Georgia's Carson Beck doesn't possess a dazzling 53-yard run this season or an electrifying fourth-and-31 touchdown pass to subdue a state rival.
What Beck does have are the reins to the nation's top-ranked college football team heading into Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game (4 p.m. on CBS).
Alabama redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe is collecting a chunk of the headlines this week following his heroics last weekend in the Iron Bowl, but Beck is hardly that "other quarterback" after guiding the Bulldogs to their third straight 12-0 regular season. Beck spent the past two years watching predecessor Stetson Bennett IV lead the program to consecutive national championships, and it's now his turn in the biggest spotlight of his career as the Bulldogs face No. 8 Alabama (11-1) inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Bulldogs have won an SEC-record 29 consecutive games, but a loss to the Crimson Tide could shatter their dreams of a third national crown.
"When I made my decision to come here, I knew that at some point when I did have my opportunity that we were going to have the chance to play in big-time games like this on a big-time stage," Beck said earlier this week. "Obviously I'm super excited and stoked for the opportunity and the challenge that awaits us."
Beck has handled every opportunity and challenge to this point, completing 268 of 370 passes (72.4%) for 3,495 yards with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. His accuracy rate is on pace to set a single-season program record, and his efficiency rating of 168.16 ranks eighth nationally.
"I think he does a really, really good job of executing their offense," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "He doesn't make very many bad reads. He throws the ball in the right place. He's very accurate with the ball. He throws it on time. He understands their offense very, very well.
"He executes the play that's called and distributes the call correctly — almost flawlessly."
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was a four-star prospect in the 2020 signing cycle out of Mandarin High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Beck committed to Saban and the Tide during the summer of 2018 but opened up his recruitment in February 2019 and committed to Kirby Smart's Bulldogs a month later.
Beck was the nation's No. 9 pro-style quarterback in the 2020 class, which was headed by Clemson signee DJ Uiagalelei, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Tennessee's Harrison Bailey.
"That was a long time ago, but obviously Coach Saban is a great coach and one of the greatest of all time," Beck said. "It's a very similar program to Georgia and the things that we believe in, the ideals. Obviously Coach Saban is a great coach, and I have tons of respect for him."
Alabama has done its own share of flipping quarterbacks recently, with Bryce Young having once been committed to Southern California and Milroe once to Texas.
Beck's transition to starter didn't always go smoothly, which was evident in a 14-3 halftime deficit against South Carolina and in a 20-20 tie with Auburn with three minutes remaining. Yet those experiences resulted in the Beck who helped torch Kentucky 51-13 in early October and Ole Miss 52-17 in mid-November.
"It was definitely a work in progress as the season kind of started," Beck said. "I would say that South Carolina game, after that second half kind of where we started to pick up steam, was when I started to become a little bit more comfortable within the offense and with the players around me. I think our confidence kind of shot up from there."
Said Smart: "When you talk about Carson and his growth, I think the Auburn experience was big for him. He's grown up and gotten better, and I'm excited to see where he can go."
Beck and Milroe were named Thursday among the 10 finalists for the Manning Award.
Up in the air
Georgia's 31-23 win at Georgia Tech last Saturday night transpired without the offensive quartet of tight end Brock Bowers, guard Tate Ratledge, and receivers Ladd McConkey and Rara Thomas.
Smart was asked during a Thursday afternoon Zoom call to update their status.
"I'm trying to figure that out myself," Smart said. "I don't have a lot more answers now than I had on Monday. They have not been able to do a lot, and each one has kind of worked independently. Tate has done some drill work and some 11-on-11 stuff. Brock sprinkled in some of that.
"The other guys have been able to run and do some things, but we're going to find out their ability later today, to be honest. It bothers me that people said we sat these guys in the last game. That was not the case at all. They couldn't go, and I don't know if they'll be able to go in this game."
Saban did not have much of an update on running back Jase McClellan, saying he was "questionable at this point" and that it was "too early to tell."
Not relevant now
Georgia secondary coach Fran Brown will be introduced Monday morning as the new head coach at Syracuse.
Will he stay with the Bulldogs should they qualify for the College Football Playoff?
"We've been focused on Alabama, and that's all we're really thinking about," Smart said. "I don't have to decide that now, and I don't even look to. I don't even know why it's newsworthy.
"What's newsworthy is that he got a hell of an opportunity, and he's done a tremendous job for us."
Odds and ends
The SEC announced Thursday afternoon that its championship game will remain in Atlanta through at least 2031. ... The league's 2024 schedule will be revealed Dec. 13.
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].