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It’s Time to Be Optimistic About Georgia Football

Get hyped, Georgia fans, this is the year. We promise. Credit: Andrew Davis Tucker / UGA

Georgia fans have a penchant for pessimism. This isn’t to say we don’t come by it honestly. In the last decade, I can think of any number of moments that, had they gone our way, would’ve changed the perception of the program and led to championships. I’m talking about things like Chris Conley’s ill-advised catch in the 2012 SEC Championship Game. The fake punt against Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship Game. And, of course, the big one—second and 26.

Pessimism seems to be in our DNA. After all, the patron saint of Georgia fans, the ever-dour Larry Munson, would slip into defeatism before and during about every game he commentated. In his legendary Lindsey Scott radio call during the 1980 Georgia-Florida game—after his famous exultations of “Run Lindsay!” and “Dawgs on top!”—Munson even says, “We were gone. I gave up. You did, too.” Call it Munsonitis.

We have suffered our share of heartbreaks down the years, sure. And we have lost some close ones that we should have won. But what we’ve done in the past holds no bearing on what we will do in the future (aside from the psychic weight that all this pessimism puts on us as a fanbase).

Our penchant for pessimism isn’t helped by the prevailing narrative of the last few years, and particularly during this offseason: that Georgia is the biggest underachiever in college football. It’s a narrative that needs to die. No, we haven’t won the Big One. But the last five years at Georgia have been better than all but four or five programs. We’ve won an SEC championship, a Rose Bowl, a Sugar Bowl and three SEC East titles. If you don’t think life is good as a Georgia fan, talk to a Tennessee fan and see how the other half lives.

Which brings me to the here and now and the season-opening showdown with Clemson. The pessimism and sandbagging have been in full force all offseason.

It started in the spring when star receiver George Pickens went down with an ACL injury, sidelining him for most, if not all, of the upcoming season. (Which, you know, sucks. I ain’t gonna lie.) It reached a peak a few weeks ago in preseason camp, when tight end Darnell Washington and defensive back Tykee Smith went down with foot injuries. Kirby Smart has listed them as “day-to-day,” and it’s unclear if either will be ready for the Clemson game.

Washington and Smith are fantastic players and will be important to us when they return. Let’s have some perspective, though. We’re talking about a guy who had seven catches last year and a guy who has yet to play a snap for Georgia. Having them available would be a boon, but you recruit at the level Georgia does because this is football and injuries happen. Their absence isn’t enough to give the Tigers a definitive edge.

The pessimism of the fanbase has seeped into the national media over the last few years. Most media members are rightfully high on us this season. On paper, we’re one of five or six teams that should be competing for the national championship. But I often hear praise of Georgia couched with the caveat, “if they can put it all together.” And under the surface of that caveat is the implication that “no, they can’t until they prove otherwise.”

Heading into a season opener against one of the best teams in the country and one of the best programs of the last decade, having some trepidation is understandable. Clemson is really good. But so are we, and it’s time to own it. Be optimistic, because, my God, there is so much to be optimistic about when you look at this team.

Look at the offense. What was long considered a weakness has turned into a likely strength, thanks to the rise of quarterback JT Daniels. Yes, there are some injuries. But this is the most talented receiver corps we have seen in Athens in many, many years. Even with some injuries, we are overstocked with talented youngsters who can fill in and make names for themselves.

Kirby finally seems to have seen the light with regard to offensive style as well. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken called up great plays all year. The execution was lacking for most of the season with Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis under center. Business picked up once Daniels got the job, and he’s now had a full offseason to work as QB1.

I don’t tend to worry about Georgia’s defense much, because if Kirby has proven anything, it’s that he can coach the hell out of a defense. I worried about the secondary for a time, but Kirby went out and recruited Smith and former Clemson corner Derion Kendrick to fill in the gaps. We have some of the best edge rushers in the country and the best nation’s best defensive lineman in Jordan Davis. We’re deep and talented, and there’s not much more you can ask for in that regard.

So let’s cut down on the pessimism. Because, frankly, much of the last year has been garbage. The state of the world makes me sad and angry, often at the same time. I don’t want to be sad and angry, and I don’t watch college football to be sad and angry, even if that’s the end result sometimes. I don’t want to go through this whole season waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for the loss that ends our national title dreams. If it comes, I’ll deal with it.

Until then, I’m crowing. What’s my opinion on JT Daniels? He’s the best quarterback in college football. Kirby vs. Dabo? Kirby will coach circles around that wannabe televangelist. Who will win the season opener? The Georgia Damn Bulldogs.

So join me, my Bulldog brethren. Cast aside your pessimism and embrace this team. When you get into a conversation with friends, family or coworkers about the Clemson game, don’t say “if we win.” Say “when we win,” and carry that through the whole season. And when we’re hoisting that trophy in Indianapolis come January, it’ll be all the sweeter knowing you were right all along.

UGA Football Schedule

Sept. 4: Clemson (in Charlotte), 7:30 p.m., ABC

Sept. 11: UAB, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Sept. 18: South Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN

Sept. 25: at Vanderbilt, TBA

Oct. 2: Arkansas, TBA

Oct. 9: at Auburn, TBA

Oct. 16: Kentucky (homecoming), TBA

Oct. 30: Florida (in Jacksonville), 3:30 p.m., CBS

Nov. 6: Missouri, TBA

Nov. 13: at Tennessee, TBA

Nov. 20: Charleston Southern, TBA

Nov. 27: at Georgia Tech, TBA