Before Georgia # 2 soccer team hit the field through machine-generated smoke on Saturday night, front runner Alabama was 10 seconds away from avoiding a major surprise.

When The Who’s smashed “Baba O’Riley” before the opening game against South Carolina at Sanford Stadium, the Crimson Tide had held a 31:29 win in Florida.

More than 70 miles away, No. 6 Clemson had just been waiting for a lightning delay, but it couldn’t blame the weather for its lackluster 14-8 win over Georgia Tech. You may recall the Yellow Jackets losing to northern Illinois at home two weeks earlier.

“It’s strange to me, it’s been a strange year,” said Bulldogs manager Kirby Smart after driving to a 40-13 home win at Sanford Stadium to improve to 3-0. “Not necessarily the Clemson score or Alabama, because playing in Florida is a difficult place. It’s just different, it feels different because there are so many teams that I know are talented. And I’m not talking about these teams but they lose to someone and it’s like, man, they have nothing to lose. Or excitement seems to be more common. “

More: Five takeaways from Georgia’s No. 2 soccer victory over South Carolina

Yes, Georgia has won its last two games with a combined score of 99-17, but does the Bulldogs’ season opening win over Clemson in Charlotte lose some of its luster?

With all said and done this year, could three other regular-season opponents in October – Florida in Jacksonville, Auburn on the Plains, and Arkansas at Sanford Stadium – look more or as impressive as Clemson?

The Razorbacks are undefeated, ranking after defeating Texas last week. The Tigers went to Happy Valley and lost 28-20 to No. 10 Penn State.

On the flip side, with perhaps the best defense in the nation and an increasingly explosive passing offensive, could Georgia be favored again with JT Daniel’s touchdowns against Alabama in an SEC championship game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

More: Ready to read more about UGA athletics? Subscribe to our ‘Bulldogs Extra’ newsletter

Georgia’s game against the Gamecocks was well under control before the lightshow between the third and fourth quarters on Saturday. Georgia couldn’t quite cover the 31½ point margin, but a team with better talent could get the Bulldogs to challenge a win more than South Carolina.

“We have to get better,” said Smart afterwards.

He’s not just talking about winning the SEC East, he’s winning the SEC and making the playoffs and going where Alabama and LSU have gone in the last two years – to get the national championship trophy.

He said he told the team, “You played well tonight, but let’s be honest. We’re on that trajectory, trying to climb this thing, and on this flight we’re trying to take off, we’re on the wheels and we’re getting there, but we’re not at the highest altitude yet. “

Some things that could cause the Bulldogs to decline:

The running game

Georgia joined the SEC on Saturday the 11th in yards per carry at 4:12 am. The Bulldogs raised that to 5.9 against the Gamecocks but still finished 307 yards to 184 yards against a team the Bulldogs stacked 332 yards last season.

“At the moment we are simply better at timing, throwing the ball and the distance in the routes,” said Smart. “I actually thought we’d better let the ball run tonight. It didn’t seem like a struggle to wage it as much as it did against UAB. I thought our back was missing some people. “

Kendall Milton stormed for 66 yards on 10 carries, Zamir White had 51 on eight with a 5 yard touchdown and James Cook rushed for 51 on four with a 23 yard touchdown down the middle

“I’m not on the run tonight,” said Smart. “I thought we improved there.”

But he said his offensive line was better at pass protection. Still, “If we want to be an elite team, you have to be pretty good at both. There are a few teams that you never had to lead at LSU two years ago. You threw a lot. “

The LSU finished 60th in the nation with 166.8 rushing yards per game. Georgia averages 156.6 yards per game over three games, but its 272.2 yards per game is well below the 401.6 yards of Joe Burrow and the Tigers’ offensive.

Abandoned big pass games

Georgia abandoned four passing games of 31 yards or more against South Carolina.

Cornerback Ameer Speed ​​was beaten by Josh Vann for a 61-yard win and a 36-yard touchdown. Vann won a jump ball with Derion Kendrick for 31 yards. Kamari Lassiter was also in coverage of a major completion. Lewis Cine gave Vann a 43 yard finish (3 catches for 128 yards), but he was deemed incomplete.

“If you want to be a good defense, you can play better hand-to-hand,” said Smart. “It’s one of the # 1 qualities. We had a couple of shots tonight that the boys shot over us. We have to improve and grow and develop some younger players. “

Too many sales on the offensive

JT Daniels and Stetson Bennett each threw an interception and Kendall Milton lost a fumble.

“We won’t be a successful team if we turn the ball three times,” said Smart. “I don’t care if we get three. We can’t throw two interceptions and fumble one and beat good football teams. “

Cine, the Junior Safety, summed it up like this: “We made a lot of mistakes. Yes, we were not exposed by the mistakes we made. But we’re not as good as you might think. We have many things to fix. I’m pretty sure the teams will expose us down the line if we don’t fix it. “

It probably won’t be in Vanderbilt next week, where the Commodores have lost eight straight, but Smart will continue to urge his team to avoid a dangerous life like other naming programs this season.

“We’re not immune to that,” said Smart.