The Georgia Bulldogs had an outstanding 2017.
That magical season came together as a result of several surprising developments and long-rising trends which coalesced at the right time to yield victories over every major rival on the schedule, a conference title, a Rose Bowl win for the ages, and very nearly the school’s first national title in over three decades.
None of it was inevitable. And therein lies the rub for Bulldog fans hopefully looking forward to 2018. There are a ton of reasons to expect great things from Kirby Smart’s team this season. But there are also plenty of things to worry about. College football seasons often turn on just a handful of plays, and the line between 12-0 and 8-4 is thinner than most fans realize. It’s enough to keep college coaches, who know exactly how much luck plays into their profession, up at night.
If you’ve been sleeping soundly, dreaming of another shot at a national title, allow me to rudely remind you of all the ways that dream could turn into a nightmare.
Five Things That Could Go Wrong For Georgia in 2018
5) Hot Rod goes cold. I still don’t think we've talked enough about how remarkably consistent Rodrigo Blankenship was in 2017. He kicked 67 touchbacks, far more than any UGA kicker in recent memory. He’s hit every single extra point he’s attempted in a regulation game of his Bulldog career. And he hit every field goal he attempted from inside 40 yards in 2017. Every. One. No fanbase has a right to expect that level of consistency from a #collegekicker. If however Rodri-GOAT (h/t, Brooks) runs into a slump at the wrong time, in the wrong game, things could go very badly for the Red and Black.
4) Jake Fromm goes from freshman phenom to sophomore slump. Jake Fromm’s freshman season was sensational by any objective measure. From the moment he took the field unexpectedly against Appalachian State on through the national title game, Fromm displayed uncharacteristic cool for a freshman.
That being said, he wasn’t perfect. There were some freshman mistakes for which he could have been made to pay but wasn’t. We sometimes see freshman quarterbacks who were brought along slowly and with the aid of a solid running game slump under increased responsibility in year two. I don’t think that’s likely in Fromm’s case. But if he does struggle in year two, it will be really bad news for the Classic City Canines.
3) It turns out Roquan & Co. really were that good. Georgia will have to replace a majority of the starters on its excellent 2017 defense, including All-American Roquan Smith. The ‘Dawgs don’t lack for blue chip talent on defense. But especially in the early going youthful errors and inexperience could prove costly.
2) The ball bounces the other way. Georgia was a healthy +4 in turnover margin in 2017. More importantly, after the opener against App St. (-2) the Red and Black didn’t have any games in which they were worse than -1 in turnovers versus their opponent. Keeping the turnover margin basically even to positive for an entire season is difficult to do, and a momentary regression to the mean (especially in road contests against the likes of South Carolina, Missouri, or LSU) could lead to an unexpected L.
- The injury worm turns. Georgia’s injury luck in 2017 was supernatural. No player on the two deep suffered a true season-ending injury until Charlie Woerner broke his leg against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. Especially given Kirby Smart’s preference for physical football, that’s amazing. But already in 2018 we’ve seen Tyrique McGhee go down with a foot injury of undisclosed severity that may rule him out for the opener at least, and had freshman Zamir White go out for the season with an ACL tear. The Bulldogs have a lot of depth, but a true rash of injuries to key contributors is about the most likely thing to dent the ‘Dawgs title hopes.
Will all of these things go wrong? It’s unlikely. But the fact that one doesn't have to look very hard to come up with a decent list of potential pitfalls is a great reminder that a national championship season, for whichever team enjoys it, is truly something unexpected. Until later...