Opening with a win versus a quality opponent has proven to be fruitful when looking at the history of the Bulldogs’ proud football program

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Opening with a win versus a quality opponent has proven to be fruitful when looking at the history of the Bulldogs’ proud football program

Jeff Dantzler
Jeff Dantzler

This is the year the Georgia faithful have been waiting on.

The elephant, literally and figuratively, has left the room. The monkey, the gorilla, King Kong is off Georgia’s back.





The pressure of not having won the national title, despite so many close calls, is gone. Georgia fans can take a much more enjoyable – and optimistic approach to the upcoming season. With the question of will this be the year answered in resounding fashion, Fellow Sons and Daughters of Munson and Dooley can put a cork in the poor-mouthing and punt the pessimism.

Kirby Smart’s program is a national powerhouse. Georgia’s national championship of 2021 is the crown jewel of the most successful five year run in Bulldogs football history. Now it’s time to kick off the 2022 campaign, and the expectations across the board, from Smart to the players to the loyal fanbase to the pollsters, is for Georgia to make it a sixth consecutive tremendous season.

The reigning national champions are ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls, and set to battle No. 11 Oregon in a highly anticipated showdown in Atlanta. These Dawgs of 2022 are hungry to make their mark, with a red and black clad throng super-charged to enjoy the quest for another championship.





Adding to the palpable excitement is the elite opponent. Throw in Dan Lanning, defensive coordinator extraordinaire in Athens from 2019-2021, as the Ducks new coach, and former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix as Oregon’s new quarterback, that mystery of the effects of the familiarity has the Bulldogs ready to burst from the starting gates.

Playing a top flight opponent in the season-opener is a no-brainer. There are at least four factors that come to mind, which we’ll cover before a brief but surely enlightening Bulldogs season-opening history lesson.

1. Legendary Hall of Fame Georgia Head Coach of 25 years Vince Dooley always said that – to paraphrase – “you know a lot more about your football team when you play an outstanding team in your first game.”

2. No doubt, especially when playing in the mighty Southeastern Conference, a premier opponent helps a team get “battle tested” for the grind of league play.

3. In the 12-game, conference championship game era of college football, the schedule is compressed and open dates limited. So it makes sense to play one of the best opponents on a schedule coming off an open date. Granted the other guy has one too – just as Florida does in Georgia’s case – but the first game is played following the eight month open date of the off-season.

4. Smart, named National Coach of the Year after leading his alma mater to the 2021 national title, has stressed how the premium foe “gets a team’s attention” throughout preseason camp. For recent example, Georgia, ranked fifth, beat No. 3 Clemson 10-3 in Charlotte to open the 2021 championship campaign.

That victory over the Tigers, which jump started the Bulldogs drive to the promised land of collegiate football, is the latest example of a magnificent season that opened with a memorable victory over a big name opponent.

From 1980-83, the most recent Golden Era of Georgia Football prior to this current streak of greatness, the Bulldogs opened with victories against Tennessee (16-15), Tennessee (44-0), Clemson (13-7) and UCLA (19-8), respectively.

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs beat Clemson to open the 2002 SEC championship season and blew away Boise State in the first game of the 2005 league title run. Georgia finished No. 2 in 2007, starting with a win over Oklahoma State.

Dooley’s first three SEC champions began with a win over Mississippi State (1966), a tie at Tennessee (1968) and victory over Cal (1976).

Wally Butts led Georgia to four SEC titles. Only the 1948 campaign, which opened with Chattanooga, followed by North Carolina, didn’t fit the trend. The 1942 national champions beat Kentucky, the 1946 11-0 Bulldogs topped Clemson, and in 1959 Georgia defeated Alabama in the season opener.

Smart’s 2017 SEC champions opened with a very good Appalachian State team, followed by the trip to Notre Dame.

Then there was Clemson last year. The focus, the confidence, that sense of belief from the victory, that feeling was present throughout the national title run.

Now it’s Oregon.

The last time Georgia kicked off a season as the reigning national champions was 1981. En route to a second straight SEC title and national title near miss, Georgia trounced Tennessee 44-0 Between the Hedges in the aforementioned opener.

It may be a shade ambitious to think that Georgia would win by a whopping margin – the silk suits in the other Clark(e) County have the Bulldogs favored by 17.5 – but a win over the Ducks would be a tremendous beginning to the 2022 season. A loss would hurt, but the Bulldogs could still play themselves back into contention.

Along with the obvious benefits of a victory over Oregon, which in the 21st century has emerged as one of the country’s top programs, the Bulldogs need some good mojo in Mercedes Benz Stadium. There’s been a lot of heartbreak there.

Atlanta’s new retractable dome will once again host the SEC Championship Game, as well as one of the two College Football Playoff Semifinals on New Year’s Eve in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Could the Bulldogs, realistically dreaming here, possibly win twice more in the same building this season? A victory over Oregon, history shows, would be a great indicator.





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