This Andy Staples assessment… fair or not?
Still, the program that seems most likely to make the jump is one you’re probably not thinking of because it got close to a national title twice in the past six years. Georgia hasn’t won a national championship since 1980, so it belongs in the category we’re discussing here. (Clemson won a title in ’81.) The near misses for the Bulldogs in 2012 and ’17 only served to deepen the frustration of the fan base. This season’s SEC title game loss made it even worse, because Georgia outplayed Alabama for most of the game and then lost because a) it couldn’t stop a backup quarterback and b) the coaching staff called one of the most perplexing fake punts in recent memory.
But the fact that the Bulldogs have gotten so close combined with Kirby Smart’s high-level recruiting suggests Georgia can be in the mix every season for the forseeable future. It’s just a matter of getting over the hump. That won’t be easy with Saban’s Tide on the other side of the SEC, but Georgia feels ready to break through—just as Clemson did back in 2015.
What about this analysis?
The Tide can be beaten. Clemson just beat the brakes off of them. Lesser teams like Ole Miss and Texas A&M have snatched wins. But there is a massive difference between those and Georgia beating Alabama through six of eight quarters in the calendar year.
Kirby Smart’s Georgia was supposed to be something more than a fluke or out-of-conference rival. Georgia was supposed to supplant the dynasty by building a bigger palace for one of Nick Saban’s best former assistants.
The Bulldogs still have little to show after coming so insanely close twice. So far, no matter how promising, they are still just the SEC’s latest imitation.
Smart just finished his third season, coached for a national title in one and came close to repeating in another, so in a sense insanely high expectations feel rational. It’s Smart’s bad luck, as well as a moment of supreme irony, that the program he’s emulating has been the barrier to breaking through.