ATHENS — Georgia football stock is higher than it has ever been in history, even after a down week.
Technically, the 27-24 loss to Alabama in the SEC title game was “down,” ending a record streak of 29 wins in a row and derailing three-peat hopes.
Georgia fans just witnessed the best run in school history, eclipsing the Herschel Walker years.
The Bulldogs still get to play a Top 5 Florida State team in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30, but if we’re being honest, this team will never look the same.
Free agency is upon us with nine UGA players already in the portal and several others in negotiations.
There’s no telling what Georgia football — or Florida State, or any other non-CFP team, for that matter — might look like by the time their show up at their bowl destination.
But the Bulldogs’ team that walked off the field in Atlanta just finished off one of the greatest runs in modern era (post-1966) college football history.
Some might think there is a case to be made for the early 1980s Dawgs, but a closer look is revealing.
Kirby Smart’s 2021-23 Georgia teams:
• 41-2 with 2 national titles
• 6-1 vs Top 5 teams
• 9-1 vs. Top 10 teams
• 15-1 vs. Top 25
Vince Dooley’s 1980-1983 Georgia teams:
• 43-4-1 with 1 national title
• 1-1 vs. Top 5 teams
• 3-1 vs. Top 10 teams
• 7-2 vs. Top 25 teams
Smart’s Georgia teams beat 5 Top 5 teams within its 29-game win streak alone, unmatched by any of the other 10 modern-era teams with win streaks of 26 games or more.
Georgia’s win streak over Top 5-ranked teams stands at 5 entering the Orange Bowl and team statisticians will surely rally to see if that’s the longest active streak of its kind. The Alabama team that beat UGA was ranked No. 8.
Kendall Milton is the “name” player every program wishes they had performing at their best entering the postseason. It was Milton’s two touchdowns that kept Georgia in the SEC title game and provides motivation for other offensive leaders to finish the drill in Miami. Team captain Jacobs Trophy winner Sedrick Van Pran said the plan was for him to play, as well.
Malaki Starks was the only Georgia defensive player voted first-team All-SEC by league coaches and was one of five finalists for the Nagurski Award, which is the “Defensive Heisman.” Starks is expected to be among UGA players at the Orange Bowl, along with former West Virginia All-American Tykee Smith, who committed to play after the SEC title game loss.
Bulldogs in bowl games is another popular and impressive topic, especially since Georgia has won six bowls in a row: 2019 (Sugar), 2020 (Peach), 2021 (Orange, CFP), 2022 (Peach, CFP).
Fran Brown took care of business at Georgia and proved a strong hire for Kirby Smart, so his promotion to Syracuse head coach is a positive. That said, Smart will be looking for his fifth DB coach since the 2018 season.
Mekhi Mews was handed the opportunity of his lifetime at Georgia as a return man and sponsored podcast host this season. The popular Mews built a brand in Athens and won over many fans, but on Thursday he became among the latest to enter the transfer portal.
SEC Coach of the Year typically goes to a coach who wins his division or the league, but there have been recent overachievers recognized, such as Missouri’s Eli Drinkwitz this season.
Missouri returned more production than any SEC program, but it was not picked to finish high, so Drinkwitz was honored as coach of the year for his 6-2 league mark.
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Smart were both 8-0 in SEC play — Smart accomplishing the feat an unprecedented third-straight year, including a win over Missouri.
Kentucky’s Mark Stoops was the last “overachiever” to win AP Coach of the Year, 5-3 during a 2018 season that saw Saban go 8-0 and Smart 7-1.
One day fans will look back and perhaps wonder why the best coaches of the best teams were overlooked in given years. Someone else will have to explain it.