Why the Georgia Bulldogs are a good bet to ‘threepeat’

Credit: Ryon Horne/AJC

AJC's Sarah K. Spencer and Chip Towers discuss key players pivotal to Georgia's historic season. Video by Ryon Horne

Georgia football just won back-to-back national championships. That’s very hard to do. It seems a bit greedy already to be talking about going for three in a row. That’s probably why Kirby Smart was reluctant to do it while his players were still puffing on victory cigars.

Smart wants the Bulldogs to stay hungry. Speculating about a “threepeat” now risks making it seem inevitable before they’ve put in the work. That’s going to be a challenge for Smart. He won’t be able to shield the people in his program from the reasonable view that the Bulldogs have a good chance of becoming the first team to win three championships in a row in college football’s modern era.

Georgia’s reputation as a football power has grown to that point. The Bulldogs just captured the hardest back-to-back college titles in history. They are the only repeat champ that had to win four playoff games. They did it with style, too, by going 15-0 this season.

Before the 2021 season, oddsmakers had Georgia at 6-1 to win it all. The Bulldogs were 4-1 before the 2022 season. The implied probabilities of winning both titles were only 3%. Georgia is the 3-1 favorite to win the 2023 title. The implied odds of a threepeat are less than 1%.

That’s all assuming that the markets are right about the odds. That’s not always the case – Georgia wasn’t the favorite to win it this year – but the rarity of back-to-back titles proves that the true odds of doing it aren’t too far off. Minnesota is the only team to win three championships in a row. And that happened so long ago, from 1934-36, that it might as well have been a different sport.

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

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