GEORGIA'S THREE KEYS
1. Keep backs healthy
New starting quarterback Carson Beck has the comfort of a stout offensive line, the nation's best tight end in Brock Bowers, and what should be an improved receiving corps with Southeastern Conference transfers Dominic Lovett (Missouri) and Rara Thomas (Mississippi State) joining the reliable Ladd McConkey at Georgia.
The Bulldogs haven't produced a 1,000-yard rusher since D'Andre Swift in 2019, but that has hardly seemed to hinder the back-to-back national champions. Georgia expects to spread the wealth at running back again this season but lost Branson Robinson this past week to a ruptured patellar tendon.
Robinson shined as a freshman last season, and Georgia's top two veterans, Daijun Edwards (MCL) and Kendall Milton (hamstring), have been limited throughout camp. Another Bulldogs running back, redshirt freshman Andrew Paul, is coming off an ACL injury.
"It's put us in a tough spot," coach Kirby Smart said. "Kendall is taking some reps, but he's not 100%. I hate it for Branson, because he had worked really hard. Daijun has got to be a guy who is consistent, stays healthy, durable and be kind of the -- he and Kendall both have to be the leaders of that group in terms of the way they work and catch the ball out of the backfield.
"I don't know that we have a superstar in the room. We've got a group that by committee does a tremendous job, and they work really hard, and they put the team first. All those guys play on special teams, and they've been a huge help for our special teams unit."
2. Immovable objects
Georgia has been a factory on the defensive front the past two seasons, with Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt getting selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft, and with 2023 top-10 pick Jalen Carter having the potential to be the league's defensive rookie of the year.
Nazir Stackhouse, Mykel Williams, Tramel Walthour and Warren Brinson played in all 15 games last season, while Zion Logue and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins played in 14, so the Bulldogs do not lack for big bodies with experience. The question is whether the impressive run of elite defensive linemen will continue.
"We've got some really hard workers in there, but I don't know that we have any dominant, disruptive, super hard-to-block guys," Smart said. "I think we have to create that through our athleticism on the perimeter and our athleticism at 'backer, but we have some guys who believe in the core values of our defensive program, which are to strike blockers and knock the hell out of them."
3. Just stay perfect
Remember last season when Tennessee traveled to Georgia as the No. 1 team in the College Football Playoff rankings?
The Bulldogs took down the Volunteers in convincing fashion, 27-13, but there was discussion leading up to that matchup as to whether Georgia could make the playoff with a loss. That same conversation could occur again this year due to Georgia's nonconference schedule that contains UT Martin, Ball State, UAB and Georgia Tech.
Georgia was supposed to host Oklahoma next month, but the SEC asked both schools to cancel that game with the Sooners entering the league next year.
"All we can do is go out and try to schedule the best we can, and when we scheduled the game with Oklahoma, we were trying to do that," Smart said. "We were trying to create this identity that we wanted to play our conference schedule, we wanted to play Georgia Tech, and we wanted to play others. We lost out on that because of a realignment, and that just is what it is.
"I certainly won't concern myself with the thoughts of College Football Playoff committee, because I don't have any control over it."
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].
GEORGIA 2023 SCHEDULE
All times Eastern and p.m.; SEC games in bold
Sept. 2 — vs. UT Martin, 6
Sept. 9 — vs. Ball State, noon
Sept. 16 — vs. South Carolina, 3:30
Sept. 23 — UAB, TBA
Sept. 30 — at Auburn, TBA
Oct. 7 — vs. Kentucky, TBA
Oct. 14 — at Vanderbilt, TBA
Oct. 28 — at Florida, 3:30
Nov. 4 — vs. Missouri, TBA
Nov. 11 — vs. Ole Miss, TBA
Nov. 18 — at Tennessee, TBA
Nov. 25 — at Georgia Tech, TBA