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Georgia 43, Tennessee 14: Why hold two beheadings when one will do?

NCAA Football: Georgia at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Smart’s team managed to beat a freshman quarterback, a busted clock, multiple busted coverages, and unbelievably terrible officiating to defeat the Tennessee Volunteers in a game that was simultaneously closer and not as close as the scoreboard would have you believe.

Georgia held a decided advantage in total yardage (529 to 343), time of possession (35:48 to 23:32), and turnovers (2-0). The Bulldogs might have fiddled around a little early on, but led by the half and scored the final 33 points of the game.

If you were an AP Poll voter who just looked at the scores you’d probably continue to vote the ‘Dawgs a top three team, because a 29 point beating of a conference rival on the road is what you expect top three teams to do. Was it messy? Absolutely. The Bulldog secondary continues to look a little vulnerable and the thought of facing Alabama or LSU in the SEC title game makes me frankly nauseous. The tackling looked the way tackling tends to look following a bye week spent trying hard to get healthy, which is to say hit-and-miss.

And James Coley continues to call plays like a man who thinks unseasoned oatmeal is just a little too fancy. And his insistence on getting the ball to Tyler Simmons on jet sweeps is looking more and more like “throwing a guy a bone” in exchange for his blocking. It can’t be because that play’s working so well during game action.

But when you can average 9.9 yards per pass and 5.8 yards per run there’s not a whole lot of reason to get exotic. When the ‘Dawgs needed yards and points in this one they by and large got them. My worry? Is there a fifth gear this offense can jam it into when they eventually need it? I’m beginning to doubt it. But that may be a problem for another night.

For now, Jake Fromm’s night was particularly impressive. The future Costa Del Mar spokesman was 24 of 29 passing for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns. He still hasn’t thrown an interception on the season.

Brian Herrien has a special night, hitting for a team-leading, career high 88 yards rushing on 11 carries. D’Andre Swift chipped in 72 and Zamir White 57 in some of his most extensive work of the year.

The turning point in this one is hard to pinpoint. Maybe it was when Georgia took over after a missed Volunteer field goal attempt with a minute left in the first half and marched down the field for six points headed into halftime.

More likely it was when the guys from Rocky Top ran 10 plays for a total of 16 yards in the third quarter. At that point it became clear that the Volunteer offense was not going to be able to score consistently enough to stay in this one. They got Marquez Callaway loose on one blown coverage. That was it. That was the Fightin’ Pruitts’ one freebie. Other than that, this one was effectively a walkover.

One of the joys of following a team like this Georgia squad is the ability to go into any given football Saturday expecting to see utter annihilation. In reality it rarely happens. More often, you play fair to middling football and then come to the realization that this team’s fair to middling is three touchdowns better than necessary to put Tennessee away on the road.

In some ways this is the best kind of win for a proto-Saban type operation such as ours. Georgia won, it wasn’t particularly close, and yet there was still plenty Kirby can use to crawl backsides and swear about on Monday. This season is about progressively sharpening the axe Coach Smart has crafted every week until it’s time to behead somebody with it. That plan proceeded apace tonight. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!