Welcome back to “Overreaction Monday,” the weekly exercise that asks the question: Is Georgia coach Kirby Smart less obsessed over the Georgia quarterback debate than everybody else in the room? (He smirked when I brought this up Monday. Validation.) I’ll have more on the Bulldogs and their quarterback situation Tuesday. But first, a look back at the weekend and the narratives that carry into this week.
What happened: The Dogs body slammed No. 17 Mississippi State 31-3. It was at least one their two best performances in Smart’s brief tenure, along with last year’s 13-7 upset over ninth-ranked Auburn.
What’s next: Knoxville, or Hades, depending on how much next Saturday’s game replicates previous Georgia visits to Tennessee. The Dogs have climbed to seventh in the AP rankings.
Overreaction narrative: “Jake Fromm was great against Mississippi State and I think he’s ready to walk across my swimming pool. This job is his to lose.”
Reality check: Slow your roll there, Sparky. Fromm had easily his best performance of his four games (three starts), completing nine of 12 passes for 201 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. For the first time, we can say this is moving toward a difficult decision for Smart: Stay with Fromm, who shows great poise for a true freshman, or switch to Jacob Eason (when he’s healthy). It was amusing listening to Smart not give anybody any clue which was he’s leaning. But one reason for that is he still may not know, and until Eason’s sprained knee is strong enough, there’s no decision to make. But the most important thing we’ve learned about this team is it has discovered its formula for winning: play defense and run the ball. The Dogs are not likely to be a quarterback-driven team this season, and I’ll get into that more Tuesday. This defense has the talent and potential to be as good as any in the country. Nick Chubb ran the ball strong against MSU and for the first time against a solid opponent resembled the running back of two years ago (before his knee injury). A few things to keep in mind moving forward. Don’t write off Eason. Smart named him the starter going into the season because he outperformed Fromm in camp, not because he was the starter a year ago. But if Fromm continues to play as well as he did last game and Georgia continues to win, it’s going to be difficult for him to make a change. But it’s worth asking the question: How much does it matter who starts? Georgia ranks 14th — last — in the SEC in pass offense and 112th nationally. They’re 4-0.
What happened: They held on to win at Detroit 30-26 when an apparent Lions’ touchdown in the final seconds was overturned on replay, and the mandatory 10-second runoff ended the game.
What’s next: They host Buffalo Sunday, then have an early bye week (needed because of injuries).
Overreaction narrative: “They were lucky to beat Detroit. They were lucky to win at Chicago. They’re lucky to be 3-0.”
Reality check: While the defense, somewhat depleted, showed some cracks down the stretch in Detroit, it’s important to start with this: The Falcons did not luck their way to a win. The correct call was made at the end. Also, the Falcons’ offense put up 30 points and 428 yards against a pretty good defense, and they might’ve hit 40 points and 500 yards if not for two of Matt Ryan’s three interceptions that bounced off the hands of receivers. Ryan had thrown 211 straight passes without an interception but the only one that was his fault Sunday was a pick-six in the second quarter. On a second-down pass from the Lions’ 19, Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu in the hands at the Lions’ eight-yard line but he couldn’t hold on and it was picked off by Darius Slay. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has seemed more comfortable in his play-calling the last two weeks than he was in the season opener at Chicago. The defense struggled to get a pass rush much of the game. But it was missing two starters (Vic Beasley, Courtney Upshaw) and lost Ricardo Allen to a concussion late. The Lions were held without an offensive touchdown until late in the third quarter and limited to 236 total yards until the final possession. So not bad. Not lucky. Weird games like Sunday’s happen. (OK, not always that weird.) Remember the 26-24 loss at Seattle last season when Richard Sherman got away with blatant interference against Julio Jones? Remember the 29-28 loss to Kansas City on a “pick two”? (Eric Berry intercepted a Ryan pass on a two-point conversion attempt and returned it 99 yards, giving the Chiefs two points and the lead, and the win). The Falcons will not play an easy game this season, particularly on the road. They are the team opponents now get up to play against. As coach Dan Quinn told me before the season: “When you’re playing in championship games and Super Bowls, the next year you’re not sneaking up on anybody. You better mentally put yourself right into the next season because if you look too far down the line, whether you won it or you lost it, you can get your ass kicked.”
Georgia Tech (2-1)
What happened: The team that plays “dangerous football” (quoth Pat Narduzzi) easily beat Pittsburgh 35-17 in its ACC opener.
What’s next: The Jackets play home against North Carolina.
Overreaction narrative: “I have no idea what to think about this team.”
Reality check: Well, yeah. The Jackets’ total domination of the Panthers was held back by their own abundance of thumbs: four lost fumbles and a near six turnovers (quarterback TaQuon Marshall recovered his own fumble and had an interception voided by a defensive penalty). The Jackets’ offense has been better than most would have thought after the graduation of Justin Thomas and the dismissal of B-back Dedrick Mills just before the season. Marshall and KirVonte Benson (Mills’ replacement) will keep Tech in most games. The problem: Unless something changes, they also may keep opponents in most games. Benson rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns against Pitt but he also lost two fumbles. Johnson said his offense “might have had 700 yards” if not for the turnovers. There also was a not-so-subtle shot at Pitt and Narduzzi wrapped inside that remark. Tech looked strong defensively for most of the game against Pitt, not letting the Panthers take advantage of the turnovers. But it was Pitt. If Tech doesn’t stumble against North Carolina (1-3, coming off a loss to Duke), its first major test in the conference will come the following week at Miami. Johnson vs. Mark Richt resumes.
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