The last time Georgia came heartbreakingly close to beating Alabama in a game of national title significance was 2012. There were big expectations for the following season, but those were derailed in a rash of injuries that decimated Georgia’s offense.
Now comes 2018. The expectations are even bigger this time around.
Except now it’s all about lifting the championship trophy on Jan. 7 in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., in Shockley’s eyes.
“For a while it’s been just trying to win the SEC,” Shockley said. “I think now you’re at the level where you can win the national championship with the type of talent and caliber they have there. I think it’s all about winning that big one. Anything else, I don’t think they’d be proud of.”
Can they do it? Or, more to the point, can they do the job that gets them back to the national title stage again? Even an unbiased observer would agree there’s enough talent to do it. The coaching staff proved their chops last year. That would seem to leave the mental game as the remaining question.
Even with its surge into the top tier of college football last season, McGarity sees a sense of urgency with Smart.
“We’ve got a coach that doesn’t stand for complacency,” McGarity said. “It’s a new day. If you look back on last year too often, you’re not going to be able to look ahead. Complacency is always a concern. Being satisfied with what you’ve done—which you should be proud of—but it doesn’t really do any good in the future except recruiting (players) that want to be a part of that. They feel it when they come on campus.”
Can Georgia join those programs that have made multiple trips in the four seasons the playoff has existed? Alabama has made all four, Clemson has three appearances and Ohio State and Oklahoma have two each.
Or will they be a one-hit wonder?
“I always tell people it’s a sleeping giant,” Smart said in an interview on 1010XL in Jacksonville. “Hopefully we’re going to try to awaken it with some more years and more championships. …The expectation is very simple to get the most out of what we got and to win every football game because we feel like we’ve got superior talent and we can recruit at a real high level. We’re going to have years that we do better than others. The quarterback position is a big play in that because I really think it’s a quarterback driven game. “If you’ve got a quarterback then you’ve got a chance and if your quarterback plays well, you’ll be in a lot of games.”
Georgia’s got a chance, then.