Why you shouldn’t bet against a Georgia three-peat next year

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — On the night Georgia embarrassed Michigan in a College Football Playoff semifinal that ended shortly after it began, the Wolverines coach known for his impenetrable pride waved the white flag before the third quarter That’s when Jim Harbaugh cut starting quarterback Cade McNamara to save him from a hellish defense full of eight upcoming NFL draft picks that messed up the offensive game plan.

On the night Georgia throttled TCU in a national championship that turned into a 65-7 rout, the Horned Frogs coach known for his bold, gun-toting, throw-the-wind personality held up his surrender sign yet before, with one there is a quarter and a half. That’s when Sonny Dykes threw the ball near midfield despite a 38-point deficit and nothing to lose in a game when his plucky overachievers entered as two-touchdown underdogs.

The first was a dominating win over a team that ruled the Big Ten the past two seasons, a resurgent blueblood that stepped back into the national spotlight by defeating Ohio State twice en route to back-to-back titles of consecutive conferences.

The latter was a defeat in the schoolyard of the best the Big 12 has to offer at a time when traditional powers Oklahoma and Texas are treading water ahead of high-profile moves in the Southern Conference -East. Pitching a CFP semifinal win over the Buckeyes and a rout Alabama to capture the national championship last year and there isn’t much left for the Bulldogs to prove with 29 wins in their last 30 games.

“It seems like the last three or four months we’ve been looking to see if anybody could beat us,” Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett said, “and we just ran out of games. Nobody could.”

Georgia Bulldogs DOMINATE TCU in National Championship

Georgia Bulldogs DOMINATE TCU in National Championship

It’s a story unlikely to change anytime soon, given the breadth of talent returning to Georgia next season. The Bulldogs have already opened as odds-on favorites to win their third consecutive title, according to FOX Bet.

The list starts with Brock Bowers, the hot second-year tight end who would be a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft if only the rules allowed him to enter. He caught seven passes for 152 yards and a touchdown Monday night while tormenting the Horned Frogs from the slot, from the line positions, from wherever offensive coordinator Todd Monken decided to deploy him.

Bowers rumbled and flipped through tackle attempts to rack up 58 yards after contact just as easily as he outran safety Abe Camara for an acrobatic 14-yard score to start the third quarter. There was one point in the second half when he beat TCU himself: 152 yards by Bowers; 126 total yards for the Horned Frogs, and describing him as the most dangerous weapon in college football barely does Bowers justice.

And he is not alone.

The scariest aspect of Georgia’s run to a second straight national title is how many underclassmen played prominent roles in the demonic dynasty that Smart has built.

Sophomore defensive back Javon Bullard was named the defensive player of the game after hauling in two interceptions and recovering a fumble that led to 17 turnovers. Sophomore wide receiver Adonai Mitchell made an impressive one-handed catch on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Bennett in which he wrestled the ball away from a defender. Sophomore linebacker Smael Mondon Jr. led the Bulldogs in tackles with five. True freshman nose tackle Bear Alexander racked up two tackles for loss, one of which was a sack. None of the starting offensive linemen are seniors.

“The biggest challenge is the same as in the world we live in today, the society we live in: entitlement,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “The minute you think you’re entitled to win games and you don’t have to work hard, the uphill battle for these guys (coming back) is you think you just inherit success. And I personally think next year will . it’s going to be a much tougher challenge this year because we had a lot of guys leave last year. We have a lot of guys coming back.”

Is Georgia College Football’s Next Dynasty?

Is Georgia College Football's Next Dynasty?

It’s true that Smart’s program will say goodbye to a handful of standout upperclassmen led by Bennett, who completed 18-of-25 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns before finally using up his eligibility at age 25 . Washington, fullback Kenny McIntosh, defensive lineman Jalen Carter and cornerback Kelee Ringo, among others, with at least two of them expected to be first-round picks.

But waiting in the wings is another elite recruiting class that ranks second nationally behind Alabama in the 247Sports Composite. Smart’s freshmen include two five-star prospects in Damon Wilson (No. 13 overall) and cornerback AJ Harris (No. 32 overall), as well as 22 four-star prospects, all among the top 300 recruits. The five highest-rated signees are on the defensive side of the ball to replenish a locker that has been overflowing for years. And one of those players, inside linebacker Raylen Wilson, the No. 52 prospect in the country, transferred to Georgia after initially committing to Michigan.

“Obviously they have really good players,” TCU QB Max Duggan said. “I bet they’re a top 10 recruiting class every year. And then they develop them, and they have a really good coaching staff. So that’s a good recipe for success, and that’s why they’ve been so successful . the last two years. And now when you come off a game like that, you know what you have to improve on if you want to be on that stage again, if you want to compete with guys like Georgia.”

The only thing missing from Georgia’s recruiting is a quarterback, though that could change between now and the February signing period. Smart has inked at least one signal caller in every recruiting class since taking over the program on Dec. 6, 2015, but there’s so much talent behind Bennett on the depth chart that he might not even bother.

Backup Carson Beck, a redshirt sophomore, was a four-star prospect and the No. 9 quarterback in the class of 2020. Third string Brock Vandagriff, a redshirt freshman, was a five-star prospect stars and the quarterback of the class. of 2021. Quarterback Gunner Stockton, a true freshman, was a four-star prospect and the No. 7 quarterback in the 2022 class.

Debates about who might emerge as Bennett’s heir apparent will dominate talk radio between now and the opener next season, but Georgia is far from the only elite program in need of replacing a quarterback from first level

Alabama is losing former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, while Ohio State will likely say goodbye to Heisman Trophy finalist CJ Stroud. Tennessee advances without Hendon Hooker, while UCLA saw Dorian Thompson-Robinson make his swan song. There are high-profile returners in USC (Caleb Williams), Michigan (JJ McCarthy), Florida State (Jordan Travis), LSU (Jayden Daniels), Oregon (Bo Nix) and Washington (Michael Penix Jr.), but only one of those teams have reached the playoffs in the last five years.

Georgia, Michigan and Colorado top RJ Young’s Way-Too-Early Top 25

Georgia, Michigan and Colorado top RJ Young's Way-Too-Early Top 25

“We have some good quarterbacks,” Smart said. “We got one that took off a black shirt and took hits all week so he could be Max (Duggan on the scout team). And Gunner Stockton said, ‘Coach, take my shirt off, I’ll take the hits.” And Brock Vandagriff is down there learning all year. Carson Beck had a lot of playing time and he’s got a lot of composure to come back and be able to play. So those three guys will be able to battle. And they’re going to learn a little bit. a lot”.

So why can’t the Bulldogs get back to that stage and claim a third consecutive national title? Why can’t they be the first team to three-peat since Minnesota did it in 1934, 1935 and 1936? Why can’t Smart surpass Alabama head coach Nick Saban and do something his mentor has yet to accomplish?

At this point, it would be unwise to bet against them.

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13.

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