Han by Andy Lee

On Paper

Han Vance on Georgia football: The preseason college football magazines are out, and the scribes are liking the University of Georgia Bulldogs, just not as much as Clemson/Bama. As I noted in my article “Power in the Piedmont”, each of these three programs is within one small region of the South.

Athlon:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Georgia
4. Michigan
5. Ohio State
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Florida*
9. Notre Dame*
10. Texas A&M*

(*on the Georgia regular season schedule)

Street & Smith’s:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Georgia
4. Oklahoma
5. Ohio State
6. LSU
7. Notre Dame*
8. Florida*
9. Texas
10. Oregon

Lindy’s:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Georgia
4. Oklahoma
5. Michigan
6. Florida*
7. Ohio State
8. LSU
9. Notre Dame*
10. Oregon

First, let me point out that picking this Alabama over the new Clemson as the number one team right now is stupid. The Tigers have done it again, winning by 20 or more for the last 10 games. When Georgia (foolishly) said Notre Dame should not have been in the CFP, based on what Clemson did to them, then Clemson went out and beat Alabama worse (by 28) than they beat ND. No paper Tigers, Clemson returns their coaching staff intact year-after-year, while Bama cleans house, guys leaving for better jobs with a nicer boss.

On-field coaching in-game is key when programs are this close in strength. If it were not, then Bama who has had a decade of number one recruiting classes and dipped to number two just once (when Kirby ruled the mythical national recruiting rankings with the first Early Signing Period’s top acknowledgement), always would have the better of Clemson on the field, which they simply do not. Two-of-three national championships saw Clemson better than Bama, and in-between Georgia had the best team but was not coached up enough to mentally execute. They (“us”, “we”) got out-coached by Saban and Pruitt and blew a big lead. Clemson has better assistants than a revolving door, which is what we see at Bama (and UGA, now).

Back to when Bama won by beating Clemson in the national championship, the desperate genius timing of an onside kick called by Saban was the only difference between Clemson sweeping them in national championship games and going 2-1. Georgia’s year – the lost national championship when the Dawgs had by far the best team in the country with Roquan, Sony, Chubb, Baker all on the same team – Bama got Clemson in the opening round of the CFP, with the Tigers’ between-QB. Bryant came between the national championship leaders at Clemson, could not hold his position, has now transferred to Mizzou.

On the other hand, Bama wins it all every other year. This is that year! They return the greatest head coach in college football history, Heisman frontrunner QB Tua as an upperclassman and 3,500+ yards from a returning wide receiving core that is unstoppable. Compare and contrast that with UGA for a second, where Georgia has one SEC title since 2005 and one CFP appearance – both in the same year, completely dominated by the recruits of the previous head coach. Losing the top linebacker in the country, then the top defensive back in the country has left question marks and a lack of clear, sheer dominance. Georgia’s receivers? One has played much, he had just over 400 yards, 5th best on the team in production. Bama’s top young guy had 1,300+. Take away Baker at corner – who took away one-third of the field and/or the top guy yielding no touchdowns the last two seasons – and I like the Georgia secondary way, way less than I did coming into either 2017 or 2018.

Tap the brakes, I think it is premature to even lump Georgia with Oklahoma and Ohio State, who have been to multiple CFPs and contend for the CFP every year, and I in no way see Georgia as arrived like Clemson/Bama. Not yet. In terms of College Football Playoff(s), Georgia has one OT win and is .500.

In the SEC, only Florida-Tennessee-Georgia have ever won the SEC East and then taken the whole league, with South Carolina winning the East once, Mizzou twice, Kentucky never, Vandy never. Kentucky had a 10-win year last year and were the SEC East’s 2nd best team (beating the Gators in the Swamp), but they lose their top defender and top running back (maybe best ever). Georgia opens at Vandy in Nashville, so that’s a win. Mizzou has beaten UGA once. South Carolina challenged Georgia two years ago as the division’s 2nd best team, then slipped back to .500, like they do. Tennessee closed the gap, but they won’t be ready yet, after years of mediocrity and their best year within was winning just nine games. 10-win Florida is the challenger to Georgia, coming off a strong finish in their final two games of last season. They too closed the gap on Georgia and were within a few big plays of making it a scarily competitive game last season in Jacksonville. The fact that the annual big game is played at the site of the Gator Bowl matters. I look for Florida to be the only legit challenger to the Dawgs. But, winning the SEC East is old hat. WE want it all.

Where would I rank Georgia? Third. But I want to see it on the fields, against the best competition, and I need to see it happen all the way and year-after-year before we go calling for any statues.

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