There was North Carolina in 1948. Houston in 1968. And a heart removal and disintegration against Auburn in 2005.
In the Southeastern Conference era, Georgia has had 14 teams that have won the league and/or national championship. The Bulldogs were consensus national champions in 1942. Georgia was the undisputed, unanimous national champion of 1980 and 2021. It should also be noted that the Bulldogs were voted No. 1 in at least one poll when going 11-0 in 1946, and in 1968. The same goes for 1927, before the SEC, when a whopping 22 schools played in a giant Southern Conference. We seem to be trending back to that size. But I digress.
The Bulldogs have won the SEC title 13 times: 1942, 1946, 1948, 1959, 1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2002, 2005 and 2017.
In those 14 fabulous SEC and/or National Championship seasons, the Bulldogs cumulative record at Sanford Stadium is 75-2-1, a winning percentage of 96.8.
The lone blemishes:
The 1948 Tarheels handed the Bulldogs their lone regular season loss and broke Georgia’s school record 17-game winning streak with a 21-14 victory Between the Hedges.
In 1968, Georgia had an 8-0-2 regular season, tying Houston 10-10 at Sanford Stadium. The other tie came in the season opener, when the Bulldogs and Tennessee drew 17-17 with a lot of bad breaks from the zebras and clock operator costing Georgia a victory.
Auburn hit a crippling fourth down conversion with a maddening ending to upend the Bulldogs 31-30 under the lights in Athens in 2005. I was with the Lady Bulldogs basketball team sitting by myself in a hotel room in Lubbock, Texas that night. Just sickened and saddened. I had to shower right after the game. Georgia would rebound, beat Kentucky and the Jackets and then upset LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
That’s it, just three blemishes in these 14 championship seasons.
It should also be pointed out that Georgia is 14-0 against the Yellow Jackets in these 14 campaigns. In the even numbered years, it was a double, beating “the enemy” Between the Hedges.
The moral of the story, to be elite, it starts with taking care of business at home and against the in-state arch-rival. That’s the beginning, the foundation, the must, of a championship recipe.
Now in Georgia’s case, taking care of business in the state has the extra caveat of domed stadiums in Atlanta, which have been the site of heartbreak and devastation. At least one national championship, probably two, maybe three, and a 3-6 record in SEC Championship Games. And a Sugar Bowl loss to West Virginia. New Orleans is the site of the second most agony. Penn State. Pitt.
Like many Bulldogs, I was so delighted that the National Championship Game this past season wasn’t played in Atlanta or New Orleans. Too much heartbreak and heartache. Too many tears.
Indianapolis is now on my Mt. Rushmore of universal towns and cities. The 33-18 victory over Alabama for the national championship, the crowning moment of the glorious Kirby Smart era, has put Georgia on the mountaintop.
Under Smart’s watch, the Bulldogs have finished in the top ten and earned berths in “Major Bowl Games” for five consecutive seasons. Both are firsts in the storied history of Georgia football.
Since 2017, Smart’s second season at the helm in Athens, the Dogs are a combined 18-2 against the Yellow Jackets (4-0), Florida (4-1), Auburn (5-), including the 2017 SEC Championship Game Bulldogs victory and Tennessee (5-0).
In Smart’s first season of 2016, the Bulldogs suffered three crushing losses at home that defied belief. All the bad stuff got out at the same time.
Since then, over these past five seasons, only once has Georgia lost at home – a 20-17 overtime upset loss to Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks in 2019.
Smart’s Bulldogs are 28-1 at Sanford Stadium over the last five years. In the four game winning streak against the Jackets, three of which have come at Grant Field due to the cancellation of the 2020 game, Georgia has outscored Tech 180-35.
Take care of business at home. Take care of business against the in-state rival.
With that foundation, the Bulldogs have been terrific on the road, 4-1 against the Gators in Jacksonville over the last five years, and SEC East champions four times over the last five campaigns.
Three straight SEC Championship Game trips from 2017-2019 and four out of five have put Georgia and Smart into rarified territory that includes only Steve Spurrier’s Florida powerhouses of the 1990s, and Alabama in the Gene Stallings and Nick Saban eras.
Georgia has beaten Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
Smart’s Dogs have twice played for the national championship. Slaying that dragon on the glorious night of January 10, 2022.
Jam-packed Sanford Stadium was the site of history five days later, hosting the greatest victory party and coronation in college sports history.
It didn’t take long for the question to be asked, when will the Bulldogs do it again? That’s the confidence of the Smart era with the 2021 National Championship Trophy of 2021 beaconing so brightly. Not if, not can, but when will the Bulldogs do it again?
It starts at home.
Saturday afternoon, the most loyal, and now joyful fanbase in all the land, will gather again, as Smart’s Bulldogs of 2022 get their first chance to continue Georgia’s dominance at Sanford Stadium, and perhaps take an early step on a championship journey.