NASHVILLE — Despite Kirby Smart’s best effort, the Georgia players speaking at SEC media days don’t know too much about the Chicago Bulls of the 1990′s. Those teams led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, won three consecutive titles two separate times.
In fairness to Brock Bowers, Kamari Lassiter and Sedrick Van Pran, none of them were alive when Jordan hit his final shot as a member of the Bulls in the 1998 NBA Finals.
They knew even less about the last college football team to win three consecutive championships. That was Minnesota in the 1930′s. Bowers said he hadn’t heard of those teams until about 15 minutes prior to speaking with reporters. It happened so long ago that the AP Poll had not been started yet.
That three-peats are so unheralded speaks to what players like Bowers and Van Pran are trying to accomplish this season. Georgia became the first team in the College Football Playoff era to win back-to-back national championships.
The veterans of this team are already in elite company.
“I think that just says something about the way we conduct ourselves day to day,” Bowers said. ”The standard that we try to hold. Our culture that we’ve built as a program, it’s been good.”
This will be just the fourth time since the 1960′s that a team has attempted to win three-straight undisputed national championships. Oklahoma came up short in 1976, while Nebraska did so in 1996.
Smart was on the Alabama team that attempted to accomplish a three-peat in 2013. That team lost on the Kick-6 and then lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
So Smart in some ways knows what Georgia is about to try and do. And he understands the difficulty.
It’s why he’s not focused on the enormity of trying to accomplish a near-impossible task. He simply wants his team to focus on getting better.
“One of their big mantras is better never rests. We believe that,” Smart said at SEC media days. “Those are strong words now when you think about it. Think deep on it. Better never rests. Our kids understand it. Our kids have learned it. What drives us for this season is intrinsic motivation. We’re not going to be controlled by outside narratives and what people say and who’s going to be the quarterback.”
While questions were asked about Georgia’s on-going quarterback battle as well as off-field issues, the challenge of three-peating was on the minds of many reporters at SEC media days.
Even in a sport with consistent turnover, Georgia is as well positioned as any to handle it. The Bulldogs have recruited as well as any program in the country. It also develops talent better than anyone, as no team has put more players into the NFL over the past three NFL draft cycles.
Much of those accomplishments are in the past though. That is how Van Pran sees it. As far as it pertains to the 2023 team, Georgia’s starting center knows this squad will have a lot to prove.
“Nobody from the previous two teams is going to go out there and play a snap for you,” Van Pran said. “Jordan Davis isn’t putting on a jersey for Georgia this year. He’s not playing. So it’s just understanding that yes, what those guys have accomplished is great but this team has not accomplished anything. We have not played a game yet. We haven’t played anybody. We haven’t done anything. It’s really just understanding that if you want what they had, you have to work for it.”
Smart noted this current group of Bulldogs is still in the process of defining themselves. Georgia will start fall camp shortly and those practices will help Georgia build the necessary toughness to go through another college football season with a massive target on its back.
So far, the Georgia head coach likes where this team is at. He sees that this team is committed to getting better, to eating off the floor as Bowers and Lassiter have said.
They’re not worried about the Nov. 18 trip to Neyland or how Georgia stacks up against a team from the Roosevelt Presidency.
After winning two-straight national championships, this team knows how difficult it is to win just a single national championship.
Georgia will enter this season as the favorite to do so once again. But this team knows it has to get so much better if it is to end the season like it did the last two.
Better never rests and chasing the best makes you better. Even chefs in Copenhagen know that even if they can’t discuss Pippen or a Minnesota team from the 1930′s.
“It’s up to you to make sure you’re working just as hard as the guys that came before you just to try by the grace of God to achieve something that you want,” Van Pran said.