Four months ago in this space I wrote about the coming college football season and my ambivalent feelings about it. I recalled the glory that was the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs season, the long-awaited first national championship in 41 years, and wondered (and feared) what this year would bring. Here’s what I said then as I signed off with an eye toward championship night on January 9, 2023: “Keep the crying towel handy. Grab your foam fingers, order a side of tranquilizers, and hang on.”
Turns out, Georgia went 15-0, undefeated for the first time in 42 years, with another national title. No crying towels necessary. We still gulped down tranquilizers on two notable occasions—the now-infamous Missouri game on October 1, and the Heart Attack Bowl against Ohio State on New Year’s Eve.
And now that it’s all over, the wonder and magic of it are almost too much to comprehend. After wandering for over 40 years in the college football wilderness, Georgia’s own Moses in the form of Kirby Smart has taken us to the promised land two years in a row. The long championship drought is over with a vengeance. As Sherlock Holmes said when the Hound of the Baskervilles lay dead at last on the Grimpen mire, we’ve laid the family ghost to rest once and for all. Bonus: with the Braves winning the World Series in November 2021, the state of Georgia witnessed three championships in the span of 14 months. Pass the oxygen.
How is this even possible? After all the angst, crushed dreams, and vanished hopes of the years spanning Ray Goff (1989-1995), Jim Donnan (1996-2000), and Mark Richt (2001-2015)—particularly the latter—how in the name of the Chapel Bell, Varsity chili dogs, and fried pies is this even possible?
Yet here we are. Georgia outlasted Ohio State by one point and a missed field goal. TCU got turned into Dawg food. Unlike last year’s championship game against Alabama, there was no drama in the 4th quarter, and no overtime as in 2018. This year the game was over by halftime, thank goodness. Uncle Crummy’s pacemaker couldn’t take another tight tilt like the Coronary Bowl against Ohio State. The beatdown of TCU was an epic butt whipping of magnitudinous proportions, a final score of 65-7, the largest margin of victory in the history of college football bowl games, going back to the first Rose Bowl in 1902. We’re talking dominance on a scale hitherto unmatched. What Shangri-la have we stumbled into?
Georgia fans and the media are already talking about a three-peat and a dynasty built to last. No team in the modern poll era, dating to 1936, has won three in a row. Can Georgia?
What can stand in our way? Three things, as far as I can see:
- The aforementioned Crimson Tide. Though they didn’t make the playoff, let’s be under no illusions that Bama is going anywhere. They’ll be back, just like we will. But in looking at the long game, Nick Saban is 71, Kirby Smart is 47. My money is on Kirby. He recruits at the highest level, attracting and keeping premier talent. And he’s locked into a long-term contract, which leads us to…
- Kirby Smart leaving to coach at (gasp) another school or (double gasp!) the NFL. Impossible, right? Tell that to LSU, which watched Nick Saban walk away after the 2004 season to coach the Miami Dolphins. One presumes that for enough money anything’s possible. But let’s hope the example of all those college coaching careers coming a cropper in the pros (Chip Kelly, Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier, Kliff Kingsbury, etc.) provide testament enough to that folly. Besides, that’s what Jim Harbaugh is for.
- Losing assistant coaches to become head coaches elsewhere. Saban has been bedeviled with this problem at Bama (see Smart, Kirby) but has managed to overcome it for the most part. If Georgia can keep offensive coordinator Todd Monken—a big “if”—that would go far to laying the foundation for future championships. According to some, Monken virtually created Stetson “Gramps” Bennett out of old spare quarterback parts and turned him into a Heisman finalist. Monken is 56 but will undoubtedly be the front runner for lots of other vacant head-coaching jobs. With the transfer portal and coaching carousel, retaining players and assistants will be key to any future success.
In the end, sure, we’d love to win more national titles, but why worry about that now? With the memories still fresh from all those years when seemingly far greater players—Matt Stafford, David Greene, Aaron Murray—left us bereft, leave us pause for 8 months and just stand still. Enjoy the view from the mountaintop. Put that crying towel down—but keep it handy, the Braves start up again in 3 months.
See you in September.