Players often like to say they do not care for individual awards, but most will pay attention to who wins what. Georgia’s offensive line felt wronged by not winning the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s best offensive line unit.
This year, that award was given to the Michigan Wolverines, which gave Georgia’s offensive line a chance to shine on a national stage against them. The Bulldogs dominated the matchup and did not allow a sack in the game, even while facing two elite pass rushers in Aiden Hutchinson and David Ojabo.
“First things first, we can’t do anything on either side of the ball if we don’t win up front,” said quarterback Stetson Bennett on Monday. “That’s the start of football, always has been and always will be. And we knew that they had those two guys on the edge and we knew they were going to be coming for my head. And Jamaree [Salyer] and Warren [McClendon] and all the guys inside, they kind of felt slighted a bit by the Joe Moore Award going to Michigan.”
“And they knew what everybody was writing and what everybody was saying, that those two guys would ruin the game for us. And they took it as a personal challenge, and they were focused and locked in the whole week, and they played their butts off.”
Per Pro Football Focus, nobody has held those two in check as well as left tackle Jamaree Salyer and right tackle Warren McClendon.
Now Georgia’s offensive line should face an even taller task, going up against the Alabama Crimson Tide defensive front, which found some success against Georgia’s offensive line a few weeks ago.
The biggest challenge will be taking away Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr.’s contributions. Anderson leads the country in both sacks and tackles for loss, truly impacting the game in many ways. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart had high praise for Anderson on Monday.
“If you had a quarterback on defense, I think it would be at the linebacker position because they make so many calls,” said Smart. “And Will, certainly, does that. He’s an exceptional rusher, twitchy, plays so hard, high motor, physical toughness.”
The Bulldogs’ front seems to understand how good they are, however. Through 14 games, Georgia has allowed the fewest number of sacks amongst power five schools, only letting the quarterback go down 11 times.
If Salyer, McClendon and co. can give Stetson Bennett time in the pocket, Georgia has to feel good about its chances. Of course Bennett’s two interceptions against Alabama were costly, but they were not the result of poor offensive line play.
“I thought I played alright in the SEC Championship game,” said Bennett. “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 much of SEC football is built on physicality, and if Georgia wants to be National Champions its offensive line will need to do what has gotten them to this point.
For Smart’s full Monday press conference: