The final opponent preview is here... and it’s you-know-who. On November 25, Clean Old-Fashioned Hate returns to Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Jackets and Dawgs will face off in their annual contest that oft has brought a sea of red descending upon The Flats.
What can I say about the University of Georgia that they haven’t already said about themselves? After an unprecedented season, the Dawgs will be hard pressed to find replacements that can withstand the pressure of defending the national title.
The Dawgs begin the 2023 season with a lot to lose. They have a huge gap to fill in their offense at the quarterback slot. Like Coach Key, Kirby Smart faces the challenge of choosing the next leader of his offense. UGA’s roster currently has three scholarship QBs, redshirt Junior Carson Beck, redshirt Sophomore Brock Vandagriff, and Sophomore Gunner Stockton. So far, Carson Beck seems to be the guy. Smart is quoted saying that Beck has the most experience and best knowledge of their offense. Over his three-year tenure, Beck has seen the field in a whopping 10 games, substantially more than any other currently rostered QB, but neither he nor any of his competition has gotten playing time in a game that had not already been decided. With some big shoes to fill, it will be interesting to see who is calling the snaps come November.
The offense also lost Broderick Jones (OT) who served as the stronghold of UGA’s sometimes impenetrable offensive line. Jalen Carter leaves a gap in the UGA defense. Carter (DT) served as the backbone of an incredible defense that didn’t let a regular season opponent (except the Jackets) score a touchdown in the first quarter. UGA lost 8 other players to the NFL but they gained the number two ranked recruiting class for 2023. To the surprise of no one, their pre-season ranking was a near-unanimous number one.
Despite the aforementioned gaps in the roster, UGA returns tight end Brock Bowers and receiver Ladd McConkey. Bowers was widely revered as the best TE in college football last year, leading the NCAA in receiving yards, yards after catch, and receiving yards after contact. McConkey ranked second in the SEC amongst receivers last year, posting 42 combined receiving first downs and touchdowns. On the opposite side of the ball, Zion Logue brings experience and leadership to the Dawg’s defensive line. Logue’s performance this year will heavily impact UGA’s success against their opponents.
It is safe to say the UGA is the team to beat this season. They have the advantage of having one of the softest schedules in the NCAA, ranking at number 63 on strength of schedule for 2023. Despite their “easy” schedule, they will be good... they will be great, and watching their success will be excruciating. However, with great success comes great expectations and a three-peat will be the only acceptable outcome.
In my honest opinion, I wouldn’t count on the Jackets to be the David who defeats Goliath, but we (and Kent State) gave them a scare last year, proving that they aren’t untouchable. Nonetheless, UGA will still have hurdles to jump through in the SEC East before they come to Atlanta.