LOS ANGELES. No sooner had the confetti hit SoFi Stadium at the National College Football Playoff Championship than a key question began to emerge:and by doing so with a team that has beaten their opponents by a larger margin than anyone else in the country, can the Bulldogs do it again in 2023?
If the notion of looking for a three seems immature this early hour of the offseason, then consider what it would mean to achieve this feat and the obvious likelihood that Georgia would have a good chance of doing something that hasn’t been done since Minnesota. ran away three titles in a row from 1934 to 1936.
“Damn it,” Georgia second-year linebacker Smael Mondon, the team’s top player since Monday night’s win, remarked after being told of the historic note. “It’s a big opportunity, but we’re going to take these two weeks, rest, get our body in order, come back and attack it.”
In two weeks, Georgia will begin winter 2023 training with Mondon saying the team will “flip the switch” from one season to the next. But at this point, with the entire second half set up for Georgia to celebrate his hard work paid off with a comfortable title win, he and his classmates were able to seize the opportunity to “be legendary.”
“We have already talked about this on the sidelines,” he said. “We know we have a chance to do it, so we have 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-best tackle, and cornerback Kamari Lassiter finished third in tackles, adding a tackle for a loss. Brock Bowers led the team in receiving with seven catches for 152 yards and a touchdown, while Adonai Mitchell added another touchdown in his triumphant comeback from an injury he struggled with late in the season in Georgia.
All of these players are expected to return for the 2023 campaign, along with numerous freshmen who have become starters and key contributors by the end of the year. Highly valued leads are also expected to emerge who were in the process of developing their journey, which was critical to the success of the 2022 team.
Development will be key to the quarterback position, where three players will compete to replace one of the greatest quarterbacks in Georgia history, Stetson Bennett. Carson Beck, Brock Wandagriff and Gunner Stockton will be battling it out for QB1 duties, but Kirby Smart has a lot of confidence in offensive coordinator Todd Monken and his job of developing the room. After all, it was Monken’s work with Bennett that turned the former bystander into a Heisman Trophy finalist.
“Coach Monken does an incredible job in this room,” Smart said. “And he did an incredible job with Stetson. And the fact that he’s playing NFL offense with an NFL coordinator who coached NFL quarterbacks should tell people he won’t get balls in his mouth when he spits out seven word challenges. And a lot of NFL teams love it.”
In 86 years, a treble has not been achieved because winning college football is extremely difficult, and maintaining that consistency year after year in the modern era is even more difficult. The transfer portal provides opportunities for massive turnover, and the coaching staff is reshuffled every off-season. In a place like Georgia, the talent in the building is among the most coveted in all of college football, both in other programs and in the NFL.
Georgia joined the extremely short list of Nebraska, USC and Alabama in terms of teams that have won back-to-back titles since 1980 in this turbulent environment. It’s harder than ever to just go one by one, so why can’t Georgia be the first program since World War II to use three peat mosses?
Winning the 2022 title wasn’t entirely unexpected given the pre-season odds and the near-consensual top-three spot the Bulldogs carried early in the season. However, the idea that the Bulldogs would maintain such dominance over the rest of the sport was not popular. After all, it was the program that lost 15 players in the 2022 NFL Draft after winning them all, including eight on defense. Georgia football is at a high level right now, given the cumulative effect of high-ranking recruiting courses, but it was still possible that we would see some regression given the turnover.
Clever, interestingly, believes that the loss of so many starters and key contributors has made repeat easier than winning the championship again next season. Smart claims that entitlement is the biggest killer of culture, and with so many contestants returning this year, he thinks avoiding that sense of entitlement will be one of the biggest challenges for the 2023 season.
“The biggest problem is the same as in the world we live in today, in the society we live in: rights,” Smart said. “The moment you think you have the right to win games and you don’t have to work hard… you think you just inherited success. And I personally think that next year will be a much more difficult test than this year. because we lost so many guys last year.”
Senior cornerback Chris Smith, a Georgia native, says the culture developed during his tenure with the program, combined with his talent, will give the group a great chance to win it all next year. Growing up rooting for the Bulldogs, Smith understands how unique this success is in the program’s history and maintains the foundation that was laid to create history.
“Definitely,” Smith said when asked about the possibility of a triple peat. “The amount of talent these guys have, the amount of ugly athletes these guys have and the culture we’ve built is the limit.”
If Georgia can avoid the title of “disease,” as Smart called it on Monday night, then the Bulldogs have all the ingredients to make history. But one of the factors that contributes most to predicting that Georgia will at least return to the college football playoffs is one that players and coaches — for the most part — have no control over: the schedule of the season.
Georgia was scheduled to play Oklahoma on a non-conference schedule in 2023, but the series was amended and the game was pulled from the list, with the Sooners due to join the SEC in the near future. As such, Dawgs’ non-conference schedule now includes UT-Martin, Ball State, UAB, and Georgia Tech.
The conference draw is also favorable, with Ole Miss pairing up with SEC West’s Auburn, and the Bulldogs only playing three real road games in a conference game (Auburn, Vanderbilt, Tennessee) because that’s the year the neutral ground game of rivalry is against Florida. counted as an away game (the two schools alternate between home and away game designations in the league’s 4–4 home and away schedule). It doesn’t take too much college football experience to look at this schedule and start pitching expected Bulldogs wins, which is probably why Smart is worried about rights.
Let’s project these victories anyway.
It’s possible that given the schedule and what Georgia will bring back, the Bulldogs are heading to Knoxville, Tennessee with a 10-0 record on Nov. 18, looking to secure another SEC East title in their conference finals. Being in that position would mean Georgia would win 39 of their last 40 games and the program would have an 83-10 record since the start of 2017.
To take this position, one must avoid the sickness of rights, but Smith does not see the next group rebounding from the same motivating factors that were carried over from 2021 to 2022.
“Just to keep calm,” Smith said when asked about his message to the next group. “It was the same message that we had at the beginning of this year – do not be complacent, do not think that something like this will be given to you. Because it definitely wasn’t given to us.
“We had a lot of close decisions, a lot of difficult games, but you just keep hacking and focusing on that single-minded goal. Nothing can stop you.”
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