ATLANTA — No. 3 Georgia dismantled No. 11 Oregon 49-3 on Saturday in his first game since taking home the College Football Playoff National Championship in January. Stetson Bennett IV was 25 of 31 for 368 yards and two touchdowns in the afternoon, including 154 yards in the first quarter to set the tone for the game. He found nine different receivers and threw two touchdowns — one to Ladd McConkey in the second quarter and another to Adonai Mitchell in the third quarter — in what was the most complete performance of his career.
The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on each of their first seven drives, including quick scores from Ladd McConkey, Bennett and Kenny McIntosh, before Oregon was able to score a field goal early in the second quarter to get on the board for the only time on Saturday.
Each of Georgia’s touchdown drives was 56 or more yards, with the longest being a seven play and 92 yards trip ending in the first play of the second quarter. The score of 49-3 was the biggest win margin in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, overshadowing Alabama’s 42-3 win over Duke to open the 2019 season.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix was erratic in his Ducks debut all afternoon. He completed 21 of 37 passes for 173 yards and threw two interceptions in the first half that dug a hole the Ducks couldn’t dig themselves out of.
A new era for Georgia
This wasn’t just a victory round for the Bulldogs, it was a statement that they’ve reached a new level. Coach Kirby Smart didn’t take it upon himself to win just one national title and be content – he took it to build a dynasty. You know, like the one he helped build in Alabama as Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator. He is well on his way.
Georgia lost 15 players in the NFL draft last season, five of them defenders selected in the first round. But don’t worry, all the younger players did was pick up where those studs left off.
A true freshman defensive back, Malaki Starks made a dazzling interception deep down the field in the first quarter that set the tone for what was a dominant performance. Defending back Dan Jackson had a team-high five tackles, one for a loss, in his fifth start for the Bulldogs. Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a reserve linebacker making his first career start, added three tackles and was all over the field.
We didn’t hear much from defensive lineman Jalen Carter, linebacker Nolan Smith and defensive defender Kelee Ringo on Saturday, despite all three being known commodities.
Translation: This Georgia team is in plug and play mode.
How many other teams in the country can say the same? Alabama? Secure. Ohio state? Surely. Clemson? Probably. That’s about it. Smart is here to build a dynasty and the building process is almost complete.
They trust in Stetson
It seems that Bennett is still seen as a game manager in some circles, but none of those circles were anywhere near Atlanta on Saturday. Bennett’s 368 yards are a single-game record for “The Mailman,” with his previous record of 340 in the same building in last year’s SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama.
This wasn’t just a predominant Georgia performance; it was an indication that offensive coordinator Todd Monken trusts his quarterback as much as Saban Bryce Young and Ohio State coach Ryan Day trusts CJ Stroud.
The Georgia attack ran through Bennett, not the running game. This despite the defense showing that it didn’t miss a beat. Unlike last year, Georgia went on to set up a run against the No. 11 team in the country — a team whose freshman coach, Dan Lanning, coordinated the Bulldogs defense last year.
The running game will come; everyone who watched the match saw how dynamic Georgia’s backs are. But it is clear that this crime has entered a new era and makes it one of the most dangerous offenses in the country.
Kenny McIntosh is a problem
Georgia lost a lot of pieces to last year’s national title squad, and one of the most underrated players was James Cook back. NFL star Dalvin Cook’s younger brother was a threat on the ground and in the air, and finding his replacement was one of Fall Camp’s goals.
McIntosh is clearly that man. The junior had 18 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown and a team-high 117 receiving yards, including a 38-yard reception on a wheel route on Georgia’s last run of the first half that led to a touchdown and a 28-3 lead at the peace.
There is no shortage of skilled players on Georgia’s roster, and it’s clear McIntosh is one of the next superstars in the making. His rise as a Swiss Army knife is a good sign that the Bulldogs can not only repeat last year’s passing schedule with its running backs, but potentially build on it.
Oregon is far from a contender
The Ducks may be a contender in the Pac-12, but they still have miles to go before they are even considered a national title contender. Heck, a berth in an extended College Football Playoff could even be a stretch. The difference in size and speed along both lines of scrimmage was obvious from the start.
Nix ran for his life most of the day, throwing several passes that would have been picked if they were anywhere near his intended target. The defensive front gave Bennett time to pitch a tent in the backfield, take a nap, wake up, grab some coffee and find open receivers in the field on a consistent basis.
Admittedly, it was against the reigning champion. Still, if Oregon is to be relevant on a national scale, it must at least be competitive in games like this.