The 2021 Georgia Bulldogs claimed their first national championship since 1980 and their sixth title overall with a resounding 33-18 win over Alabama in the National Championship game. The Bulldogs went 12-0 in the regular season and earned an appearance in the SEC title game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide would indeed roll in this game, blowing out the Bulldogs 41-24, ending Georgia’s 12-game win streak. The Bulldogs entered the college football playoffs as the number three seed and faced off against the number two Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl. The 34-11 thrashing of the Wolverines would propel the Bulldogs into the national championship game and a rematch with Alabama. On January 10th, 2022, the Georgia Bulldogs would exact their revenge on the Crimson Tide with a 33-18 victory to win the national championship finishing the season with a 14-1 record, giving coach Kirby Smart his first ever national championship as a head coach.
The Bulldogs were led by a ferocious defense that saw multiple players get drafted to the NFL. So how good was the defense, you may ask yourself? Great question. The 2021 Georgia Bulldog defense ranked first in scoring defense, giving up 10.2 points per game, first in red-zone defense, second in rushing defense, allowing just under 79 yards per game, and second in total defense at 267.9 total yards per game. The Georgia Bulldogs were ranked 26th in total offense, according to espn.com. The dawgs averaged 442.8 yards per game during the regular season and scored 39.4 points per game in 2021.
The coaching staff will look to rebuild and replace critical parts of Georgia’s championship team. The Bulldogs saw five of its defensive players get drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, and seven players from the defensive side of the ball were chosen in the first three rounds. Offensively six players had their names called beginning in the second round. The Georgia Bulldogs set a record by having 15 players selected in the 2022 NFL draft. Another key loss for the Bulldogs occurred on the coaching staff as defensive coordinator Dan Lanning left to take the head coaching job at Oregon. Georgia will replace Lanning by promoting two coaches already on staff to be co-defensive coordinators. Kirby Smart named Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann as co-defensive coordinators for the 2022 season.
Despite the losses to the NFL, there is reason for optimism, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, entering the 2022 campaign. Stetson Bennett’s decision to return to Georgia will provide stability on the offensive side of the ball as the quarterback will try to guide the Bulldogs to back-to-back titles. Bennett threw for 2,862 yards, 29 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2021. Three running backs return, including Kenny McIntosh, who played in 13 games and had 328 yards averaging 5.7 yards per carry; Kendall Milton, who played in seven games and had 264 yards; and Daijun Edwards, who carried the ball for 215 yards appearing in 10 games in 2021. The receiver position looks to be a bright spot for the Dawgs as Arian Smith returns to the field after suffering a broken leg in 2021. Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell look to round out the receiving unit for Bennett and the Bulldogs.
The defense looks to be loaded yet again in 2021. Defensive tackle Jalen Carter has the tools and skill set to be a dominant player and a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators. The secondary will be salty as it returns Christopher Smith, Kelee Ringo, and Tykee Smith from a unit that allowed less than 190 yards per game through the air in 2021. It will be tough to duplicate what the defense accomplished last season, but Georgia has talent and playmakers on both sides of the ball. A bit of a dropoff is expected; however, this unit is uber talented and will still be ridiculously good.
The 2022 football season kicks off as the #3 Bulldogs welcome former Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and the #11 Oregon Ducks to Mercedes Benz Stadium on Saturday, September 3rd. The Bulldogs will look to make a statement by defeating a top 15 team to open the season. The Bulldogs will benefit from a favorable schedule in 2022 and will not face another team ranked in the preseason top 25 until they go on the road to face off against #20 Kentucky. The Dawgs are at home against Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee this season. Georgia avoids Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Arkansas in the regular season and would not face one of those teams until the SEC championship game on December 3rd.
Now that we know what Georgia has lost from last year and what they have returning for this year, and we have seen their favorable schedule, what should we expect from them this season? Will Georgia go back-to-back in 2022? One could argue that the Bulldogs have an easier path to the college football playoffs than Alabama, Ohio State, or Clemson, which are the other teams in the preseason top 4, given their talent and an extremely favorable schedule. Georgia should win the SEC East and enter the SEC championship game with an unblemished record (although I would not be shocked if they lost on the road at Kentucky), where they will face the Alabama Crimson Tide. Nick Saban has been waiting all offseason to settle some scores with teams throughout SEC. Number one on his list has got to be the Georgia Bulldogs, and Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M are a close second. While Georgia will be one of the top teams in the country this season, it will be Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide hoisting the championship trophy once it’s all said and done.