“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days before you actually left them.”
― Andy Bernard, played by Ed Helms, in series finale of The Office
The Georgia football team plays a fairly important game on Monday. Win or lose, though, it’s already been an amazing season. From the play on the field to the support off of it, the experience as a whole has been remarkable:
- Trips to Notre Dame ― where Georgia had never visited ― and the Rose Bowl ― where Georgia hadn’t played since World War II ― in the same season. Not to mention, victories in both games.
- The first SEC championship in 12 years.
- The first chance to win a national championship since 1983.
A national title would take the 2017 team from special to immortal. A level of historic that the program hasn’t attained in 37 years. And those who were around 37 years ago will tell you: Appreciate this. Savor it. Don’t take for granted this is just the start of something.
Yes, the recruiting of the past two cycles would indicate this isn’t a one-off. There is plenty of evidence that Kirby Smart is building an Alabama-style powerhouse in the SEC East, one that will contend for playoff appearances every year for awhile. This will be merely looked on as the start of something, not just the once-every-four-decades playoff run.
Maybe so. But here are also 10 reasons to be careful about assuming that: Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy, Isaiah Wynn, Javon Wims, Dominick Sanders, Aaron Davis, John Atkins and Cam Nizialek.
Throw in Roquan Smith, Lamont Gaillard, Trenton Thompson and Deandre Baker ― more key players who are seriously considering an early jump ― and the heart and soul of this championship team arguably will be leaving.
Jake Fromm is also a big part of that nucleus. So is Kirby Smart, and neither of those two are going anywhere. The brain trust, led by Mel Tucker and Jim Chaney, appears to be sticking around for at least another year. Smart, after an uneven first season, has shown he really did soak in The Process and what Nick Saban does so well. So this program will merely reload going forward. Look at the future being built on that offensive line, for one thing.
The point is, we don’t know for sure. The 1980 team won a national title and then contended for the next three years too. Then it dropped off and didn’t come close to this level until 2002. And once again it was at a national level – just short of where Georgia is now – and there was great confidence a breakthrough would happen. Eventually.
The breakthrough happened for Smart in Year 2. It also has happened with a remarkable run of good luck: very few injuries. Maybe that’s just great strength and conditioning. Maybe it’s just good luck.
The SEC East might be at the low ebb, with an uptick coming. We’ll see how good Jeremy Pruitt is as a head coach at Tennessee, but he’s a known quantity ― and a good one ― as a recruiter and defensive coordinator. Dan Mullen also should elevate Florida into at least a consistent threat, though we’ll see whether he’s a powerhouse.
Let’s be clear: If we had to choose between this being the start of a great run for Georgia or a one-year blip, we’d have to lean toward the former. But you never know, and things happen, so enjoy the moment.
The Georgia takeover of Notre Dame, and Chicago the night before it. What a weekend.
A run of blowouts: Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri and … Florida.
Avenging the loss at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium with a convincing win in the game that mattered most: the SEC Championship Game.
Sony Michel scoring the winning touchdown in double overtime to cap a comeback Rose Bowl win in the best game many of us ever will be privleged to cover.
It’s not that Georgia hasn’t been involved in great games. They just tended to end in heartache. There is no need to list them here. You know them.
There is a symmetry here now: 37 years from the last national title, which came 37 years after the first one. The title game is in Atlanta. And it comes against the program’s nemesis in big games of the past decade, against the mentor to the protégé.
The fan involvement: Lighting up Sanford ― and South Bend and Los Angeles. The celebrations, from coast to coast, and in the Midwest.
There may be seasons as great as this one. But there will never be another season quite like this.
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