Pigskin Pickin’ 2023: Georgia Tech might be OK; UGA might never lose again

Georgia players and coaching staff celebrate after Ohio State's place kicker Noah Ruggles (95) failed to score the field goal at the end of the fourth quarter in the 2022 CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Atlanta. Georgia won 42-41 over Ohio State. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia players and coaching staff celebrate after Ohio State's place kicker Noah Ruggles (95) failed to score the field goal at the end of the fourth quarter in the 2022 CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Atlanta. Georgia won 42-41 over Ohio State. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The temptation is great to pick Georgia to go 7-5. Not because I believe the Bulldogs will lose that many games. (I don’t believe they’ll lose any.) Because all this winning is, for us neutrals, getting tedious.

The 2021 edition of Pigskin Pickin’ tabbed the Bulldogs to go unbeaten and win the national championship. The 2022 installment had them losing one game and winning the national title. Pickers of nits will carp that they did it the other way around – the loss came in 2021 – but I’ll take a bow for getting the big picture right.

Georgia has become what Alabama was, except that Bama never won consecutive titles after the College Football Playoff arrived. Georgia is 4-0 over the past two tournaments, soon to be 6-0. Maybe CFP expansion will change things. Maybe it won’t.

The over/under on the Bulldogs’ regular-season wins should be 11.5. There’s no chance Georgia loses more than once. Five of its first six games will be staged at Sanford Stadium. Alabama isn’t on the schedule, nor is LSU. Pundits and networks will get excited about Tennessee in Knoxville on Nov. 18, but the hype will get the Bulldogs pumped, too.

When you’ve won as much as this bunch has, you live for the moment when somebody picks you to lose. I won’t pick Georgia to lose again until I see it happen, which renders this prediction not so much bold as boilerplate: The Bulldogs will go 12-0; then they’ll beat LSU for the SEC title, Florida State in the CFP semi and Ohio State in the final.

The Buckeyes should be kicking themselves for not having a better kicker. Make one makeable field goal and college football looks different today. That the makeable field goal was missed leaves Georgia – 33-1 since Nov. 7, 2020 – bearing the imprint of impregnability, which leaves us prognosticators looking for worthy runners-up.

Ohio State has lost to Michigan two years running; if Ryan Day hopes to remain employed, that can’t happen a third time. USC returns Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams – Lincoln Riley mints Heisman winners – but will need a defense if it’s to win playoff games. Clemson has slipped, which leaves room at the ACC top for FSU, provided Mike Norvell can produce big results when big results are again expected.

The final four-team playoff will include Georgia, Ohio State, USC and Florida State. Let’s leave the Big 12 out of this one, seeing as how TCU fell 59 points short of winning the title tilt in L.A. (This season’s finale will be in Houston; semis are the Sugar and Rose.)

LSU again will take the SEC West. Some folks expected Brian Kelly to get his comeuppance where It Just Means More; with SEC talent of his own, he did just fine. We know Nick Saban doesn’t take reversals lightly, but Alabama found itself in four coin-flip games last season and won half. The belief is that Bama’s best is behind it, though we stipulate that Bama’s best was historic.

It took Kirby Smart five tries to get past Alabama. Now he has. Since Smart left Tuscaloosa, his new team has won it all as many times as his former team. That’s a sea change.

In years past, Pigskin Pickin’ has gotten granular regarding other teams of interest. With Georgia ensconced as the collegiate colossus, there’s not much else to say. Florida just lost seven games. Auburn just lost seven games. Wake me if/when those two do something right.

Georgia Tech also lost seven games, though the Jackets were a sprightly 4-4 after Brent Key replaced destroyer-of-depth-charts Geoff Collins. Tech has miles to go before it returns to relevance, but the ACC doesn’t brim with excellence. I could see 7-5. I could also see 5-7. Let’s say 6-6.

Back to UGA: Another 15-0 season would leave the Bulldogs as winners of 32 in a row. The record, held by Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma, is 47. Just something for Dylan Raiola to ponder as he awaits his turn.

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