65 Teams in 65 Days: Georgia Bulldogs

Head Coach: Kirby Smart

Offensive Coordinator: Todd Monken Co-Defensive Coordinator: Will Muschamp Co-Defensive Coordinator: Glenn Schumann (First Season) Conference: SEC

2021 Record: 14-1 (8-0) (Beat Alabama in the National Championship Game) 2022 Non Conference Opponents: Oregon, Samford, Kent State, Georgia Tech Key Additions: N/A

The 30 year drought is over and Georgia has finally won another National Championship. The Dogs defense was stifling last year, led by the likes of Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis, Quay Walker, Lewis Cine and a plethora of other studs who are now in the NFL. Despite all these fantastic players leaving, Georgia returns a good chunk of talent on both sides of the ball, meaning the goal for 2022 is to repeat as National Champs.

At quarterback, Georgia gets their boy Stetson Bennett back. Last season “The Mailman,” threw for 29 touchdowns, seven interceptions and almost 3,000 yards while averaging 9.9 yards per attempt. While these stats are great, Stetson struggled while under pressure and there was a major dropoff in both consistency and production on intermediate throws compared to the deep ball. Stetson benefited a ton from a great offensive line and rushing attack which opened up the play action pass game last season, which has a ton of success at the college level, but won’t be the same in the NFL, which limits Stetson’s ceiling as a prospect. The rushing attack will be headlined by Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Miton due to Zamir White and James Cook moving onto the NFL. Both had a solid workload in 2021, having 58 and 56 carries respectively, and both were fantastic after contact, averaging more than 3.4 yards after contact per carry. Assuming this is going to be a committee, I have a lot of faith in the Bulldogs rushing attack led by these two. McIntosh is a tremendous pass catcher as well. Last season he caught 22 of 26 targets for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged more yards per route run than James Cook, and will be one of the best pass catching backs in the SEC this season. As for the rest of the receiving corps, there are two players to highlight. The first is wide receiver Ladd McConkey who is in line for a massive breakout. McConkey stands at 6’0 and weighs 185 pounds, while possessing an elite mix of route running, speed and versatility. Last season as a freshman, McConkey averaged 2.70 yards per route run and quarterbacks had a near perfect passer rating of 154.0 while targeting him. He can play from both the slot and out wide, can win at every level of the field, is elite after the catch and can also be used as a rusher, rushing for 44 yards and a touchdown on four carries last year. McConkey displayed elite football IQ and maturity as just a freshman in 2021, and is going to have a massive year in 2022 with George Pickens gone. While McConkey will be the most targeted wide receiver, the focal point of Georgia’s offense will be tight end Brock Bowers. Like McConkey, Bowers was only a freshman last season and thrived. He recorded 882 receiving yards and two touchdowns while hauling in 56 of 71 targets. Bowers is an exceptional route runner and is great after the catch, as he averaged 9.3 yards after the catch per catch last season. With two high IQ youngsters with loads of potential leading the Bulldogs receiving corps, I love the weapons Georgia has for Stetson Bennett this season, and believe they will be able to run their offense similar to the way they did last year. The offensive line returns two starters, but three players who played over 400 snaps last season. I have faith in the tackles, as Broderick Jones was a fantastic rotational piece for the Bulldog’s last season, and with that experience will slot right into the starting right tackle spot this year. Opposite him is Warren McClendon, one of the best tackles in the nation, as he is a stud run blocker and an even better pass blocker. Last season, McClendon only allowed eight pressures and did not allow a single sack. The interior linemen don’t offer as much experience, which is slightly worrisome for the Bulldog’s rushing attack, but I think they will be fine overall.

On defense, the Bulldogs will regress. That is not a knock on this year’s group at all, but given the talent they had last season it will be impossible to replicate it in 2022. The defensive line is very stout, as they return Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith. Carter has potential to be the best interior defensive linemen in the nation as he is a sound pass rusher and run defender. Last season, Carter was the best pass rushing defensive tackle on the team, as he posted a win percentage of 18.9%, while also recording 24 pressures and four sacks. He possesses great strength which is why he is such an elite all around tackle. Against the run, he did commit four penalties, but was still fantastic, as his average depth per tackle was 1.6 yards. Over the offseason, Carter emphasized attention to detail, removing minor fundamental kinks from his game and look for him to be the best defensive tackle in the nation. Defensive end Nolan Smith has received a ton of hype over the offseason, and while that is deserved, it is a little premature, as I believe Carter is the unsung hero of the group. Last season, Smith was only slightly above average as a pass rusher, posting a win percentage of 13.7% and if he is going to live upto his hype, that number needs to be much better in 2022. While I am a bit critical of Smith’s pass rushing ability, his run stopping ability is next to none, and is in my opinion what makes him an NFL ready prospect. With Carter and Smith returning, I expect Georgia’s defensive line to be fantastic at stopping the run. In terms of pass rushing, I am a bit more worried as what made Georgia’s defense so good last year was the flexibility and pass rushing abilities of Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean. With them gone and the players filling their voids being inexperienced, I think Georgia regresses a lot in this category, as teams will be locked in on stopping Smith and Carter. The secondary has a great mix of exciting talent and proven veterans, Cornerback Kelee Ringo is the leader of the group, and he is an absolute stud, as last season he allowed a completion percentage of just 40% and a passer rating of 63.2 when targeted, while facing most teams best receiver. Ringo will likely be a top 15 draft pick next spring, as he checks every box and is a corner ready to compete at the next level. After the 2021 season, safety Latavius Brini entered the transfer portal, mainly due to Christopher Smith’s excellent play down the stretch. Smith returns in 2022 and looks to pick up right where he left off, as in 2021 he allowed passer rating less than 73 when targeted in four of the Bulldogs last five games. With those two now being the seasoned veterans in the secondary, look for teams to try and pick on the new starters such as William Poole and Kamari Lassiter. Lassiter is a lot like Kelee Ringo, as he has tremendous ball skills and is very physical. He played a good amount last season, breaking up two passes while also recording an interception. While Lassiter does lack elite speed, I think he will be a fine complement to Kelee Ringo. William Poole will play in the slot, and like Lassiter was able to get some reps last season. He played 180 coverage snaps and forced five incompletions. Now a senior, Poole has waited his turn to be a starter on Kirby Smart’s defense and the time has finally come. The Bulldogs defense will regress in every aspect this season, however I still consider their secondary and run defense elite.

This is the easiest schedule in the SEC and it's a complete joke how much of a cakewalk the defending National Champs have to the College Football Playoff. Outside of Oregon, no one has a chance to beat this Georgia team, as the rest of the schedule is filled with teams weak in the trenches. Oregon however, is not, as they have what is in my opinion the best three man defensive tackle rotation in the nation, an elite offensive line and a linebacker corps that can rush the passer and be disruptive in coverage. Not to mention, Oregon will be playing with a chip on their shoulder due to the tragic passing of Spencer Webb, and Dan Lanning will be eager to take down his former boss. The Bulldogs are still a great team, but lack the starpower they had last year, which will derail their College Football Playoff aspirations.

Record Prediction: 11-2 (8-0)

V Oregon: Loss

V Samford: Win

AT South Carolina: Win

V Kent State: Win

AT Missouri: Win

V Auburn: Win

V Vanderbilt: Win

V Florida: Win

V Tennessee: Win

AT Mississippi State: Win

AT Kentucky: Win

V Georgia Tech: Win

SEC Championship Game: Loss

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