The last two national champions from the SEC have written the script. Grow and nurture a veteran quarterback. Surround him with playmakers. Put them in a quick-strike offense designed to light up defenses and scoreboards. Make it rain points and confetti.
LSU did it with Joe Burrow and company in 2019. The Tigers broke offensive records while running the table, and Burrow won the Heisman Trophy. Alabama followed with Mac Jones and friends in 2020. The Tide broke records while winning every game, and wide receiver DeVonta Smith grabbed the Heisman.
"You look at teams that have won the national championship recently," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "They're most dynamic on offense and at the skill positions."
That sounds like Smart's team with JT Daniels at quarterback. The USC transfer took over as the Georgia starter for the final four games of 2020, and the Bulldogs went 4-0, capped by a stirring comeback in the Peach Bowl to beat Cincinnati. His play down the stretch raised expectations that this could be the year Georgia returns to the national championship game for the second time in five years and finishes the job.
Smart said Daniels compares favorably to Burrow and Jones.
"The two guys that were the last two years' national champions, they were really good quarterbacks," Smart said. "They were great decision-makers. They were actually better athletes that people give them credit for. The decision-making process, touchdown-to-interception ratio, protecting the ball, using your playmakers ... JT has those skill sets."
Daniels, who took some of his wide receivers on an off-season trip to his California home, said he's excited about Georgia's playmakers.
"I'd say my biggest strength is understanding my role of being the primary distributor, like, that is my job," Daniels said. "I'm OK with the ball in my hands, but James Cook is really good with the ball in his hands. George Pickens is really good with the ball in his hands. We have a lot of players that, when they have the ball in the right situation, do a lot of really good things."
Daniels is expected to distribute the ball early and often to LSU transfer Arik Gilbert, the 6-foot-5, 248-pounder who played tight end with the Tigers but has been working as a wideout with the Bulldogs. Daniels said Gilbert has worked overtime to learn the Georgia offensive system.
"He does a lot of the things that really impress you regardless of his talent level," Daniels said, "and then you add that to the level of talent he brings, and he's a special player."
And what about those outsized outside expectations?
"It's cool when they say you're good," Daniels said. "It's cool when they say you suck. It really doesn't matter either way. You go out and play football."