WATCH: Georgia-Clemson opener only adds to ‘now or never’ narrative

Kirby Smart-wide receviers-georgia offense
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart before a game against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC., on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

One of the big offseason storylines when it comes to the Georgia football program is the idea that the 2021 season represents a now or never opportunity for Georgia.

Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson are all looking for new quarterbacks, while the Bulldogs bring back JT Daniels after a strong end to the 2021 season.

Having Daniels return, and likely improve, could go a long way in Georgia winning its first national title since the 1980 season.

“Georgia’s national championship drought is at 41 years and counting, and it’s starting to feel like it’s now or never for the Bulldogs” ESPN’s Mark Schlabach wrote. “If they can rebuild the back end of their typically stingy defense, they should be back in the mix for their first CFP appearance since 2017. Georgia coach Kirby Smart addressed one of the holes in the secondary by securing the former West Virginia starting safety Tykee Smith.”

Related: Georgia jumps Clemson in ESPN’s post-spring top-25 rankings

That narrative doesn’t quite fit with what Smart is building, as the Bulldogs have had a school-record 23 players in the past three drafts while also continuing to sign top-4 recruiting classes.

Talent doesn’t seem to be an issue at Georgia, and so long as Smart is running things it likely won’t be.

Still, there’s an internal and external pressure to turn that talent into trophies. The Bulldogs are still looking for their second College Football Playoff appearance after breaking through in the 2017 season.

In part, that is why the Clemson game only figures to heighten now or never talk. If Georgia beats Clemson, a team Schlabach ranked as the No. 4 overall team coming out of practice, the now looks a lot more likely. The Bulldogs will likely be the No. 1 team in the country with that kind of win on their resume.

If Georgia loses that game though, the criticism of Georgia and Smart will only heighten. This is perhaps the most vulnerable the Tigers have been in some time, as they must replace quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and their three most productive pass-catchers.

A loss to Clemson won’t eliminate Georgia from the College Football Playoff, nor will a win guarantee a spot. But the game does figure to further cement how the Georgia football season is viewed. Should Georgia win, the now will look a lot more likely. A loss, and the people who view the never option as plausible will get much louder.

Among the other topics discussed in this week’s Connor in Coverage, we take a look at the transfer portal and how it signals the end of the offseason. We also look ahead to what JT Daniels has to do to potentially become a first-round draft pick.

Georgia football-Clemson opener only add ‘now or never’ narrative

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