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Georgia photo by Chamberlain Smith / Quarterback JT Daniels threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns during his Georgia debut Saturday night, leading the Bulldogs to a 31-24 home win over Mississippi State.

Imagine telling your neighborhood Georgia football fans this past Friday that their beloved Bulldogs would rush for only 8 yards Saturday night against Mississippi State and would defeat their fellow Bulldogs just 31-24.

And that they would be delighted.

Georgia supporters finally have a pass-happy showing to boast about this season after Southern California transfer quarterback JT Daniels completed 28 of 38 attempts for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his Southeastern Conference debut. It was the first 400-yard aerial attack for the Bulldogs since Aaron Murray racked up 415 yards in the 2013 "Prayer in Jordan-Hare" loss to Auburn.

"We were so much more explosive tonight," coach Kirby Smart said afterward. "We've got wideouts who can make plays, and we've got good pass protection, and when we do that, we can be explosive. I've seen it in practice, and tonight it was the difference in the game."

Oh, to relive the glory era of Halloween 2020, when Smart's Bulldogs threw for 131 yards in a 14-3 win at Kentucky.

Daniels is the third quarterback to start this season for Georgia, with D'Wan Mathis earning the nod for the opener at Arkansas before struggling and being replaced by Stetson Bennett IV in the second quarter. Bennett made the next five starts, including losses to Alabama and Florida in which the Bulldogs clearly didn't have the firepower to keep pace.

This year's Georgia quarterback story can't be written without mentioning the landing of Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman in January and his decision to opt out in early September. The only scholarship quarterback yet to compete for the Bulldogs is freshman Carson Beck.

"All four of us want the team to win before anything else," said Daniels, who has been guaranteed a second start by Smart this week when Georgia visits South Carolina.

Freshman receiver Jermaine Burton was the chief beneficiary of the Daniels coming-out party, amassing eight receptions for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Daniels admitted after the game that he was not medically cleared from last year's knee injury until after this season had started. He was still working with the scout team leading up to the Florida game on Nov. 7, but the postponement of the Nov. 14 trip to Missouri helped set Saturday's stage for Daniels, who quickly earned rave reviews.

"Would I have loved for him to have gone out there and done the same thing against other teams? Absolutely," Smart said, "but the decision we made was made on giving us the best opportunity to win, and a lot of that had to do with mobility and Stetson's play.

"When that struggled, we had to look for other options. JT did a great job with his opportunity."

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South Carolina is expected to have a new starting quarterback when Georgia visits, with touted freshman Luke Doty having replaced Colorado State transfer Collin Hill at halftime of Saturday night's 17-10 loss to visiting Missouri.

Gamecocks interim coach Mike Bobo made the move with the Tigers in command at 17-0.

"The moment is not too big for him, and that was obvious in this game," Bobo said. "He was calm. He was cool, and he was collected. There was a lot of backyard ball out there, but he looked like a calm and collected guy doing it."

Doty completed 14 of 23 second-half passes for 130 yards with an interception, and he also rushed 11 times for 59 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

"It was a lot of fun getting out there with my guys in a great environment," Doty said. "The message this week was to have fun, and that's what we did."

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Why bother recapping Alabama's 63-3 thrashing of Kentucky when there are so many Crimson Tide fun facts to consider? Here are five:

1. Alabama's 30 straight wins over SEC East teams break down as 11 over Tennessee, five over Georgia, four each over Florida and Missouri, three over Kentucky, two over Vanderbilt and one over South Carolina.

2. Since the start of the 2018 season, Alabama has compiled at least 500 yards of total offense in 74.3% of its games.

3. Alabama has won 37 consecutive contests when scoring a touchdown on its opening possession.

4. Since halftime of this season's game against Georgia, the Tide defense has allowed 1.43 points per quarter.

5. Will Reichard is 54-of-54 on kicks this season, having made all 46 extra points and all eight field-goal tries.

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The Arkansas-LSU game was close, with the Tigers winning 27-24 to even their record at 3-3 while dumping the Razorbacks to 3-5.

LSU's advantage in time of possession was not close, as the reigning national champion possessed the ball for 41 minutes and 43 seconds against an Arkansas defense that wasn't fully stocked due to coronavirus-related issues.

"That allowed us to keep our defense fresh," Tigers coach Ed Orgeron said. "They were 0-of-10 on third down, which is a phenomenal job, and we made big plays at the end. This was a big win for our football team."

Said Arkansas counterpart Sam Pittman: "LSU had the ball the whole time. They probably looked out there and saw some new faces on our D-line and felt like they could run on us, which they did."

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So, where is your favorite SEC team going bowling?

If Alabama keeps winning and receives the top seed in the College Football Playoff, the Tide would play in the Sugar Bowl national semifinal.

Should Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M win out in the regular season, the Gators likely would make a second straight Orange Bowl trip, while the Bulldogs would head to the Peach Bowl and the Aggies the Cotton Bowl. Remember that proximity has never been more important in this world of the coronavirus, and many bowl games will consist of two-day trips and not the nearly week-long stays.

Auburn appears destined for the Citrus Bowl, while Tennessee is a virtual lock to stay in state at either the Music City or Liberty bowls. Given that Kentucky won in Knoxville and has the slightly better record right now, the Wildcats would be the more logical fit for Nashville, which would leave the Volunteers headed to Memphis.

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Top-ranked Alabama opened Sunday anywhere from a 23.5-point to a 25-point favorite for this week's Iron Bowl against No. 22 Auburn.

This is the 13th consecutive year in which the Tide have been favored, with the Tigers having prevailed four times in the past 12 meetings.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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