For Georgia coach Kirby Smart and the top-ranked Bulldogs, it comes down to one question: JT Daniels or Stetson Bennett?
“No decision has been made, whatsoever,” Smart said Monday when asked who would start at quarterback when Georgia faces rival Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville.
“I’m OK with whoever the best guy to give us the best chance to win is. That’s based on practice and health. It’ll continue to be that way the rest of the year. The question of, ‘Are you OK rotating them?’ is not relevant if they’re both not completely healthy. I just go off if they’re healthy and who gives us the best chance to win based on what we think we need to do offensively against their defense.”
Smart has been having to answer that question since the second game of the season. With Daniels nursing a strained oblique, Bennett started against UAB and led the Bulldogs to a 56-7 victory. Daniels returned to action for the following two games but hasn’t played since.
If Georgia (7-0, 5-0 SEC) can beat Florida (4-3, 2-3), the Bulldogs would be all-but guaranteed to sit atop the initial College Football Playoff rankings, which will be released next week.
But here’s something neither Daniels nor Bennett has done: beat Florida.
The Gators overcame a 14-0 deficit against the Bulldogs en route to a 44-28 win in last year’s meeting. That result ultimately led Florida to a spot in the SEC title game, ending Georgia’s run of three straight division titles.
In that contest, Bennett split time with now-departed D’Wan Mathis at quarterback.
As for who will man the position this week, Smart said, “It’s going to be based on practice. I think it all depends on where JT is and where Stetson is, and who gives us the best chance to win. Stetson has done a good job since he’s been playing, and JT has done a good job when he’s played.”
Daniels, who was sidelined against Florida last year while recovering from a knee injury, is 7-0 as a Bulldogs starter dating to last season. This year, he has completed 76.1 percent of his passes (54 of 71) for 567 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Bennett has started the past three games and has played in the past six. He is 57 of 82 for 996 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has 19 carries for 148 yards.
Against Florida last year, Bennett threw for just 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 5-for-16 passing. After initially injuring his shoulder in the first quarter, he was pulled in the third quarter in favor of Mathis.
“They have two quarterbacks that you know manage the game very, very well,” said Florida coach Dan Mullen, who hasn’t made it public whether Emory Jones or Anthony Richardson would start at quarterback for the Gators on Saturday. “They get them into the right read, to run checks, make plays and then are able to distribute the ball down the field to playmakers really well.”
Zamir White (83 carries, 400 yards, 7 TDs) and James Cook (47 carries, 296 yards 2 TDs) will power the Georgia ground game, regardless of who is under center. True freshman tight end Brock Bowers, who leads the team in receptions (25), yards (416) and receiving touchdowns (6), and redshirt freshman receiver Ladd McConkey, who has 17 catches for 295 yards and two scores, have emerged as the team’s top receivers.
“This game is not about rankings,” said Smart, whose side is favored by two touchdowns. “It’s never been about rankings. It’s a rivalry game.”
–Field Level Media