No. 3 Georgia’s is on a journey with the goal of becoming the first repeat national champions in the College Football Playoff era, and that quest begins in a familiar place against a few familiar faces. Georgia will take on No. 11 Oregon and former Auburn starting quarterback Bo Nix as 17-point favorites Saturday inside Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium — which, of course, is the annual site of the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, ex-Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning — one of the architects of last season’s defense in Athens — will be taking on his mentor, Kirby Smart, in Lanning’s first game as a head coach.
Bulldogs senior quarterback Stetson Bennett IV went from walk-on to hero when he led the Dawgs to a national championship, earning him first-team snaps in an offseason for the first time since high school. Can Bennett pick up where he left off at the end of last season?
Let’s preview the matchup and make picks for the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between the Bulldogs and Ducks.
Georgia vs. Oregon: Need to know
The Bulldogs are still loaded on defense: The 2022 NFL Draft contained a distinct red and black tint, with five members of the 2021 defense going in the first round and 15 players overall moving on to the next level. Don’t let those numbers fool you, though. Georgia is still loaded on that side of the ball.
Defensive tackle Jalen Carter will be the centerpiece of the new-look defensive line and veteran linebacker Nolan Smith is back. Anchoring the second level is senior Robert Beal at SAM, and the secondary is still solid with corner Kelee Ringo and safety Christopher Smith. Is it going to be as good as last year’s defense? Probably not — asking for that is unrealistic — but the fact that some key cogs are back along with highly touted prospects to fill in the gaps should make this a top-10 defense yet again.
Will Nix turn things around?: The senior quarterback for the Ducks knows Georgia from his time at Auburn, but he wasn’t exactly a difference-maker. Nix went 75 of 133 passing (56.4%) for 694 yards (231.3 YPG) with one touchdown and two interception in three games against the Bulldogs. Is that going to change now that he’s playing in the Pacific Northwest? Maybe. He has some decent receivers and tight ends to work with and familiarity with offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham from their time together with the Tigers. Nix has been had plenty of highs and lows throughout his career, but there doesn’t seem to be much in-between. He’s going to have to be at his best on Saturday afternoon.
How will Bennett handle a unique offense?: There’s a narrative out there that the senior quarterback for the Bulldogs is still a game manager despite a stellar fourth quarter in January that led to the national title win over Alabama. He lost several key wide receivers, including Jermaine Burton and George Pickens, but Georgia has one of the deepest and most talented tight end rooms in college football history. Will Brock Bowers and Co. help their quarterback out and open up one-on-one matchups deep downfield? That’s the idea for offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and it’ll be fascinating to see Bennett operate it in action.
How to watch Georgia vs. Oregon live
Date: Saturday, September 3 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium — Atlanta
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Georgia vs. Oregon prediction, picks
Featured Game | Georgia Bulldogs vs. Oregon Ducks
The hangover from last year’s title in Indianapolis is long gone. Georgia will show that it isn’t going to be complacent and dominate Oregon in what should be a de facto home game. Lanning knows how to attack Georgia’s offensive personnel, but stopping it is going to be a much bigger problem. Look for Georgia to come out on a mission early, wear Oregon down and lean on the Ducks in the fourth quarter to pull away and cover. Prediction: Georgia (-17)
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