3 pressing issues for Georgia football to address before Auburn game

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ATHENS — Georgia football has a long way to go if it’s going to win another SEC Championship, and Kirby Smart isn’t wasting words identifying the problem.

“We have to play better offensively, that was the biggest thing,”Smart said after last Saturday’s 37-10 win at Arkansas.

RELATED: Georgia football report card for Arkansas

“We have to find guys that can fight for extra yards, and knock people off the ball to help us.”

The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs play host to No. 7 Auburn at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN).

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As Smart alluded to, outside of the obvious clean up of penalties, Georgia has to find some consistency and authority with its ground game.

It seems Smart’s self-appointed “RBU” is in danger of becoming “RB-Who?”

It’s one of three issues for the Bulldogs this week, and arguably the most concerning.

1. Restore the run

The Georgia run game struggled against an Arkansas team that ranked last in the SEC and 122nd in the NCAA against the run, allowing 221.5 yards per game last season.

It wasn’t just the 2.9 yards per carry or 121 total yards rushing, so much as it was how and when the Bulldogs were stopped.

Zamir White was stopped on a third-and-2 and fourth-and-1 in the first half in the Red Zone with UGA trailing 7-2. White broke a 20-yard run later, but Georgia needs the tough yards from him.

James Cook shows quickness but runs like a scat back, failing to break tackles and shy to initiate contact. Cook also had a critical fumble.

Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards could get opportunities to compete, though RB coach Dell McGee has historically deferred to older players.

2. Settle offensive identity

It became clear against Arkansas that the 2020 version of Georgia is better in throw-first mode, as Stetson Bennett made it hum to the tune of 20-of-29 passing for 11 yards in relief.

RELATED: Georgia stock report, Bennett sets gold standard for subs

Bennett also showed surprising mobility with a pair of first-down scrambles and an exciting 2-point conversion run.

Smart indicated when USC transfer JT Daniels get cleared he’ll factor into the QB competition, but Bennett should remain in the conversation.

“The No. 1 thing is experience; experience at that position is a premium,” Smart said. “I think you see that more and more across the SEC as you look at the quarterbacks that are and the quarterbacks that aren’t here.”

Daniels and Bennett have the experience to execute Todd Monken’s multi-faceted Pro Style offense, and that will likely be the direction regardless of Daniels’ health status.

Clean it up

Was it nerves? Was it coaching? Or was it simply a lack of experience?

Whatever “it” was. Georgia can ill-afford another error-prone half like it saw at Arkansas.

The Bulldogs were tagged for 11 penalties for 98 yards in the first half, and an astounding 8 penalties for 73 yards in the opening quarter.

“I thought we were very stagnant with undisciplined penalties, and every time we had something going, we’d shoot ourselves in the foot,” Smart said.

“It was either a 15-yard penalty, 10-yard penalty or turnover. And you can’t win football games doing those things.”

The lack of experience is obvious, with just three offensive players having 7 or more career starts.

The Bulldogs’ front-loaded schedule doesn’t allow for a margin for error, as Tennessee (Oct 10, home), Alabama (Oct 17, away),  Kentucky (Oct. 24, away) and Florida Nov. (Nov. 7, away) are on deck.

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