Georgia spent much of December defending Stetson Bennett’s status as its starting quarterback. Then he powered through the Orange Bowl against Michigan, completing two-thirds of his passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns.
But there was an uglier outing in December — and it was against Alabama. In that game, Bennett went 29 for 48. He threw three touchdowns, but also two interceptions.
Monday could offer another dose of redemption and maybe a bit of revenge, too. (Bennett was also the quarterback when Georgia lost at Alabama in 2020. He completed less than half of his passes that night in Tuscaloosa.)
“I thought I played all right in the SEC championship game,” Bennett said last week. “I made a few mistakes that you can’t do against a good team. But I also made some really good throws, good decisions. So my main focus going into the Michigan game was cleaning up on the mistakes and keep doing what I had been doing well.”
And to plenty of observers inside college football, if not always everyone on Twitter, Bennett does plenty of things well.
“I don’t think people realize how athletic Stetson Bennett is at quarterback,” said Shane Beamer, South Carolina’s coach, who recalled how Bennett was the scout team quarterback when he was an assistant at Georgia under Kirby Smart.
“I can remember Kirby coming into the staff meeting every day about this freshman Stetson Bennett and how they can’t stop him,” Beamer said.
Across three seasons on the field at Georgia, Bennett has logged 4,077 passing yards, including more than 2,600 this season, when he started 11 games.
Alabama has signaled it is not particularly worried about how often Bennett has seen its defense in recent years.
“I think you’re trying to make him make the decision of what coverage it is, what front is it, what pressure is it once he’s got the ball in his hand,” said Pete Golding, the Alabama defensive coordinator. “I think the key is, in a pre-snap read, he thinks he’s getting this look and then the ball turns over now and it’s a different coverage or it’s a different pressure, it’s a different front. And now he’s got to think.”
Not that Alabama is overlooking him.
“He really takes over on the offensive side,” said Will Anderson Jr., a Crimson Tide linebacker who was named this season’s best defensive player. “His ability to move out of the pocket, I think that’s one of his biggest and strongest abilities he has. He can extend plays with his arms as well. But we just have to contain him. I think that’s the biggest part of his game is his legs and him running all around the field. We just have to contain him in the pocket and make sure he’s not running all over the field on us and stuff like that.”