Historic triumph now in sight for Georgia as returning stars focus on dodging the right to enter in 2023

Historic triumph now in sight for Georgia as returning stars focus on dodging the right to enter in 2023

Historic triumph now in sight for Georgia as returning stars focus on dodging the right to enter in 2023

LOS ANGELES — Confetti hadn’t finished falling inside SoFi Stadium at the College Football Playoff National Championship before the crucial question began to emerge: Now that Georgia has won consecutive national championshipsand doing it with a team that has beaten their opponents by a bigger margin than anyone else in the country, can the Bulldogs do it again in 2023?

If imagining the quest for a hat-trick seems immature at this early hour of the offseason, then consider what accomplishing that feat would mean and the apparent likelihood that Georgia would have a good chance of doing something that didn’t. been done since Minnesota ran away three straight titles from 1934-1936.

“Dang,” remarked Georgia sophomore linebacker Smael Mondon, the team’s top tackler since Monday night’s win, after being briefed on the historic mark. “It’s a great opportunity, but we’re going to take these two weeks, rest, straighten our body and go back and attack it.”

In two weeks, Georgia will begin winter training for 2023, when Mondon says the team will “flip the switch” from season to season. But then, with a full second half for Georgia to celebrate their hard work rewarded with a comfortable win in the title game, he and his lower classmates were able to seize the opportunity to be “legendary”.

“We were already talking about it on the sidelines,” he said. “We know what we have the chance to do, so it’s up to us to do it.”

Mondon is far from the only sophomore to play a key role in Monday night’s 65-7 win over TCU. Javon Bullard had two interceptions and was named defensive MVP of the game, linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson was the team’s second tackle, and cornerback Kamari Lassiter was tied for third in tackles while adding a tackle for the loss. Brock Bowers led the team in reception with seven catches for 152 yards and a touchdown while Adonai Mitchell added another touchdown on his triumphant return from an injury he battled in the latter stages of the season. Georgia.

All of those players are expected to be back for the 2023 campaign, along with the many freshmen who had become starters and key contributors by the end of the year. There is also the expected emergence of highly rated prospects who have been in the process of developing their journey, which has been crucial to the success of the 2022 team.

Development will be key at quarterback, where three players will compete to replace one of the greatest quarterbacks in Georgia history at Stetson Bennett. Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton will face off for QB1 duties, but Kirby Smart has a ton of faith in offensive coordinator Todd Monken and his work developing the room. After all, it was Monken’s work with Bennett that turned a former extra into a Heisman Trophy finalist.

“Coach Monken does an amazing job in this piece,” Smart said. “And he’s done an amazing job with Stetson. And the fact that he’s playing in an NFL offense with an NFL coordinator who’s coached NFL quarterbacks should tell people he’s not going to having marbles in your mouth when he spits seven-word calls. And a lot of NFL teams like that.”

A triple round hasn’t been completed in 86 years because winning in college football is extremely difficult, and keeping that consistency from year to year in the modern era is even harder. The transfer portal offers opportunities for massive roster rotation, and coaching teams see upheavals every offseason. In a place like Georgia, talent in the building is among the most coveted in all of college football, both by other programs and by the NFL.

Georgia joined Nebraska, USC and Alabama’s extremely short list of teams that have won back-to-back titles since 1980 in this turbulent environment. Going back is harder than ever, so why can’t Georgia be the first program since World War II to triple?

Winning the 2022 title wasn’t entirely unexpected considering preseason odds and the Bulldogs’ near-consensus standings at the start of the season. Still, the idea that the Bulldogs would exert such dominance over the rest of the sport was not a popular consideration. After all, it was a program that lost 15 players in the 2022 NFL Draft after winning everything, including eight starters on defense. There is currently a high floor for Georgian football given the compounding effect of the highly rated recruiting classes, but even it was possible that we would see some regression given the roster turnover.

Smart, interestingly, thinks losing so many key starters and contributors has made it easier to repeat than winning the championship again next season. Smart argues that entitlement is the biggest killer of culture, and with so many contributors this year, he thinks avoiding that sense of entitlement will be one of the biggest challenges of the 2023 season.

“The biggest challenge is the same as in the world we live in today, the society we live in: the law,” Smart said. “As soon as you think you have the right to win games and you don’t have to work hard… you think you just inherit success. And I personally think next year is going to be a much tougher challenge. over this year because we had so many guys leaving last year.”

Senior cornerback Chris Smith, from Georgia, says the culture established during his time with the program will combine with the talent to give next year’s squad a great chance to win it all. Growing up with the Bulldogs, Smith understands how unique this success is in the history of the program and endorsed the groundwork that was laid for history to be written.

“Most definitely,” Smith said when asked about the possibility of a hat-trick. “The amount of talent these guys have, the amount of monster athletes these guys have and with the culture we’ve built, the sky’s the limit.”

If Georgia can avoid “disease,” as Smart called it Monday night, then the Bulldogs have all the ingredients to make something historic. But one of the biggest contributors to the prediction that Georgia will, at a minimum, be back in the college football playoffs is something the players and coaches – for the most part – have no control over: the regular player-season schedule.

Georgia was scheduled to play Oklahoma on the non-conference schedule in 2023, but the series has been changed and the game taken off the slate with the Sooners set to join the SEC in the near future. So the Dawgs’ non-conference program now includes UT-Martin, Ball State, UAB and Georgia Tech.

The conference draw is also favorable with Ole Miss rotating to partner Auburn from the SEC West, and the Bulldogs only playing three real conference road games (Auburn, Vanderbilt, Tennessee) because it is a year that the neutral site rivalry game against Florida counts as a road game (the two schools alternate home-road designations for the league’s 4-4 home and away schedule). It doesn’t take too much college football expertise to look at that schedule and start handing projected wins to the Bulldogs, which is likely why Smart is worried about the law.

Let’s project those wins anyway.

It’s possible that, given the schedule and what Georgia brings back, the Bulldogs head to Knoxville, Tenn., with a 10-0 record on Nov. 18 and look to win another SEC East title in their final of conference. Being in that position would mean Georgia would have won 39 of its last 40 games, and the program would have an 83-10 record since the start of 2017.

Achieving that position requires avoiding rights disease, but Smith doesn’t see the next group ignoring the same motivating factors that have continued from 2021 to 2022.

“Just not to be complacent,” Smith said when asked about his message to the next group. “It was the same message we had at the start of this year – don’t be complacent, don’t think something like this is going to be given to you. Because it certainly wasn’t given to us.

“We’ve had a lot of close calls, a lot of tough games, but you keep cutting and you’re focused on that one goal. Nothing can stop you.”

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