In a different timeline, Saturday was a huge day for the Georgia Bulldogs.
The 2-time defending champs were on the road in Norman, Okla., playing against a top-20 team in a game that could absolutely have Playoff implications for both parties.
Instead, the opponent was Ball State. The game was at noon. The crowd was quiet, and the Bulldogs were slow to get into a groove.
And yet, they won in dominating fashion, 45-3, the offense looked a tad better and the defense continued to exert its will against (much) lesser opponents.
The truth is, we don’t really know what Georgia is. Sure, it is the No. 1 team in the land, but what does that mean right now? The Bulldogs are still the favorites to take down another championship, but nothing has been absolutely convincing through 2 weeks. They have made progress, but they have shown weaknesses.
This writer will hold off judgment until approximately 7 p.m. next Saturday once the final horn has sounded against SEC rival South Carolina.
But first, let’s review the win against Ball State.
Player of the Week: WR/RET Mekhi Mews
OK, so this is 2 weeks in a row for Mews. And maybe I’m putting too much stock into his performance simply because of how fun it is to watch. After all, quarterback Carson Beck did look like a polished No. 1 in his 2nd start, and Tykee Smith had one of his best stat lines as a Bulldog.
But Mews is FUN.
The sophomore had 3 catches for 27 yards, but it was once again his ability in the return game: a 47-yard kickoff return to open the contest, 3 punt returns for 111 yards and a 69-yard touchdown. He nearly broke free for a 2nd scoring return.
He’s showing what an asset he can be for field position. Now, as the Bulldogs’ running game struggles to get into gear, maybe he could serve as more of a weapon on offense.
Freshman of the Week: RB Roderick Robinson II
His numbers weren’t eye-popping, but it was another okay showing for the freshman in support of the injured Daijun Edwards and starter Kendall Milton.
Robinson led the team with 38 yards on 6 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run. The running game is very much not where it needs to be, but it is nice to know that — assuming Edwards gets healthy — Robinson will be solid depth down the stretch.
Biggest surprise: A clunker from TE Brock Bowers
Somebody do some quick field work for me: Was this Bowers’ worst showing as a Georgia tight end?
The most reliable player in the locker room and one of the nation’s top players overall — a Heisman Trophy candidate, for God’s sake — was absent in this game. The only time you heard his name was for failing to haul in a catchable pass in the end zone and dropping a short pass in stride that could have netted decent yardage for Georgia.
It’s Bowers. He’s fine. There are no concerns. But that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging a particularly off game for one of the best to ever do it.
Biggest concern: The running game
There are reasons to not be concerned. Georgia faced a stacked box regularly in both of the first 2 games. Edwards, it is hoped, will be back in the mix at some point soon. Robinson has proven to be a capable back.
But 3.5 yards per carry? Seven carries for 18 yards for your top back? Fewer than 100 rushing yards against Ball State? It’s not a good look.
The Bulldogs have struggled to find their footing in the ground game, there’s no question there. It may be time to consider alternatives like Dillon Bell (more on him later) or some quick passes outside the hash to loosen things up inside.
Developing trend: Missed pass interference calls?
Am I crazy, or was that another blatant pass interference call missed?
Beck tossed a solid pass to Bell downfield on the outside, but it was knocked up in the air and intercepted by Ball State. From where I sat, it looked like the defender was draped over Bell for the requisite amount of time to toss a flag, but officials ruled it a clean play.
By my count, Georgia has had 3 potential big plays in the past 2 weeks that have been interrupted by what appeared to be pretty clear pass interference. Receivers may just have to start fighting through the contact.
Key stat: 21-yard touchdown run for Bell
With all the question marks surrounding Georgia’s running back position, it turned to Bell for a 21-yard touchdown run Saturday. And this wasn’t the typical way a wide receiver might score on a sweep or a short shovel pass. Bell lined up in the halfback position, took a handoff from Beck and showed impressive wheels to shake a couple defenders and score.
Coaches had worked him out back there before the season. Perhaps it’s time to see more.
First impression about Week 3: The first real test … maybe
We’ll finally get a chance to really gauge Georgia’s position in its pursuit of a 3-peat. Against South Carolina, the Bulldogs will get the full conference rivalry atmosphere, a team with top-30 talent, an experienced quarterback and a motivated head coach. The scales of talent lean heavily toward Georgia, but it will be important to finally get a sense of how this team stacks up.