It has been a dream season for Georgia. This is the year the hungry Bulldog faithful have been so longing for.
Champions of the Southeastern Conference with a sparkling 12-1 record and a series of slayings of arch and ancient rivals, Georgia ventures to Pasadena for a Rose Bowl showdown with a perennial powerhouse Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff.
In his second year at the helm of his alma mater, Kirby Smart is captaining a Bulldog ship that is full speed ahead in the early stages of a Golden Era of Georgia football. This level of excitement and enthusiasm hasn’t been felt since the glory days of the early ‘80s, when from 1980-83 Georgia went 43-4-1, won the 1980 national championship, three straight Southeastern Conference crowns, boasted four straight top-five rankings and featured Herschel Walker capturing the 1982 Heisman Trophy.
This Bulldog squad posted its biggest win since those cherished days, avenging the lone defeat of the season with a 28-7 SEC Championship Game victory over Auburn to earn one of those four coveted spots. Now comes an even bigger game.
The biggest since that heart-breaking loss to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1983 that cost the Bulldogs a second national championship in three years. Now, Georgia is two wins away – two Himalayan-esque mountains – from the proud program’s first national title since 1980.
There have been some wonderful seasons for the red and black since, including SEC titles in 2002 and 2005, plus a couple of near misses for the big prize in 2007 and 2012. But this is undoubtedly the most enjoyable season for the Georgia faithful since that perfect regular season Heisman Herschel campaign of ’82. And it could wind up better. It could be, right there with 1942, 1946 and 1980.
So while Everest and K-2, each of which Georgia is fully capable of scaling, stand in Pasadena and potentially again in Atlanta between the Bulldogs and the biggest dream, this journey is one to be celebrated.
On November 4 at Sanford Stadium, Georgia beat South Carolina 24-10. That 14-point victory over the Gamecocks was the Bulldogs 11th largest margin of victory this season. Let that sink in.
Georgia has won 10 times by at least 21 points, including the conference title tilt. Included on that hit list is the vengeance tour. Four teams that beat the Bulldogs last season were on the schedule is year. Georgia beat that quartet of Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Tech by a combined count of 166-28, an average of 42.5-7.0. All four of those victories came by at least 31 points. Then, of course, there is the matter of the in-season payback against Auburn in Atlanta that vaulted the Bulldogs to the Rose Bowl.
The only other trip to “The Granddaddy of the All” came 75 years ago to the day, as Georgia beat UCLA 9-0 on January 1, 1943 – a victory that would vault the Bulldogs to the consensus national title. That Georgia juggernaut, led by College Football Hall of Famers Frank Sinkwich and Charley Trippi, lost once … to Auburn. Along the way, the Bulldogs beat Florida 75-0 and Tech 34-0. This year’s 42-7 win over the Gators and a 38-7 topping of Tech were extra sweet. As was a 41-0 victory at Tennessee. While Georgia is in the Rose Bowl, there was no postseason for the Yellow Jackets, Gators or Volunteers.
What a difference a year can make.
This season actually took its first step to greatness last December when heralded tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb decided to return for their senior seasons. Heartbreaking home losses to Tennessee, Vandy, and Tech, were not how these two all-timers were going to go out.
Sometimes you have to walk through the valley before scaling the mountaintop.
In 1979, Georgia went 6-5.
But it all came together in 1980, with the greatest senior class in Bulldog history and the greatest freshman class in Georgia lore.
This season, with Chubb and Michel the headliners, the Bulldogs boast a stellar senior class. And oh are there some fantastic freshmen with a touch of fate.
Whereas Herschel was the difference-maker in 1980, making his splash in the third quarter of the opener in Knoxville, true freshman Jake Fromm, due to an injury to Jacob Eason, had his baptism by fire in the third series of this year’s first game against Appalachian State.
While Chubb, Michel, Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Isaiah Wynn and Javon Wims are amongst the many sensational seniors of ’17, when Georgia put the punctuation of the SEC title, true freshman Andrew Thomas, as has been the case all year, was manning the right tackle, Fromm was the signal caller, and he handed to another true freshman DeAndre Swift, who broke loose for a 64-yard touchdown that pushed the lead over Auburn, following Rodrigo Blankenship’s PAT, to 28-7.
For all the enjoyable double-digit victories posted by the Bulldogs, it was the one single-digit victory, the one-point win at Notre Dame, which got Georgia over the hump.
The only other meeting between those two came famously on January 1, 1981, when the Bulldogs beat the Irish 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.
Perhaps in this first-ever meeting with Oklahoma, the Bulldogs can collect a second Rose Bowl title and continue this season of dreams.
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