ATHENS — Georgia football had a magical 2023 run, and it’s not over yet.
Sure, the 29-game win streak snapped and the CFP race is over, allowing for bandwagon Bulldog fans to jump off.
But if Georgia fans should be upset about anything, it’s that the Bulldogs are not getting their fair amount of credit early in this awards season.
That’s particularly true of Kirby Smart, who passed up the likes of Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban with an unprecedented third-straight 8-0 SEC season, and moved past Paul “Bear” Bryant and all other SEC types with that record 29-game win streak along with the most wins in his first 100 games coached.
Smart also had an unprecedented third-straight 12-0 regular season, something no other SEC or Power 5 coach in history has accomplished.
And yet, the Associated Press named the Missouri head coach as the SEC’s coach of the year in one of the most shallow and indefensible selections in recent memory.
Is anyone paying attention? Georgia over the past three years has had 34 players drafted and lost 18 players and 15 starters to other FBS schools through the transfer portal -- while taking in just three.
Unprecedented results have been produced despite unprecedented attrition, and that should trump the participation generation’s desire to reward mid-level programs overachieving.
Brock Bowers overlooked
Then, the Heisman Trophy finalists were named, and Georgia’s Brock Bowers was not among them.
As a Heisman voter, I’m not allowed to reveal my vote, but I can share Bowers was among my top three.
Really -- how could Bowers, arguably the MVP of the Bulldogs’ three-year run with his ability to catch, run and block — versatile traits no other Heisman finalist boast — be left out of the top four while a one-dimensional Ohio State receiver gets in?
It was just mere weeks ago Bowers was being compared to Michael Jordan by multiple coaches and experts, a player who opened things up for everyone else. And then, after tightrope surgery, Bowers returned after missing just two games — not enough to disqualify him for any award or consideration.
Missing the boat
The national media, it seems, is missing the boat and ready to forget about Georgia and move on to the Florida State sob story.
These Seminoles were ultimately undone by a system that would not have still be in place had its ACC leadership not taken part of a coalition with the Big Ten and Pac-12 to prevent a 12-team playoff from happening this year.
Florida State — like the undefeated 2020 Cincinnati team that Georgia faced in the Peach Bowl — will show up with something to prove and give the Bulldogs a fight.
And, can we stop the whining about the SEC having to be included in the four-team CFP?
It’s the dumbest argument -- against it, that is -- when one looks and sees the league is 8-0 against teams from other leagues in the past four years and 14-3 all-time in the nine-year CFP era.
Three SEC teams have won the past four national championships and Alabama could win the next one.
Georgia has something to prove, too, because that loss left a sour taste in the mouth of a proud and resilient team. There have been plenty of opportunities for these players to take the easy way out in their careers before, and they didn’t.
The Bulldogs as a team know they didn’t play their best game, at a time when the best was needed. Playing sloppy against South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech could and was overcome.
It takes “best” to beat a team with equal talent like Alabama.
The 29-game win streak is over, but this Georgia team can add to its legacy in other ways.
On the front end, there a a six-year Top 10 finish streak (dating back to 2017), and six-year bowl win streak (back to 2019) on the line for Georgia football.
Next year’s Bulldogs will start the season with 39 consecutive regular-season wins, 27 straight SEC regular season wins, 25 home wins and 15 road wins.
Which Dawgs finish the drill?
Kendall Milton served noticed that he will show up, Sedrick Van Pran said the plan is for him to play and Ladd McConkey will be on the field if his ankle allows.
Those are your offensive leaders.
If Carson Beck is staying — there are sources saying he is asking for upwards of $4 million with Brock Vandagriff having entered the portal — he would surely play in the Orange Bowl.
Beck did nothing to increase his NFL draft stock against Alabama, playing merely adequate in a game that required greatness or the sort of timely plays Jalen Milroe made for Alabama.
A bigger question might be if Georgia defensive leaders are ready to cash out after getting pushed around the past two games by Georgia Tech and Alabama.
Fact is, the seniors in this group could use an opportunity to raise their stock — as Azeez Ojulari did with his three sacks on Desmond Ridder in the non-playoff Peach Bowl in 2020 along with two forced fumbles.
It’s a mixed bag, but also a very exciting time for Georgia football.
There are great players coming, great players going and the best coach in college football leading the program -- a coach that should win at least one national coach of the year award this year.