(BVM) — The conversations began midway through the second quarter of the national championship game (if they hadn’t already begun weeks earlier).
With back-to-back national titles, Georgia has now replaced Alabama as the standard for college football programs, which is a significant development. The debate, therefore, shouldn’t be over whether UGA is the best program in the sport at this moment but rather how its current strength compares with other greats in recent history, including the Crimson Tide.
If not for Bama having just had the most successful run in the history of the sport – a run that hasn’t necessarily ended – this would be a much easier analysis. Georgia would be the closest thing to a dynasty in the making since Pete Carroll’s USC teams went 37-2 with a couple of AP national titles from the 2003 through 2005 seasons.
Also, if not for Alabama’s greatness, there would be much more appreciation for Clemson’s run of six straight playoff appearances with four championship games and two national titles from the 2015 through 2020 seasons.
So, the most appropriate question right now regarding Georgia is probably whether they’re about to become the next Alabama… or the next Clemson.
For now, it seems more likely that the Alabama comparisons will continue. The Bulldogs’ consecutive national titles are the sport’s first since Bama doubled up in 2011-12, when Kirby Smart was Alabama’s defensive coordinator. And for both the Tide and Dawgs, the second championship of the two was an emphatic beatdown, with Georgia’s being even more lopsided.
One thing is not up for debate: Georgia’s stretch of dominance isn’t yet close to Alabama’s. Smart has a long way to go to catch Nick Saban, but that doesn’t mean his teams aren’t already as good as – or even better than – Saban’s best teams.
UGA has won all but one game over the last two seasons. That’s something Saban (in the same conference) hasn’t done over any two-year stretch of his career. In fact, the last SEC coach to do that was Gene Stallings at Alabama in 1991-92. The last SEC coach to do that with a national championship in both seasons was Paul “Bear” Bryant at Bama in 1978-79.
And now Smart has a chance to do something that hasn’t been accomplished since college football’s poll era began in 1936: win three straight titles. Bama was in position to do it in 2013, sitting at 11-0 before “the Kick 6” at Auburn cost the Tide a spot in both the SEC and BCS championship games. But with the current four-team playoff, it’ll probably take more than one loss in 2023 to keep Georgia from making history.
A quick look at the Dawgs’ schedule makes it pretty obvious that they’ll be favored to return to the playoff a year from now. Even with a new quarterback, the worst-case scenario for the regular season seems to be 11-1. From there, it’s likely just a matter of whether they’ll beat a team like Alabama or Ohio State when the chips are down.
The truth is, there aren’t many teams with enough talent to give Georgia a legitimate battle in the postseason, either next year or for the near future. All of Smart’s recruiting classes except his first one (in 2016) have been ranked in the top four by the 247 Sports Composite. He’s built a Bama-like machine in Athens, and unless he were to unexpectedly step away, it’s hard to see this UGA train slowing down anytime soon. The only question is how many more titles for the Bulldogs before he’s done.
Nothing in college sports can fairly be called a dynasty until it continues through complete roster turnover. In football, that means doing it with more than one quarterback. Next year, Georgia will have that opportunity to truly enter into the “dynasty” discussion.
Beyond that, if Smart and the Bulldogs are to challenge the run that Saban has had at Alabama, they’ll have to make their closing statement within a new postseason model. The change from a four-team to a 12-team playoff will be a new look for the sport, but will it stop the domination of UGA and Alabama?
If Monday night showed us anything, it’s that college football – at the highest level – comes down to having great players. It takes a lot to win that very last game of the season, and teams that don’t have elite talent have little chance in the postseason against teams that do.
If you follow recruiting, you know that the teams set up to have the most talent over the next few seasons are the same ones that have already had the best players for the past few years. The new playoff may appear quite different in December, but it’s likely to have a very familiar feel in January. Georgia will be there again, and the list of threats to its supremacy is a short one.
Most of us thought college football would never again see a run like Alabama’s, and it still may not. But the Bulldogs are in a good position to give it a go.