Photo Credit: Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA
Georgia football finds itself somewhere it hasn’t often been since Kirby Smart was hired as head coach in 2015—in the midst of a losing streak. After a fantastic 2018 regular season marred only by a blemish in Baton Rouge, the Bulldogs lost a nail-biter to Alabama (barf) in the SEC Championship before heading to the Sugar Bowl to get their asses kicked by Texas. In a season that once held national title aspirations, those losses were bitter pills to swallow.
Smart was brought back to Athens to take Georgia to the next level, and that's exactly what he's done. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the 2018 season would have stood among the greatest seasons of our lifetime. But at this stage in Smart's tenure in Athens, the Dawgs don't rebuild, they reload. That's exactly what they've done in the offseason, and Georgia enters the new season ready to compete for a national championship once again. Considering the talent and experience on the roster, it probably has a better shot at finishing the job this year than it did last year.
So, it gives me great joy to announce to you fine denizens of Bulldog Nation… the UGA Death Star is complete!
When you look at this Georgia team up and down, it's mighty tough to find any weaknesses. As good as the last two Georgia teams were—and they were very good—they simply didn't have the depth of talent this one has. In years past, we could blame some shortcomings and weaknesses on the fact that Smart didn't have all “his” players yet. That’s not the case anymore. He's been recruiting at a high level for four years, and there are only a handful of Mark Richt holdovers left. When Smart was hired, most would have said to give him four years to get on the level of the Alabamas and Clemsons of the world.
Well, we're here. Everything every fan has always said Georgia needs, Georgia has. This is Smart's team. They're not running ahead of schedule anymore. There are no glaring weaknesses at any position. There's no QB controversy. Simply put, there are no excuses not to go all the way this year.
The big difference between this Georgia team and the first three under Smart is the depth of talent. Lots of college football teams have talented players. Only a handful have the kind of depth necessary to make a run for a national championship. Georgia has long been one of the dozen or so teams that annually ranks high enough in blue-chip ratio to say it has a claim on a national championship. This season, only Ohio State (81) and Alabama (80) have a higher percentage of blue-chip prospects than Georgia (79).
That's why some of the worries I've heard about the wide receiver corps, the weakest unit on the team, seem exaggerated, if not unfounded. Yes, the Dawgs lost most of their receiving production last season to the NFL Draft (Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta) and dismissal (J.J. Holloman). But what the receivers lack in experience, they make up for in talent, including former five-star Demetris Robertson and true freshmen Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens.
In other happy news, we 100%-beyond-a shadow-of-a-doubt know who our quarterback will be. That’s pretty novel in the wake of the Lambert/Eason, Eason/Fromm and Fromm/Fields QB battles of the last three years. Just knowing Jake Fromm is the starter and not having to concern ourselves with the backup feels like a breath of fresh air.
The schedule will be a smidge tougher than last season. Notre Dame and Texas A&M both come to Sanford for tough contests, but the SEC East is still swimming in Georgia's wake. There will be a handful of more difficult games, but we should win all of them. All told, things are shaping up for a fantastic season from a fun team. Hooray!
Everyone does need to be aware, however, that this could be the end of this specific window for a title: the Jake Fromm window. The way Smart has recruited, Georgia will always be in the mix for a title. But it might not always have one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Fromm is a junior and could leave for the NFL if he has the season most of us believe he will have. When he leaves, chances are good the team will see a slight regression. Our opportunities to win a national title won't end after this season, but they may take a slight dip while we try to find another QB as talented (and experienced) as Fromm.
When I say we have no excuses, I'm not saying it's national championship or bust. If we fail to win it this year, no one should go overboard comparing Smart to Richt or start lobbying for significant changes within the program. But the excuses of weakness at this or that position or quarterback controversies or Smart not having his guys in the team don't fly anymore. Georgia has everything it needs to win the big one. Now it's time to go do it. No excuses.
To Beer or Not to Beer?
The offseason brought some wonderful news for fans of SEC teams. Back in May, the SEC announced it has lifted its blanket ban on stadium-wide alcohol sales across the conference. Rejoice, for it is time to drink beer while watching football, as God intended!
Unfortunately, the rule wasn't changed so that SEC stadiums would sell alcohol—just that they could sell alcohol. The league gave schools autonomy to make that decision on a case-by-case basis. Georgia was one of the first to jump on board, announcing limited sales—i.e., you can buy beer if you're sitting in the club level and donate $25,000 a year. Us plebs are still SOL. But hey, that's what airplane bottles and flasks that look like binoculars are for.
There's always next year for beer in Sanford. As for this year, Georgia does play five games away from home. So, if you're a traveling fan, your dream of drinking (legally) at a Georgia game isn't dashed yet.
Vanderbilt, Aug. 31: BEER! Vanderbilt will sell alcohol at its games to help raise funds for facilities projects. I guess beer at games is one benefit of not having an obscenely wealthy program. So, cool off with a nice adult beverage when it's hot as hell in Nashville for this one.
Tennessee, Oct. 5: BEER! Finally, those orange idiots do something right.
WLOCP, Nov. 2: No beer as things stand, but there hasn't been an official announcement regarding sales for the Georgia-Florida game. That sucks, but also, I think we've always managed to get plenty wasted for this on our own, thank you very much.
Auburn, Nov. 16: No beer. Auburn, like UGA, is run by prudes, so this should come as no surprise.
Georgia Tech, Nov. 30: No beer. Their policy didn't change, because they aren't part of the SEC. NEEEERRRRRRRDS!
Georgia’s Home Schedule
Here’s when to tune into the game/barricade yourself in the house/take advantage of the fact that everyone else is watching football by going grocery shopping.
Sept. 7: Murray State, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Sept. 14: Arkansas, 12 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
Sept. 21: Notre Dame, 8 p.m., CBS*
Oct. 12: South Carolina, TBA
Oct. 19: Kentucky, TBA
Nov. 9: Missouri, TBA
Nov. 23: Texas A&M, TBA
*A night game against a Top 10 team with a national fanbase? It’s gonna be especially lit.