Smart’s Bulldogs are favored to win again mostly because Smart has stockpiled player talent that can be matched only by Ohio State and Alabama. The Buckeyes (6-1), Crimson Tide (7-1) and USC (7-1) have the shortest championship odds behind Georgia.
Another reason to like the Bulldogs’ chances is the schedule is set up for another undefeated regular season. That would make them shoo-ins to advance to the College Football Playoff. Smart’s Georgia teams are 5-1 in the CFP, including 2-1 in the championship game.
Georgia’s 2023 schedule includes seven games at Sanford Stadium and only four true road games. Georgia Tech is the only nonconference foe from a Power Five league. Georgia’s first road game isn’t until Week 5 at Auburn, which remains a mess. The only challenging road game is at Tennessee, which is losing the two best players from its high-scoring offense.
It’s possible that some of Georgia’s opponents will be better than expected. The Bulldogs probably will slip without Stetson Bennett, the school’s all-time best quarterback. Injuries always can be an issue. Even great SEC teams can lose in the league if they have a bad day. We saw the Bulldogs come close at Missouri in October.
The long list of things that can go wrong is why it’s hard to win even one national championship. The Bulldogs needed some good luck to win two in a row. They’ll need more of it to win three consecutive titles. I believe these Bulldogs can do it against that schedule, even though Bennett is leaving.
Much of the discussion about the Bulldogs’ chances will center on Bennett’s successor. We don’t yet know if Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff or Gunner Stockton can play at this level. But I think they will have an advantage that Bennett never enjoyed.
Georgia is unique among recent national-title winners because it didn’t have an elite wide receiver on the roster. That could change next season. Arian Smith and Adonai Mitchell both showed their star potential when healthy this season. If they perform consistently in 2023, then Bennett’s replacement will have a deeper corps of pass catchers that includes Ladd McConkey and superb tight end Brock Bowers.
The new quarterback will lean on a great defense. That’s always been a safe assumption with Smart’s teams no matter how many talented players head to the NFL. It’s possible that Georgia’s secondary will struggle defending deep passes again in 2023. The team’s best cornerback this season, Kelee Ringo, is headed to the NFL. Senior safety Christopher Smith is gone.
But if long pass plays are Georgia’s only weakness again in 2023, which quarterback on the schedule can take advantage?
Two of the best QBs the Bulldogs faced this season, Will Levis (Kentucky) and Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), have declared for the NFL draft. Promising Florida sophomore Anthony Richardson also decided to stop playing for no salary. Against Georgia this season, those three quarterbacks combined for 6.7 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Are their successors really going to do any better?
The teams that had the Bulldogs on the heels in the past four seasons could match their talent. They featured quarterbacks, wide receivers or both that went on to be selected near the top of the NFL draft (or, for 2022 Ohio State, projected to go that high). There’s no opponent on Georgia’s 2023 schedule with such a collection of great offensive talent.
It’s also not clear that any of the Bulldogs’ potential postseason foes will have enough talent at the skill positions to score many points against them. USC might. Heisman Trophy quarterback Caleb Williams is back, though top target Jordan Addison is headed for the draft. The Trojans will have to be a lot better on defense just to get to average.
Then there’s Georgia’s ever-looming nemesis, Alabama.
Bryce Young is set to become the latest Crimson Tide quarterback to be a top-five NFL draft pick. Nick Saban has had an incredible succession of QBs from Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones to Young. Now there’s a good chance that string will be broken. Saban gets every benefit of the doubt in quickly getting inexperienced quarterbacks ready to play at an elite level. Can he do it yet again?
Alabama, like everyone else in college football, will chase the Bulldogs in 2023. They won back-to-back national titles, which is harder to do than ever. Three in a row will be even harder to pull off. The mighty Bulldogs, aided by a manageable schedule, can do it.
Georgia football 2023 schedule
Sept 2. vs. Tennessee-Martin
Sept. 9 vs. Ball State
Sept. 16 vs. South Carolina
Sept. 23 vs. Alabama-Birmingham
Sept. 30 at Auburn
Oct. 7 vs. Kentucky
Oct. 14 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 21 OPEN
Oct. 28 vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
Nov. 4 vs. Missouri
Nov. 11 vs. Ole Miss
Nov. 18 at Tennessee
Nov. 25 at Georgia Tech