Yep. I said it. It’s right there in 20 pt font. I know some of you are cursing my name right now, and I myself am expecting lightning to strike me any second. But before you start asking the football gods to take me as a sacrifice- hear me out.
I know we all pretend we want to take on one step at a time. And if you ask Kirby Smart, the team is also simply focused on the week ahead of them. While I don’t think this coaching staff ever lets the team overlook or slack week to week, and I provide no disrespect to our esteemed Buccaneer foe, I am pretty sure plenty of thoughts are now drifting to December. And let’s be honest, they have been since the summer. Of 2018.
As for us fans, we have been thinking about it for about 40 years. A question that’s haunted us all. Almost all-consuming. Even more so this year. We watch each play, we often are thinking less about the game we are watching- but instead, we view it as the continuing answer to the question of whether this one, is the one. Not whether that pass will win us this game, but is that pass good enough to win the game. And after week 12, for the first since um 1980, we are undefeated and this unit seems it has the best shot to we have had in a long, long time.
But this is college football. You’ve got great teams that are set up for success every year. David and Goliath’s of talent. But you’ve also got 18–23-year-old kids making decisions and executing plays who are learning, adapting, and growing every single week. You have teams that look nothing like what they did when they started. You’ve got ball bounces, missed kicks, untimely injuries, and bad calls (Tyler Simmons was onsides FYI). You’ve got that downright fluky, goofy magic that makes this sport as fun as it is painful. College football is perfect in its imperfections. With both hope and fear, college football means– hey anything can happen.
Georgia fans of course know that better than anyone [eye twitches]. So perhaps our long-documented fear and pain have made us almost obsessive with dissecting every element of the “ARE WE GOOD ENOUGH TO DO IT” question, and as the season has gone on we’ve moved to the “ARE WE GONNA STAY GOOD ENOUGH TO DO IT” question, because well- we just wanna know will we be hurt again. Unfortunately, the answer is no amount of stats, comparing, hypothesizing, or analyzing can promise you we won’t get left at prom for the prettier Tuscaloosa cheerleader, but I can tell you we need to stop looking for reasons why we are going to get dumped.
I am the worst offender of anyone. The lack of rationality I have watching this team is diagnosable. In the first quarter of the Tennessee game, you would have thought the score was tied with a minute left in the 4th quarter with the pacing I was inflicting on my living room floor. Illogical me was unrelaxed. But if you asked me what I was feeling, my true, honest answer, I would have to acknowledge what makes this team different than any Georgia team I have ever rooted for:
This team controls every game it has played. Calm, dominating confidence. Measured pace. And focused execution.
It simply doesn’t feel like we are ever playing uphill. There’s no scrambling from a letdown. This team has only trailed for 1.8% of minutes played so far. One. Point. Eight. And often games feel more out of the opponent's reach than the scoreboard even indicates. In fact, after the 63rd play of this season, the glorious Chris Smith pick-six against the Tigers, our predicted win probability never dropped below 70% ever again. Georgia ranks first in Espn’s FPI game control metric, a measure of how an average Top 25 team would control games from start to end, given the schedule, – at 99.2 (out of 100).
Basically, we got up 7 to 0 twelve weeks ago in the second quarter and haven’t really looked back. Week in and week out, this team is consistent, disciplined, and controlled. Push on teams until they cry uncle. These guys are more than just unbelievably talented, they are exceptionally well-coached. They know they can do this. They, unlike many of us, aren’t worried about the other shoe to drop. They know they can win.
For a college team- it is no small thing that this team is not reactionary. Tennessee trots down the field and gets 7. No alarm sounded. Adjust. Sure, they might give up 7 to you on the first drive, but good luck to your team on the next ten drives after that. That’s the difference with Georgia. What makes this team so good, is not that you can’t get a 20-yard pass. It’s that you can’t get two. You could get them once, but you’re not going to get them twice. This team just doesn’t yield. Land a punch or two, but eventually, they will simply stand up, look you straight in the eye, and knock you out.
Nor is this mentality on one side of the ball. The offense knows, that if necessary, they have the luxury of defense that is going to give them four quarters to figure it out. Stetson goes three and out? White came up three yards short? There’s no panic, no trick plays, or desperate gambles The theme of the entire season is stick to the plan. And you can almost hear the message displayed in the play call: keep pushing, play measured, play patient and we will breakthrough. Capitalize on their mistakes and don’t make your own. Win.
I have to imagine when playing this team, you become painfully aware of exactly how long a football game is. And while it makes sense why a defense-driven, physical football team would have this type of pace and game control style, it’s more than that, more than schematic philosophy- it truly is the culture of this team.
Because this team doesn’t seem to play with the mentality that no matter what happens we are always going to keep trying to win or even that we can win, this team plays as though we will. Not even in a way that they seem to believe they are so good that they can’t lose, but more in the sense they aren’t going to let it happen.
Consistent control. Calm, dominating confidence. Focused execution. The other guy will eventually quit before I will. Because I know this is our year.
You can see this mantra in the way the team plays, the way they communicate with each other, the way they respond to the coaches, the things that matter to them, and the things that don’t. It’s just undeniable. I love stats, matchups, analysis, film, X’s, O’s, and all of the other rational metrics that we dissect trying to decide what our chances are- trying to confirm that this team is for real. But also- there is sometimes just that sense. That intangible culture and mission of a team. That mentality. And this team has it.
This team, as a unit from top to bottom, just wants it more than any team I have ever seen play between the hedges.
If you have listened to the Kirby halftime speech, it’s not anything novel- certainly not for Kirby but also not for coaching attitudes in general- but I think it echoes the culture of this team. He tells them to play “our way” from zero to zero. Which I think is notable. Because despite all ideas of the fanbase and national media of what a team has to look like to be successful now- this team seems unconcerned. Sure, this team doesn’t really look like the blueprint of the recent national champions, but it also doesn’t look like any Georgia team I’ve ever seen.
No, 2021 Georgia doesn’t look like 2020 Alabama or 2019 LSU or 2018 Clemson. Hell, this team doesn’t even look like it did this spring. But I honestly don’t care. We don’t need to play like their way. Play our way. This is the team I want. Give me a million options, and the team that plays this hard, this connected, this aggressive, this focused- is a team I will bet on 100 times out of 100.
I understand all of the reasons or places or things that could go wrong. I do. And any team can lose, no team is perfect. This team, just like any, has weaknesses and things that need to be addressed. There are also other very good teams that stand in the way. Teams that can make things difficult. We haven’t yet faced the offenses we will. And our offense might find itself in trouble. Nothing is a guarantee. I swallow the fear that there’s a very possible world in which we again come up just short.
Even so, I am officially putting aside the Georgia fan life of old. No more whispers, finger crossing, jinxes, or exorcisms. Y’all can blame me if the worst happens- I will take it. ( I will also absolutely delete my Twitter and go into hiding). But I can’t deny this team has won me over.
They’ve bought in and so I’m buying in with them.
Every single week- these guys run out the tunnel knowing they will do this. They play each down as though they know that if they just do what they need to do for four quarters, they will win. They aren’t hoping it works out. They don’t need fate or luck or things to go their way. They aren’t good enough to compete. They are good enough to rip this championship from the hands of fate like a forced fumble on fourth and one. And now I can finally admit, that I think that’s just what they are going to do.
So I say we owe this team the same type of belief they have in themselves. This team will win, and they will win doing it their way. Because this isn’t 2012 or 2017 or any other team before or after. This is 2021 and this is our year.