Georgia and Georgia Tech win and there’s no stopping either.
The Falcons lose and it’s quite possibly the end of the world, as we know it.
Must be another Overreaction Monday.
Light a candle. Take a cleansing breath. Find your balance. Serenitize.
Here we go . . .
Georgia (5-0 overall, 2-0 in SEC)
What happened: The Bulldogs flattened Tennessee 41-0, the first time they’ve shut out the Volunteers since 1981, when Herschel Walker stepped on their faces.
What’s next: At Vanderbilt (noon)
Overreaction narrative: “We’re so much better with Jake Fromm! No way Jacob Eason gets his job back!”
Reality check: Coaches and quarterbacks are tied to game results more than anybody else. Sometimes it’s justified, sometimes it’s absurd. The Dogs are 5-0 so it’s not surprising so many believe that’s because of Fromm. He has great poise for a true freshman and didn’t appear rattled in two road stadiums (Notre Dame, Tennessee). But Georgia is winning games because of its defense and its running game, not because of quarterback play. The best news about Fromm is that he’s not losing games. He threw an early interception when he misfired for Calvin Ridley, completed only five of nine attempts to start the game and led an offense that failed to get a first down on five of the first six possessions. He also missed a wide open Sony Michel on the sideline, instead choosing to try to force a pass over the middle (nearly intercepted). He finished at 7 of 15 for 84 yards with a touchdown and an interception — not great numbers in a simplified offense. Georgia ranks 118th in the nation in passing. The Dogs are winning games because of their defense and their talent and depth in the running game. Fromm made two really good throws on a touchdown drive and had two nice scrambles. Eason has a stronger arm and presumably a higher ceiling. There is still no reason to think he can’t be a great quarterback. There’s also no reason to think he’s still not the best quarterback on this team. To assume this is a done deal would not be correct. But at this point, coach Kirby Smart has no “decision” to make. It’s going to take at least two games for Eason to get back into rhythm after missing time with a knee injury. Look for Eason to get increased playing time in the next two weeks against Vanderbilt and Missouri. That may determine who starts against Florida and ultimately who is the starting quarterback the rest of the season, although it may not matter given the defense and running game.
Georgia Tech (3-1 overall, 2-0 in ACC)
What happened: The Yellow Jackets beat North Carolina 33-7.
What’s next: The Jackets have a bye this week then begin a five-game stretch that includes meetings with the ACC’s three best teams: No. 13 Miami (Oct. 14), No. 2 Clemson, No. 16 Virginia Tech.
Overreaction narrative: “We’re beating bad teams. Wait until we play Miami.”
Reality check: Agree. And agree. But Tech has a chance to be a player in the ACC Coastal Division, which most would not have expected with a new quarterback (TaQuon Marshall) and new primary ball-carrier (KirVonte Benson) following the dismissal of Dedrick Mills. Benson rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown against North Carolina and he has gone over 100 yards in three of his four starts. Marshall leads the option offense in rushing and has four TD passes without an interception (19 of 33, 333 yards). Fumbles remain a big problem: Tech had three more (losing two) and has lost eight in only four games – tied for third most in the nation behind San Jose State (11) and Oregon State (10). The Jackets lead the nation in average fumbles per game (3.3). But here’s the good news: 1) Since fumbling away a win in the opener against Tennessee, they’ve won three straight, including lopsided conference wins over Pitt and North Carolina by a combined scored of 68-24; 2) Their defense has looked good the past two weeks, after fizzling down the stretch of the Tennessee game. The Miami game will be this team’s biggest challenge. It will be the first real road game of the season and Tech will be an underdog. But if the Jackets can avoid turnovers, they can win that game and take control in the division. Before the season, the would not have seemed likely.
What happened: They played their worst game of the season, losing to Buffalo 23-17 and suffering more injuries.
What’s next: Ice tub. The Falcons have a well-timed early bye this week, then host Miami in two weeks.
Overreaction narrative: “We stunk against the Bears. We were lucky to beat Detroit. We stunk against Buffalo. We should be 1-3.”
Reality check: Yes. And no. The Falcons did stink against Chicago, barely survived the Detroit game and weren’t good again Sunday. But the biggest issue this team has is injuries. They lost both starting wide receivers (Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu) in the Buffalo game, leaving them without seven –seven – regulars from the lineup: Jones (hip flexor), Sanu (hamstring) and right tackle Ryan Schraeder (concussion) on offense; linebacker Vic Beasley (hamstring), safety Ricardo Allen (concussion), DT Courtney Upshaw (ankle, knee) and DT Jack Crawford (biceps) on defense. It’s a good time for a bye. But all of the injuries are the kind that can linger for weeks, and it’s likely several of the aforementioned players won’t be healthy for the Miami game. Long term, the Falcons should be OK. None of the ailments are season-ending. But short term, look for the front office to be busy. They’ll likely need to bring in at least one receiver and a defensive lineman, and this is where we ask the question: Is it time to bring back Dwight Freeney? He wouldn’t solve all of the team’s pass-rush issues but he could give the Falcons 15 snaps and provide some depth and leadership. If the Falcons think Beasley will return for the Miami game, they might hold off on this move. But the Miami game is kind of important. It’s one of those games a team marks down as “win” before the season, and it’s followed by a brutal five-game stretch: New England (road), New York Jets (road), Carolina (road), Dallas (home), Seattle (road). It’s important to remind the panicked: The Falcons are 3-1 and when healthy still might be the best team in the NFC. But they’re not healthy and if they don’t get well there’s potential trouble ahead.
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