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15 Thoughts: That’s a Wrap.

Thirteen wins will have to do. It’s Great to be a Georgia Bulldog.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Georgia at Florida State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

1. So, how was your Saturday? Living sown here in the Swamps of Broward means having to deal with the two major fanbases no matter where you go. The vast majority are Florida Gators, conspicuously quiet for the better part of a decade plus, and lately Florida State fans who had been chirping quite a bit for the better part of 4 months. (Miami Hurricane fans have been largely invisible for the better part of 20 years and based on recent events their collective hibernation should continue). Anyway, as I headed out earlier on this refreshingly crisp and clear south Florida morning for my daily walk with Mrs. DavetheDawg, my head was held high while wearing my “Back to Back” National Champions t-shirt and my favorite, well-worn Georgia Bulldog hat. It’s been a great season. If there were any justice in college football, the season wouldn’t have ended last night and we’d still be playing for something bigger.

The 2023 Georgia Bulldogs were overachievers...and still better than the CFP field if we are being honest. Especially with a fully intact roster.

Here’s to 2024.

2. College football is a hot mess right now and it is troubling. The month of December for everyone has become somewhat of a nightmare. With the NIL dynamic and early signing period, the never-ending recruiting calendar (for high school kids and your present-day roster), opt-outs and the transfer portal window all compressed into a few short weeks I feel the sport is approaching a critical mass. I can’t imagine trying to juggle all of this while, oh by the way, prepping for a bowl game (maybe 2?) and trying to celebrate the season with your family. It’s insanity. Kirby Smart has been fighting some sort of illness and it showed on Saturday. His voice was shot and he looked exhausted because he is exhausted. Stacey Searels is recovering from pneumonia. This grind is unhealthy and potentially dangerous.

He’s right, you know.

3. The culture at Georgia is obviously very different than most places. This team bought into the idea of finishing what they started and did so with a bullet. By all accounts, everyone practiced hard and those who didn’t opt out on our side played for each other. Had Florida State been totally healthy, we still win this game - probably comfortably - although FSU had some really stout defensive guys not play. If FSU doesn’t lose their QB, we don’t even play them on Saturday as they are in the CFP.

4. I gave up trying to figure out who was in the game and who wasn’t after halftime. Kirby cleared the bench, which he probably could’ve done mid-way through the 2nd quarter. Don’t underestimate the significance of getting meaningful reps for these young players.

5. I paid particular attention to the offensive line and how some young guys performed. Sophomore Dylan Fairchild at left guard impressed me and will be a key component in ‘24. True freshman Monroe Freeling spelled Xavier Truss at right tackle had a solid outing. As we say goodbye to Sedrick Van Pran, get used to the name Jared Wilson at center. This kid is athletic and powerful. The offensive line is built for sustainability and the incoming class is massive (maybe a bit too massive at the moment - nothing that a year of S&C/dieting won’t fix), but this bodes well for the future.

6. Georgia was +4 in turnover margin, the largest single-game margin by far this season. I hope we see this continue next year. After Georgia went up 21-3, answering FSU’s lone score of the game, the Dawgs kicked off and Cash Jones stuck FSU’s Deuce Spann right in the ball (lol), causing the fumble which special teams demon Cole Speer pounced on.

On the very next play, Ladd The Impaler McConkey scores on the most electric play of the game:

Imagine if Ladd comes back (the healthy version as seen above) in 2024? If not, thank you for everything.

7. Dillon Bell had himself another outstanding game and is Mr. Versatility. He can literally line up just about anywhere and I expect his evolution as a unicorn will continue. He makes some of the most contested catches of anyone I’ve ever seen come through Athens. Last night, someone compared him to Deebo Samuels. That might be a bit of a stretch, but then again, it’s not far-fetched, either.

8. Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint just makes plays and he’s done this ever since he’s stepped on campus. It’s such a pity he had that horrible injury in the 2020 Cocktail Party because it cost him a year. If the ball is in his vicinity, he’ll catch it. I really hope this kid gets a shot in the NFL. Our tight-ends, particularly Oscar Delp, played very well. Lawson Luckie got his first score (of many to come) in a Georgia uniform. Pearce Spurlin hauled in a pass and once he began to stride out nearly housed the damn ball. There’s so much talent at that position it’s unfair.

9. Obviously, Brock Bowers didn’t need to play yesterday and that was the wise move (I’m sure he could’ve if he was called upon). A lot of great players have worn #19 over the years: Most notably Scott Woerner (1977-1980) and Hines Ward. There have been others, but we should really consider retiring #19 to honor the Californian who meant so much to our fortunes over the last 3 years.

10. Your MVP was Kendall Milton, and well-deserved. I almost saw this as a UGA career achievement award, too. Milton has never been healthy during his time in Athens, but this season he’s fought through the nagging stuff to become such a dependable and effective back. Georgia really was thin at running back because of injuries all season, yet Milton came on with a burst beginning with the Vandy game. Daijun Edwards ran as if he was 30 lbs. bigger than he was all season long. Longevity at this position is only achieved through depth and rotation. Roderick Robinson just crushed guys when he got his chance and FSU wanted none of that smoke. Andrew Paul is a fine back in his own right. Hell, Cash Jones has true value, too. With Trevor Etienne coming via the portal and the new recruits on the way, we are absolutely set. But do not forget what #2 and #30 has meant to this team in 2023. They are a huge reason why we’re 13-1.

11. Carson Beck was efficient, as expected. He made a couple of throws in traffic that could’ve been picked, but was also dropping dimes where only his guy could make the play. I thought Gunnar Stockton, once he got over some early jitters, played very well and certainly adds an extra dimension with his legs. He’s not easy to tackle, either, and showed some power. Getting him reps with the first team offense will pay dividends later on.

12. The young linebackers really flashed, and CJ Allen led the team in tackles while calling much of the defensive formation in place of injured Smael Mondon. I’ve got to go back and look at how some of the other guys fared, but I was impressed with Troy Bowles in the 2nd half. Mykel Williams lined up more as a weak-side linebacker and was hell all day. Here’s some evidence:

I expect to see more havoc like this between #13 and #11 on defense next year and I approve.

13. It was good to see Daylen Everette get an interception. The secondary played well, but a few better placed balls could’ve ended up with more FSU points. If there’s a criticism at all, it surprisingly might fall on the defensive backfield - but really that’s just splitting hairs. Malaki Starks got a pick on a tipped ball over the middle and was generally shutting everything down that came his way. The biggest news of the day is the one that didn’t get away: Cornerback Daniel Harris is not leaving the program.

14. Brett Thorson finally punted late in the game. The fact that not a single punt return yard was registered by any Georgia opponents in 2024 has got to be some kind of record. It’s probably a good thing Brett didn’t get into the game much since he’s still recovering from the news that Carson Beck is returning, as seen in this exclusive footage:

Special teams - especially kick coverage - were excellent all day and played their best game of the season. Anthony Evans looks like he’s going to be an upgrade at punt returner in 2024. The kid looks the part and has a burst with wiggle that is natural. He had a nice touchdown reception from Gunner Stockton, too.

15. So, we now await some decisions for NFL-bound kids and perhaps a few more twists and turns in the transfer portal. It’ll seem like an eternity between now and G-Day, but it’ll fly by in an instant at the same time. The ‘24 schedule - at least through the lens of today - looks daunting. The next game is the most important one: Clemson. Just like in 2021, we’ll meet ‘em on a neutral site and it’ll tell us much about both teams.

BONUS THOUGHTS:

  • Ole Miss won 11 games for the first time in their history, amassing 540 yards against James Franklin’s vaunted Penn State defense. The Rebels are going to be a problem in 2024. And James Franklin will continue to be overrated.
  • Mizzou beat Ohio State the other night. Ryan Day has to win at least 11 games in the regular season in 2024 and a loss to Michigan will get him fired.
  • I think Bama beat Auburn twice. The Tigers didn’t show much ‘give a damn’ in the Music City Bowl against Maryland. You hate to see it.
  • Another Gator in the portal:

I will never feel sorry for the Florida Gators.

That’s all I’ve got. Happy New Year, everyone. Have a blessed 2024. Except for the CFP committee. I hope every one of them gets an IRS audit. And a wicked case of piles.

As Always, GO DAWGS!