting to write itself.
Bennett has started three games this season and played in five, throwing for 746 yards and 8 touchdowns, while rushing for 126 yards. Don’t forget, this is a backup quarterback in an offense that relies heavily on the run game. As JT Daniels continues to rehab his way back into playing condition, all eyes have been on the way Stetson has managed this offense. In his most recent outing, he went 14-21 for 231 yards and two touchdowns, with a few perfect downfield strikes.
“Stetson played a hell of a game,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Stetson made plays with his feet. I mean, you go back and look at that game and there probably are one, two, three, probably four big plays in the game that he makes with his athleticism. That’s a dynamic that he brings that forces them to defend us a different way.”
This isn’t just about how Stetson has played this year either, it’s also about how he has performed in the past as well. In 2020, Bennett played in five games before an injury derailed his season and made way for JT Daniels, who was returning from his own injury, to step into the spotlight. Kirby Smart hasn’t forgotten how Bennett played last year.
“And you know what? He played really well last year, too,” Smart said. “He did some good things last year, and I don’t think people give him enough credit for that. This was his first opportunity to come into this environment and play the Georgia brand of football, and he made a lot of plays. He hit the guys that were open and helped us in the second half by making a lot of run checks. I’m really proud of the way he’s played and the way Stetson has led the team.”
It’s a nice thing to have if you’re the head coach, trying to decide which quarterback should lead your team during this stretch run, especially when both of them have played extremely well.
JT Daniels’ story this season has been riddled with injuries. He strained his oblique muscle and missed the second game of the season, but then came back against South Carolina, passing for 303 yards and 2 TDs. Against Vanderbilt, Daniels played only one quarter before he was derailed by the injury bug again, this time, a strained back muscle, which forced him to miss the Arkansas game as well. Since then, he hasn’t done much in practice besides “band work” and some light passing.
So, here we are. Georgia is hosting the biggest game to date, as the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats are heading to Athens for an SEC East showdown. The game is the talk of the SEC, though Georgia is currently a 23.5 point favorite, according to FanDuel.
The question that many will ask this week will be about the health of JT Daniels, but I don’t think that’s the one that should be asked. Can Stetson Bennett lead Georgia to a National Championship? That’s the question on the minds of Georgia coaches, without a doubt. Bennett is is 7-2 as a starter at Georgia, 3-0 this season. I don’t think folks can question whether Stetson can lead this team in pivotal games, as he has already proven that against Arkansas and Auburn.
This season, Georgia has all the tools to win a National Championship. They’ve got the rushing attack, the best defense in the country and two quarterbacks who can lead them to the promise land. But Bennett continues to make the case that he can get this team to a championship.
The way Bennett is playing football right now is fun to watch. We’re no longer looking for the unexpected. Instead, we’re looking for the expected rotation of the run game, along with Stetson’s passing, especially with the play-action. He doesn’t seem to get nervous. In fact, he reveled in the opportunity to start at Auburn in front of a hostile crowd.
“Especially going into their end zone with the student section over there. I mean, it was so loud. But I think we did a great job. Didn’t have any false starts, didn’t have to call any timeouts because of substitutions or anything like that. I thought we did a great job,” Smart said.
Stetson earned his first victory as the starting quarterback in 2020 against Auburn. On Saturday, he might’ve solidified himself as the starter with the win at Auburn. It’s not hard to notice how much of an impact Bennett has had on this football team, so Smart should roll with the hot hand until it cools down.
It could be a difficult decision for Kirby, but if Stetson continues to lead this team to dominating victories, the decision might be made for him. It’s National Championship or bust for the team in Athens.