There was North Carolina in 1948. Houston in 1968. And a heart removal and dismantling against Auburn in 2005.
In the Southeastern Conference era, Georgia had 14 teams that won the league and/or national championship. The Bulldogs were consensus national champions in 1942. Georgia was the undisputed, unanimous national champion of 1980 and 2021. It should also be noted that the Bulldogs were voted No. 1 in at least one poll when they went 11-0 in 1946 and into 1968. The same can be said for 1927, before the SEC when a whopping 22 schools participated in a massive Southern Conference. We seem to be returning to that size. But I digress.
The Bulldogs have won the SEC title 13 times: 1942, 1946, 1948, 1959, 1966, 1968, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982, 2002, 2005 and 2017.
In those 14 fabulous SEC and/or National Championship seasons, the Bulldogs’ cumulative record at Sanford Stadium is 75-2-1 for a 96.8 win ratio.
The Lonely Blemishes:
The 1948 Tarheels gave the Bulldogs their only regular loss of the season, beating Georgia’s 17-game school record with a 21-14 win Between the Hedges.
In 1968, Georgia had an 8-0-2 regular season and a 10-10 tie against Houston at Sanford Stadium. The other tie came in the season opener when the Bulldogs and Tennessee tied 17-17, with many bad breaks from the Zebras and Watchmaker costing Georgia a win.
Auburn scored a crippling fourth down conversion with an insane finish in Athens 2005 to turn the Bulldogs 31-30 under the lights. That night I was alone in a hotel room in Lubbock, Texas with the Lady Bulldogs basketball team. Just sick and sad. I had to shower right after the game. Georgia would bounce back, beat Kentucky and the Jackets, and then upset LSU in the SEC championship game.
That’s it, just three blemishes in those 14 championship seasons.
It should also be noted that Georgia is 14-0 against the Yellow Jackets in those 14 campaigns. In the even years, it was a double who defeated “the enemy” between the hedges.
The moral of the story of being elite begins with taking care of business at home and competing against your archrival at state. This is the beginning, the foundation, the must of a mastery recipe.
In the case of Georgia, doing business in the state has the added constraint of domed stadiums in Atlanta, which have been the scene of heartbreak and devastation. At least one national championship, probably two, maybe three, and a 3-6 record in SEC championship games. And a Sugar Bowl loss to West Virginia. New Orleans is the location of the second most common agony. Pennsylvania. Pitt.
Like many Bulldogs, I was so pleased that last season’s National Championship Game was not played in Atlanta or New Orleans. Too much heartbreak and heartache. too many tears
Indianapolis is now on my Mt. Rushmore of universal cities and towns. The 33-18 win over Alabama for the national championship, the crowning moment of the Kirby-Smart glory era, put Georgia on the mountaintop.
Under Smart’s stewardship, the Bulldogs have finished in the top ten and earned five straight seasons at Major Bowl Games. Both are firsts in the storied history of Georgian football.
Since 2017, Smart’s second season at the helm in Athens, the Dogs are tied 18-2 against the Yellow Jackets (4-0), Florida (4-1), Auburn (5-), including the 2017 SEC Championship Game Bulldogs Victory and Tennessee (5-0).
In Smart’s first season in 2016, the Bulldogs suffered three crushing losses at home that were hard to believe. All the bad stuff came out at the same time.
Since then, Georgia has lost just once at home in the last five seasons – a 20-17 loss in overtime to Will Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks in 2019.
Smart’s Bulldogs have won 28-1 at Sanford Stadium for the past five years. In a four-game winning streak against the Jackets, three of which have been at Grant Field due to the cancellation of the 2020 game, Georgia Tech has surpassed 180-35.
Do business at home. Take care of business against the state rival.
With that foundation, the Bulldogs have been great on the road, 4-1 against the Gators in Jacksonville in the last five years and SEC East champions four times in the last five campaigns.
Three back-to-back SEC championship game trips from 2017-2019 and four-of-five have taken Georgia and Smart to rare territory that includes only Steve Spurrier’s 1990s Florida powerhouses and Gene Stallings-era Alabama and Nick Saban-era Alabama.
Georgia beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl and Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
Smart’s Dogs have twice played for the national championship. To slay this dragon on the glorious night of January 10, 2022.
A packed Sanford Stadium set the story five days later, hosting the largest victory celebration and coronation in collegiate sports history.
It wasn’t long before the question came up, when will the Bulldogs do it again? That’s the confidence of the smart era with the 2021 National Championship Trophy shining so bright. Not if, can’t, but when will the Bulldogs do it again?
It starts at home.
On Saturday afternoon, the most loyal and now happiest fan base across the country will regroup when Smart’s Bulldogs of 2022 get their first chance to continue Georgia’s dominance at Sanford Stadium and perhaps take an early step on a championship journey.