Previously in this series:
For the second week in a row, Stetson Bennett raised some questions for Georgia fans. The one echoed most loudly: Why isn’t he the starter? Bennett connected on 90% of his passes and racked up 14 yards per carry on the ground while splitting reps with incumbent Jake Fromm.
It’s easy to see why Georgia coaches (and fans) are clamoring for more given the disappointing start to the year for Fromm – especially when compared to former Bulldog QBs Jacob Eason and Justin Fields who are doing big things elsewhere. Let’s catch up:
Jacob Eason, Washington
Week 3: Eason connected on 72% of his passes for 262 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs before heading to the bench during garbage time.
This Season: Eason ranks 31st nationally in passing yards and is one of just 10 players in the country with at least a 7:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
Week 3: Fields had an “off” week accounting for just 210 yards and four touchdowns. Who am I kidding? That’s a pretty damn good week.
This Season: Fields’ 13 touchdowns in three games is still the headline.
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Week 3: Fromm had his best outing of the season – throwing for 279 yards and more than one touchdown (for the first time all year).
This Season: Fromm moved into the Top 75 in both passing yards and touchdowns thanks to a stellar showing.
Georgia Quarterback Watch Week 2 – Jake Fromm Slides in the Current/Former Georgia QB Power Rankings
Previously in this series:
Let’s check in on some current/former Georgia quarterbacks.
Jacob Eason, Washington
Week 2: Eason came back to earth a bit on Saturday (actually, early Sunday morning). After a long weather delay, the Huskies finally got onto the field but Washington lost a heart-breaker to Cal. Eason finished with 162 yards (more context on that later) 0 TDs and 1 INT but still completed 60% of his passes. Per most reports, he was plagued by dropped balls.
The Season: Eason remains in the Top 40 nationally in passing yards and TDs. He’s 13th nationally in completion percentage among passers with at least 65 attempts.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
Week 2: FIelds validated early-season Heisman hype with another masterful game against a halfway-decent Cincinnati team. He hit on 20 of 25 passes for 224 yards and two TDs while adding another 42 yards and two scores on the ground.
The Season: Not much to argue about, really. Nine total touchdowns in two games is pretty damn strong. If Ohio State made it to the National Championship Game and Fields kept this pace, he’d rack up 67 or 68 TDs.
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Week 2: From was perfectly fine against Murray State. He connected on 10 of 11 passes for 166 yards and a single TD. He made the most of the opportunity against an inferior opponent. Though it should be noted, Fromm was outplayed by Bowen Smith (the quarterback for the Pikeville Bears, Murray State’s only other opponent this year), who threw for 186 yards and 1 TD versus the Racers.
The Season: Fromm ranks 97th in passing yards and 81st in passing TDs for the season.
Here’s how these three QBs stack up for the season.
Current Power Ranking of Current/Former Georgia Quarterbacks
#1. Justin Fields: Fields leads all contenders in wins, passing yards, yards of offense, passer rating and TDs. Can’t top the top.
#2. Jacob Eason: Despite a bumpy second game, Eason still edges out Fromm thanks to overall productivity. Some were disappointed with a 162-yard performance but it’s worth noting that total is better than more than a third of Fromm’s career outings. Seriously, Fromm has posted worse passing yard totals in 11 of his 31 career games. 162 isn’t great, but it’s better than 84, 101, 102, 106, 113, 123, 128, 141, 143, 156 and 157 (actual Fromm totals in prior games).
#3. Steton Bennett: Georgia’s backup edged out Fromm thanks to a strong performance. I’ll write more about this later in the week, but there may be a quarterback controversy in Athens after all. Bennett accounts for three touchdowns (two through the air, one on the ground) on Saturday and in doing so surpassed Fromm’s point production for the ENTIRE SEASON!
#4. Jake Fromm: Got to have him somewhere, I guess. Kirby just has him starting at QB for some reason.
The Kirby Smart Hater
In the interest of fairness to Coach Smart (a guy that some idiots like), I’ve decided to run a weekly column tracking the progress of three quarterbacks who saw the field at one point or another as Georgia Bulldogs. Ultimately, Coach “Smart” (and I use that term sarcastically) ran off Jacob Eason and Justin Fields in order to make sure Jake Fromm could be the starting quarterback in Athens. Was that a good decision? I guess we’ll see at season’s end. But for now, here’s where we stand after Week 1.
Jacob Eason, Washington
Week 1: Jacob Eason had the best game of his collegiate career this week. I guess that’s what happens when a real football coach gets his hands on you. Eason threw for a career high in yards (345) and touchdowns (four) while completing 75% of his passes and throwing no INTs. Decent game I guess.
This Season: Eason is 15th nationally in passing yards, fourth in passing TDs, 7th in completion percentage among QBs with at least 35 attempts and 11th in passer rating.
Justin Fields, Ohio State
Week 1: Speaking of career days, Justin Fields turned one in as well. Fields nearly doubled his previous career best for passing yards as he connected on 72% of his passes for 234 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. He also ran for 61 yards and 1 TD.
This Season: Fields is one of four players with responsibility for at least 5 TDs this season. His athleticism has never been in question, but he currently holds the 8th-best passer rating in the country.
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Week 1: Jake Fromm also played on Saturday. He completed 65% of his passes for 156 yards and 1 TD. He had no INTs and no rushing yards.
This Season: Fromm is also ranked in the Top 100 nationally in passing yards (literally ranked 100th) and passer rating (ranked 94th).
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Jake Fromm was the worst available option for Kirby Smart. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong down the road, but it’s gonna be tough to get out of this hole.
The Kirby Smart Hater
Here’s a list as of end-of-day on September 2. This includes “final” cuts but cuts don’t stop in the NFL. Neither do signings.
A few things of note:
- Davin Bellamy was cut by the Texans and NOT signed to the practice squad. Mr. Humble Yourself may lose this one to Baker Mayfield.
- Rookie WR Terry Godwin is not on a roster. I’d expect that to change.
- Rookie RB Elijah Holyfield made the initial 53-man roster at Carolina, was subsequently cut and then later added back to the practice squad. Welcome to the NFL.
- Garrison Smith, one of my favorite former Dawgs, is not on a roster after 5 years in the league.
- Marlon Brown and Taverres King remain MIA and Brown seems unlikely to resurface at this juncture.
- Orson Charles is currently without a team after being cut by the Browns and later the Broncos.
- A few other names not on rosters (after playing last year): Corey Moore, Ramik Wilson (shocking), Maurice Smith (somewhat surprising) and Tyler Catalina.
The data is below. Salaries are from Spotrac. Note that career earnings includes this year’s cash earnings (which assumes a full season at current status).
In total, former Bulldogs will earn more than $150 million this year. This crew has taken home career earnings of nearly $895 million.
Good on ya, boys.
This is the year for Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs, at least that’s what I keep hearing. Never mind the fact that last year was the year and so was the year before that. No, this is really the year. I mean gosh…look at all the talent!
Yeah, let’s do that. Just think about this group of guys Kirby has assembled and run off in just a few classes:
- Jacob Eason, the number 1 QB in the class of 2016 – transferred to Washington.
- Mecole Hardman, the 12th best recruit in the class of 2016 – chose to get a job rather than hang around Smart for another year.
- Isaac Nauta, the best tight end in the class of 2016 – did what Mecole did but chose to work in damn Detroit — no one works in Detroit by choice.
- Justin Fields, the best quarterback in the country and the nation’s second-best player – transferred to Ohio State after a failed career as Georgia’s dual-threat punt specialist.
- Brenton Cox, the number two player at his position in the class of 2018 – kicked off the team by Kirby’s ego.
What talent are we talking about guys? We talk about talent like it’s still in Athens, but those guys represent 25 combined stars (all five-stars) departed from Kirby’s first three recruiting classes. Georgia has lost five 5-star talents from Kirby’s first three classes. I can’t say that enough. And that really matters. Why? Well consider the context: Only five other schools in the entire nation even signed that many 5-star talents from the classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018. Those schools: Alabama, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Clemson and Florida State. Georgia isn’t going to do jack now that it has lost those guys.
I mean think about it: Florida State signed one 5-star player in 2016, four 5-star players in 2017 and no 5-star players in 2018. Do you think the Seminoles would be national championship contenders if literally all their good players left? I don’t think so. So why do we think Georgia will be in the hunt?
For years, fans complained about Georgia losing with 5-star players all over the field. Is it better that the Dawgs are now just losing the actual 5-star players? I don’t think so.
Even the world-wide leader in junk math (ESPN) knows the Dawgs don’t really have a chance. Their FPI thingy projects Georgia to have the following chances of victory:
|Opponent||Odds of Winning|
Georgia literally isn’t guaranteed a single victory. But even more telling, based on these odds the Dawgs have a cumulative likelihood of just 5.82% of going undefeated. In other words, if Kirby Smart got to do this season 17 times, the Bulldogs might run the table once. The problem is that Kirby isn’t going to get 17 chances at this. We know that because Mark Richt (who had a much better winning percentage through his first three years as a head coach) didn’t get 17 seasons.
So it’s time to get realistic. Not only is this not “the year” for Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs, but Kirby Smart isn’t even “the man” for the job. Let’s jump into the schedule to see if the Dawgs can even reach bowl eligibility.
Georgia at Vanderbilt – August 31
I really think Georgia can win this game, but it’s not going to be pretty. A night game in Nashville means a lot of things. First and foremost, it means probably no Vanderbilt fans in attendance. A small, Georgia-heavy crowd is going to make this game feel something like a spring game and Georgia barely won its G-Day game this year (final score of 22-17). The Bulldogs are going to need a better game from quarterback Jake Fromm who was just 14 of 29 for 116 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT the last time Georgia played in a spring game. Assuming he steps up, I think the Bulldogs will start the year on a high note.
Prediction: Georgia wins. Record: 1-0.
Georgia vs. Murray State – September 7
Historically, Georgia has struggled against non-state “state” schools under Kirby Smart. The Dawgs are 2-0 in such contests but the results haven’t always been pretty.
- 2016 Nicholls State – 26-24 Win
- 2017 Appalachian State – 31-10 Win
I’d expect something similar – maybe a 10-12 point victory. Lots to keep an eye on with this one though.
Prediction: Georgia wins. Record: 2-0.
Georgia vs. Arkansas State – September 14
Arkansas State has quietly become one of the best football programs in Arkansas and that is not at all a shot at the Arkansas Razorbacks and their transition from Bret Bielema (who managed just 4 wins in 2017) to Chard Morris (who managed just two wins in 2018). The Red Wolves (seriously, can’t they just be Wolves at this point? It’s 2019.) have gone to bowl games every year under head coach Blake Anderson. Georgia should have a slight edge in talent in this contest and the Dawgs will need every bit of it. Blake Anderson is a more accomplished head coach than Kirby Smart according to the internet. Anderson has 1,816 words worth of accomplishments in his bio. Smart only has 1,360. I’ve got this game as one of two toss-ups for the year, but I lean to Georgia thanks to homefield advantage.
Prediction: Toss-Up / Leaning to a Win. Record: 3-0.
Georgia vs. Notre Dame – September 21
This is the game of the year in some regards. The Bulldogs could enter this game 3-0 (or at worst, 2-1) and Notre Dame will likely come to Athens undefeated. Notably, the Irish will be crusading through the south on a revenge tour. The lamestream media will focus on a hotly contested 2017 contest won by Georgia in South Bend, but I bet they’ll overlook the two most important story-lines.
- This is a very different Georgia team from the 2017 edition that almost won a national championship. Georgia ran for 185 yards at Notre Dame in 2017. Players still on the roster accounted for just 36 of those yards. Georgia boasted a meager 141 yards of receiving in that contest. Only seven of those yards came from players still on Georgia’s roster. Georgia forced two crucial turnovers in in South Bend; predictably, the players responsible are no longer on the roster. This isn’t your two-year-old sister’s Georgia team.
- Notre Dame has improved at the quarterback position; Georgia has not. Brandon Wimbush was the Fighting Irish starter when Georgia played at Notre Dame in 2017. Where is he now? He’s the quarterback at Central Florida. Quite obviously, a program like Notre Dame shouldn’t be playing with Central Florida’s quarterback. Notre Dame deserves better and the Irish have upgraded at that position in a big way. Meanwhile, Georgia is still using Jake Fromm at quarterback. You may recall, Fromm received his first career start at Notre Dame after an injury to Jacob Eason one week prior. So yeah. Georgia is still playing a quarterback who only saw the field because Jacob Eason (who has thrown for a whopping total of 28 yards during calendar years 2017, 2018 and 2019) got a boo boo.
Expect Notre Dame to put the “MASS” in massacre.
Prediction: Loss. Record: 3-1.
Georgia at Tennessee – October 5
Speaking of quarterback play, nobody is talking about how much Jarrett Guarantano has improved for the Volunteers. Guarantano (which I believe is Spanish for the word “guarantee”) had as many 300-yard passing games in 2018 as Saint Jake of Fromm. Further he held his own against Fromm in a head-to-head matchup of how not to play quarterback back in 2017. That game was really something: Fromm finished with an impressive 84 yards on 15 attempts (more than 5.5 yards per attempt!) while Mr. Guarantee was a very clean 6 of 7 passing for only 16 yards. Both of those statistical lines are pretty mind-blowing. Ultimately, I’m giving the Volunteers the edge here because of QB play. Guarantano is just much more reliable – only five career interceptions to Fromm’s 13.
Prediction: Loss. Record: 3-2.
Georgia vs. South Carolina – October 12
If there’s anything we know about South Carolina it’s that the Gamecocks like to play ugly. Truthfully, last year’s game was a little closer than it seemed. What ended up being a 41-17 Georgia victory could easily have been 41-35 if South Carolina was better at football. And that’s a problem for Georgia this year because I think South Carolina will be better at football. Candidly, this Gamecock squad seems ready to make the jump from 7-6 to 8-5 and given the rate at which Georgia is losing talent and losing games, the Dawgs may be the victim that puts the Cocks over the hump. This could be the worst Cox/Cocks loss for the Bulldogs all year.
Prediction: Toss-up / Leaning to a Loss. Record: 3-3.
Georgia vs. Kentucky – October 19
If both toss-up games break the wrong way, the Dawgs may enter this bout with the Cats riding a four-game losing streak. Fortunately, Kentucky is, as we’ve pointed out time and time again, still Kentucky. Andrew Hall, who used to write for this site, is right once in a blue-moon and he nailed the Kentucky game last year when the Wildcats were “contenders” for the SEC East.
As I’ve already said, there are no guaranteed victories for Georgia in 2019. But numbers be damned, this is as close to a guaranteed victory as one can have in the SEC and the Dawgs will need this.
Prediction: Win. Record: 4-3.
Georgia vs. Florida – November 2
The most frustrating part about this game is that Kirby Smart is going to somehow find a way to lose to the only team in the Western Hemisphere suffering from worse talent attrition than Georgia. It just feels inevitable. Kirby has never defeated Florida three times in a row as a head coach and over the past two years this game has trended in the wrong direction for the Bulldogs. Georgia’s points scored in Jacksonville declined by more than 14.28% from 2017 to 2018 while Florida’s points scored increased by more than 142.85% over the same period. If that holds, Georgia is going to lose 41-31.
I’m not really a math guy. But I’m not not a math guy and at some point you have to pay attention to the numbers.
Prediction: Loss. Record: 4-4.
Georgia vs. Missouri – November 9
This game is downright terrifying. People forget: Missouri’s new quarterback has played for teams that went to the College Football Playoff in each of the past three seasons. He won a national championship in 2017. He’s also already played four seasons of college football. By these measures, he is literally the nation’s most experienced national champion at the quarterback position. It’s downright terrifying to have that guy teaming up with an offensive genius like Derek Dooley. I’m not kidding about Dooley either. He was a dumpster fire as a head coach, but the dude has done work with Mizzou’s offense. In his first year at Missouri:
- 13th nationally in yards per game.
- 18th in points per game.
- 8th nationally in fewest sacks allowed.
- 6th nationally in fewest negative plays.
- The only non-playoff team to throw for at least 275 yards per game and run for at least 200 yards per game.
This is gonna be bad.
Prediction: Loss. Record: 4-5.
Georgia at Auburn – November 16
Georgia teams – even ones as bad as this one – don’t really lose to Auburn. Dating back to 2006, Georgia is 11-3 against the Tigers. The common thread for those three Bulldog losses: Georgia scored fewer points than Auburn in each contest. But that has been a rarity. It’s hard to even call Auburn a “rival” at this point.
- Auburn has scored more than 17 points just twice in its last nine games against the Dawgs.
- On average, Georgia has outscored Auburn by nearly two touchdowns in the last 14 meetings.
- Georgia has outscored Auburn 421 to 255 over this time frame.
This is a win. As much as I hate Kirby, even I can’t get worried about this one.
Prediction: Win. Record: 5-5.
Georgia vs. Texas A&M – November 23
It’s hard to know what to make of this game. Georgia is riding a two-game winning streak against the Aggies, but those wins came in the Shreveport Bowl (where Georgia may be heading again this year) in 2009 and at home in 1980. For better or worse, neither Joe Cox nor Herschel Walker are walking through that door. So throw the record book out the window, folks.
What may be a bit more relevant here is Kirby Smart’s history against Jimbo Fisher. Alabama played Florida State in 2017, but Kirby wasn’t the Tide’s Defensive Coordinator at that juncture. In that game, the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide held No. 3 Florida State to just seven points. But Kirby didn’t do that. So really all we have to go on in the Kirby Smart vs. Jimbo Fisher debate is this: In 2013, Alabama lost to Auburn and Auburn lost to Florida State (coached by Jimbo Fisher) in the National Championship Game. So the edge here goes to A&M.
Prediction: Loss. Record: 5-6.
Georgia at Georgia Tech – November 30
Calling Georgia Tech “little brother” is an insult to little brothers at this juncture. If Georgia is “Big Brother” in this analogy, then Georgia Tech is a lice that is getting passed around little brother’s class. Eventually, it could make its way home and cause Big Brother some discomfort but that’s not going to keep anyone up at night.
I know Georgia Tech has a new coach, but Georgia fans should stop pretending to be worried about Geoff Collins. “But he won games at Temple!” you people say. Yeah, so did Bill Cosby. That doesn’t mean you need to be scared of the guy (unless you know…in the case of Cosby…).
Frankly, what Collins accomplished at Temple won’t translate to Tech. Why is that?
- He had more talent at Temple. Over the past two seasons, Collins had five Owls (Jacob Martin and Julian Taylor in 2018 and Rock Ya-Sin, Ryquell Armstead and Michael Dogbe) drafted. Georgia Tech hasn’t had any players drafted in the past two drafts.
- Collins played worse competition than Tech does. If you ranked the Top 10 conferences based on difficulty, you’d objectively have to say: 1. SEC, 2. Second-Tier of SEC, 3. ACC, 4. Big Ten 5. Big 12, 6. American Athletic (Where Temple Plays), 7. Pac-12, 8. Conference USA, 9. Notre Dame/BYU, 10. Sun Belt. Point being: Collins is now in the nation’s third-best conference, as opposed to the sixth-best.
So with infinitely more NFL talent than Georgia Tech and a weaker schedule, Collins posted a .600 winning percentage at Temple. Big deal. He also went winless against the SEC. That trend will hold.
Prediction: Win. Record: 6-6.
It’s not all gloom and doom for Georgia this year. There’s a legitimate path forward to a bowl game and that means a shot at a winning record. But bad things happen when you can’t retain talent on the coaching staff or the roster. That’s the price of Smart Football.
Y’all have fun this season though.
-The Kirby Smart Hater