The glorious undefeated run has come to an end, but the respect for this terrific 2023 team can be shown one final time at the Orange Bowl!

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The glorious undefeated run has come to an end, but the respect for this terrific 2023 team can be shown one final time at the Orange Bowl!

Vance Leavy
Vance Leavy

Without a doubt, the last week or so has been painful for everyone in the Bulldog Nation. After all, our men in red and black have provided their terrific fan base with a three-year run barely ever witnessed in the history of college football.

    Three consecutive regular season campaigns with a perfect 12-0 record, including back-to-back national championships.





    However on December 2, Georgia’s longtime nemesis in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Alabama Crimson Tide, once again put together the better performance winning the SEC Championship and thwarting the Bulldogs entry into the College Football Playoff.

    Like it or not, there will be no three-peat for our Bulldogs. It’s the cruel reality that one loss (by three points on conference championship week) dropped our No. 1 team all the way to No. 6 on selection Sunday. At least, that was the verdict slammed down by a CFP selection committee, who shall never be forgotten by both the Bulldog Nation and Seminole Nation.

    Now, I’m not so Pollyanna to admit that the CFP committee certainly had its hands full in choosing the final four teams. But there is also no way in hell that I will ever say they chose “the best four teams.”





    29 straight wins and 24 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 team in the Associated Press football poll, yet no chance given to defend your back-to-back national championships.

    That’s all I will say on this topic. Except, only to add that I most definitely understand Florida State’s equal dismay with how things shook out on selection Sunday.

    Thankfully today as I write my final note of the 2023 season, I’m doing much better than compared to a few days ago when I was contemplating dubbing this Bowl Preview issue as either the “Bitter Beach Bowl” or “Orange You Pissed.”

    While putting my best foot forward for this Georgia-Florida State/Orange Bowl match-up was extremely difficult, I began to get there when truly delving into this issue’s cover. Rob Saye’s photo of Brock Bowers (now the first ever, back-to-back Mackey Award recipient) during the SEC Championship Game is incredible. The determination in Brock’s eyes define what our 2023 team was all about. There were no excuses about injuries. And boy, there were a ton of them. Instead, our coaches and players put the best version on the field and fought like winners every week. Even in the week when their magical run finally game to an end.

    And of course, you can’t discuss the Bulldog Nation without acknowledging the passion of Georgia fans. That is why this Orange Bowl Preview cover (in addition to No. 19) includes 23 of my favorite photos from this season. Each week here at BI, we include roughly 100 fan photos, so that puts us around 1,500 total for this season. That’s a lot of photos and a ton of names (roughly 5,000). However, this duty never gets old because of the deep love for Georgia football displayed by our fans, coaches and most importantly our players.

    Like in every issue of BI, this one has plenty of content to get you juiced up for the Orange Bowl battle with the ’Noles. You won’t want to miss Jeff Danzler’s column on page 10. Enjoy his version of the Five Stages of Grief. It’s both hilarious and therapeutic. Also from JD is his annual Bowl Bonanza feature (pages 46, 47) where he breaks down 16 of his most intriguing bowl games.

    Hamilton Culpepper is back in this issue with his annual The Hammys award (pages 48, 49). Wow, it’s hard to believe Hammy will graduate from Georgia in May. It seems like it was just yesterday that his 14-year-old squeaky voice just started writing for BI. Thanks Hammy. We love you and know you will be fair when we begin negotiating you continuing with us (even though you will be slammed with your first post-college journalism job).

    Also, please take the time to read Loran Smith’s column (page 51) on Mark Richt’s recent induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. What a deserving accolade for his incredible career. Congrats to Coach Richt and his entire family!

    On the social side, we wrap this final issue of 2023 up in a bow. Enjoy our Georgia Girls (Sophie Stubblefield Bracewell, pages 26, 27) and Proust Q&A (Chase Hopkins, page 44) and another 100 or so fan photos beginning on page 29. Georgia fans doing what they love best … following their Dawgs.

    Wow, I’ve now reached the end, where I bid farewell. And unlike the last two years, there is no chance at an Extra Natty Preview issue and a massive commemorative February edition. Yes that is a bummer, but the love of this 2023 team will never be forgotten. And thankfully, there is one final game to show our support.

    Ho, Ho, Ho … FSU in the Orange … Here we go!

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Go Dawgs!





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