Georgia football-2022 recruiting class-grades
January 15, 2022 Athens - Georgia's head coach Kirby Smart kisses on The Coaches’ Trophy during the celebration of Georgia’s College Football Playoff national championship at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Saturday, January 15, 2022. Georgia captured the national championship, its first since the 1980 season, with a 33-18 victory over Alabama at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

National Media makes the case for why Georgia football can repeat as National Champions in 2022

And while Georgia isn’t the favorite or even the top pick in the SEC, many pundits in the national media see a way for the Bulldogs to once again come out on top.

“Now I don’t make them the favorite this year, but their schedule is very favorable to get to the SEC Championship Game against Alabama,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said on First Take “As much as they lost on defense, their best defensive lineman Jalen Carter’s probably back. And Stetson Bennett is just a baller. He’s a playmaker. He’s a winner.

“So I think they’ve got a decent chance. I don’t think they’re better than Alabama. But I do think that if they could pull off a win in that game, they could get to the College Football Playoff and they’re certainly talented enough to beat anyone.”

To Davis’ point on the schedule, ESPN’s Chris Low said Georgia has the easiest home schedule this year, clearing the way for the Bulldogs to get to Atlanta. The Bulldogs open with a neutral-site game against Oregon in Atlanta but the toughest home game figures to come against Tennessee, a fringe top-25 team. Georgia does have SEC road games against South Carolina, Missouri, Mississippi State and Kentucky.

Georgia will have to have some new faces emerge, but that seems to be the case on an annual basis now with the Bulldogs due to the transfer portal and NFL draft success of Georgia.

If the Bulldogs are able to successfully do that, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, Kirby Smart’s team has as good a chance of any winning it all this season.

“They’ve replaced stars before, and they still have sure things such as tackle Jalen Carter and linebackers Nolan Smith and Robert Beal Jr,” Connelly wrote. “But any defensive regression would force quarterback Stetson Bennett and the offense to carry more weight and potentially wreck last year’s perfect balance. It’s fair to assume Georgia will have a top D again, but it’s not a given until we see it.”

Among the emerging stars to watch for this season include linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson or tight end Arik Gilbert. Georgia will need both to make plays for the Bulldogs this season.

Georgia did not receive the media’s vote to win the SEC, as that went to the Crimson Tide. Alabama will be led by quarterback Bryce Young and outside linebacker Will Anderson, perhaps the two best players in college football this season.

Related: Georgia football winners and losers following 2022 SEC Media Days

But in the eyes of ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, that lack of pressure may end up helping Georgia in the long run.

“I think everybody’s like, ‘Eh, they’ve won it but let’s get back to what’s going on with Alabama,’” Herbstreit said on First Take. “I think that plays into their hands, where they don’t have to deal with some of the normal pressure that comes with being the defending champs. It’s almost like even though they won it, people still want to talk about Nick Saban, they still want to talk about Bryce Young, they still want to talk about Alabama. Which, to me, psychologically plays into the hands of Georgia, long-term.”

With comments like that, you can see why Smart said that Georgia still has some hunting to do entering the 2022 season.

“People ask the question, How does it feel to be hunted? We will not be hunted at the University of Georgia,” Smart said. “I can promise you that. The hunting we do will be from us going the other direction. We’re not going to sit back and be passive about.”

The Bulldogs will start fall camp at the beginning of August as the team gets ready for the start of the 2022 season. Georgia’s first game will come against the Oregon Ducks in Atlanta on Sept. 3.

Related: Kirby Smart on Georgia football-Oregon opener: ‘That game will help set us up for the SEC gauntlet’

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