LOS ANGELES – Breaking news: The 2023 Georgia Bulldogs have just qualified for the College Football Playoffs.
Yes, I am joking, but only a little. Who is to stop them?
Georgia’s schedule is a piece of cake.
Georgia Tech is the Bulldogs’ only non-conference opponent in Power Five next season, and the Yellow Jackets haven’t played as much as the Power Five show over the past few seasons.
The rival in Florida is a mess. During the “Cocktail Party”, alligator fans will be ready to launch Billy Napier into the Atlantic Ocean.
Auburn is collecting transfers and should regain competence, but competence alone will not defeat Georgia.
Spencer Rattler was brilliant against Tennessee and Clemson. He was pathetic against Georgia. In 2023, he will face the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. Good luck.
Ole Miss came to nothing against the strongest competition this season. This competition did not include Georgia. It will be next season. Lane Kiffin better start tweeting Kirby Smart’s sweet nicknames today in hopes that his old associate will settle for a three touchdown win.
Maybe teams like LSU or Alabama will face Georgia in the SEC Championship, but if the Bulldogs are undefeated in this game, they will probably be ranked 1st or 2nd in the rankings. So even after the Atlanta loss, they’d remain a contender for the CFP, and the SEC would likely get two playoff berths in this scenario, with a shot at the national championship game, which is a rematch of the SEC championship.
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This makes Tennessee the team most likely to keep Georgia out of the playoffs.
Tennessee will host Georgia on November 18, and Alabama can attest to the ferocity of Neyland Stadium since the Vols awoke from their years-long slumber.
Georgia’s upset in Tennessee could push the Vols to the SEC East crown and stop the Bulldogs from taking over the sport.
How likely is that?
Not so if you watched the team games in November.
The Bulldogs dealt with the Vols, who took first place in the CFP, on November 5 in front of a home crowd that caused an uproar. Georgia’s rushing pass caught Hendon Hooker and the halftime score was 24-6 before the Bulldogs let off the accelerator and ran out of time during a rainy second half.
The final score, 27-13, did not tell the true story of the tape.
Still, the Vols are the most formidable opponent on Georgia’s schedule and secured a spot in the preseason top 10 by defeating Clemson in the Orange Bowl to finish the season 11-2.
Veteran Joe Milton is set to take the offensive reins after a career-best performance against Clemson, and Josh Heupel’s track record suggests his quick attack can survive a quarterback change.
Tennessee’s defense remains a problem, however. It managed to bend but not break against Clemson, but Georgia doesn’t wilt in the red zone like Clemson did at Hard Rock Stadium.
But if the Vols do better this season than they did against Georgia, and Neyland Stadium becomes the X factor, the Tennessee offensive will at least give UT the potential to be a tough opponent for Georgia. The same cannot be said of Georgia’s other planned enemies.
On Tuesday morning, hours after Georgia pasted TCU 65-7 to repeat the national title, the conversation shifted to next season.
Smart’s first championship team made Georgia a party animal.
Two in a row have proven that the Bulldogs are here to stay.
Tripeat? This would be unheard of in modern times.
Set history aside, though, and take a look at Georgia’s returning roster, and you’ll understand why bookmakers named the Bulldogs early favorites to win the national championship next season.
The Bulldogs need to replace quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, but are set to return three backup quarterbacks who were respected recruits. Most of the offensive and defensive starters from the Georgia Championship are expected to return, and a wave of talented students from the lower class is poised for bigger roles.
So who will stumble in Georgia? Perhaps Georgia itself, according to the coach. With so many returning, Smart’s main concern is to fend off complacency.
“I think it’s going to be much harder,” Smart said on Tuesday. “I think we have a lot of guys coming back and it’s easy to get used to. And convenience doesn’t win.”
Top talent usually rules the day though, and few, if any, teams will match Georgia’s 2023 assembly.
Tennessee is no match for this team, but the pattern and the angry mob might even out a bit.
The Vols are more likely to become a higher hurdle than most, but an hurdle Georgia overcomes nonetheless by extending its rule.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC columnist for the USA TODAY network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.