We’re in that languid, sultry season before the college football preview magazines hit the sales racks and your Georgia Bulldogs hit the practice field. Soon enough we’ll return to worrying about Carson Beck’s readiness and secondary depth, and whether Mike Bobo’s going to call a draw on 3rd and goal from the 12. But it’s gonna be awhile.
So now seems like a good time to take one last satisfied look back in the rear view to the Bulldogs’ 2022 undefeated national championship season. I’ll be taking a look back through all 15 games of the 2022 season, to talk about what we expected coming into the game, what we thought we’d learned in the immediate aftermath, and what we really learned. We may also take a quick detour into what we can take forward into 2023, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We begin at the beginning, with Georgia’s 49-3 throttling of the Oregon Ducks.
“I don’t expect Georgia to lose to this Oregon team. Make no mistake, the Fightin’ Lannings begin the season ranked #11 in the AP poll and on paper will be potentially the biggest test on the Red and Black’s regular season slate. They’re going to improve through the season and may well win the PAC-12. But the Ducks have a lot of new moving parts to get humming in week one, and there’s still a pretty marked talent differential between the two squads.
As much as Lanning is familiar with this Bulldog roster and how to attack it, Bo Nix isn’t exactly an unknown quantity for Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann. I expect this one to be week one sloppy and to give everyone involved enough stuff to worry and yell about in order to get ready for the meat of the schedule. But it won’t change the trajectory of either team’s season. In that respect it’s a perfect week one matchup. The Ducks keep it close before Georgia scores a late TD, the defense gets the ball back, and then the UGA ground attack squats on the ball for the final five minutes.
Prediction: UGA 31, Oregon 24.
I suspect that if Oregon had played that Bulldog team to a one touchdown game they’d now look back on it as the highlight of the season. Perhaps I gave the Ducks too much credit. In reality, I probably didn’t give the Bulldogs nearly enough.
What We Thought We Learned
From the post-game wrap up:
“There are still questions about the defense and there will likely be days with missed assignments and worse penalties than those we saw today. But it’s safe to say that Oregon OC Kenny Dillingham’s plan to pick on true freshman Malachi Starks was not a good one.”
“Stetson Bennett, as expected, did Stetson Bennett things, completing a tidy 25 of 31 passes for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had no turnovers, nor did any Bulldog players. In fact there weren’t really many glitches at all offensively. Georgia scored seven touchdowns on its first seven offensive possessions. You just can’t do it better than that.”
“Again, I would caution against reading too much into the evisceration of a team that traveled across the country under a first year head coach and dealt with some adversity very early in the game. But the early returns certainly indicate that Georgia has some room to get the defense ironed out, and if the offense continues to click this team could be a match for anyone when it matters most.”
What We Really Learned
If anything Stetson Bennett’s precision disembowelment of the Oregon defense may have undersold exactly how wildly he would succeed in Todd Monken’s offense. The Ducks would finish the year a very respectable fourth in the PAC-12 in total defense, and might have been higher but for the 571 yards they gave up to the Red and Black in the opener. The Mailman would finish the year with 4,127 yards passing, a single season UGA record.
We also got a peak into the unbelievable variety of the Todd Monken offense Bennett captained. 10 Bulldogs caught passes and seven Bulldogs had at least one rushing attempt. In retrospect, the 2022 UGA offense set a standard that will be incredibly difficult to replicate going forward.
Finally, we got a glimpse at the awesome lethality of the “rebuilding” Georgia defense. Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann played 32 defensive players on the day, very nearly the entire travel roster. The Athenians gave up 198 yards and three points in the first half before clamping down to give up 119 total yards and pitch a shutout in the second half. Georgia finished the season with the top scoring defense and top total defense in the SEC, and it all began, sadly for Dan Lanning, with a successful duck hunt.