The Georgia Bulldogs frankly have nowhere to go but down in the 2022 season off finally slaying the dragon that is Alabama last year and winning the school’s first national championship since 1980. College football oddsmakers expect another potential title run this year, however.
- Odds to win national title: +475
- Odds to win SEC: +160
- 2022 regular-season win total: 10.5
2022 Season College Football | Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia finished the 2021 regular season unbeaten but lost as a favorite and the No. 1 team in the nation to Alabama in the SEC title, game 41-24. Bryce Young carved up the nation’s top-rated defense, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another. The Bulldogs boasted a fearsome defensive unit that had allowed only 6.9 points a game. Alabama had six offensive scoring drives — five covering at least 75 yards, the other 62 — and finished with a staggering 536 yards against a team that was giving up just under 231 per game. Georgia’s Stetson Bennett threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two crucial picks.
The Bulldogs still reached the College Football Playoff, though, and easily beat No. 2 Michigan 34-11 in the Orange Bowl semifinal. Georgia entered as the national leader in Scoring Defense at 9.5 ppg while UM was averaging 37.7 ppg, and the Bulldogs dominated. UM tallied 325 yards on 63 plays. Georgia leads the nation in Red Zone Defense, and UM was just 1-for-3 including a fourth down stop at the UGA 6 in the fourth quarter. Bennett threw for 307 yards and three scores for UGA.
In the national title game, the Dawgs beat the Tide 33-18 in Indianapolis. Georgia snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series with Alabama and head coach Kirby Smart notched his first win over the Crimson Tide in five tries. The Bulldogs finished season with a 14-1 record, the most wins in a season in school history.
Georgia did lose a lot of talent on that historically good defense this offseason to the draft. Five UGA defensive players were selected in the first round, a record from one defense in the common draft era. Defensive end/outside linebacker Travon Walker got it all rolling as he went No. 1 overall as the Jaguars. The total eclipsed the four Florida State defenders selected in the first round of the 2006 draft and the four Miami defenders selected in the first round of the 2004 draft.
The Dawgs did get good news with Bennett choosing to return to school – although it’s no sure thing he even wins the starting job again. Bennett had the option of leaving or returning for a sixth year thanks to the NCAA providing an additional year of eligibility due to the coronavirus. He wasn’t considered a good NFL prospect. He comes off a year in which he completed 185 of 287 passes for 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns to only seven interceptions.
Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton are Georgia’s top returning rushers with nearly 600 yards and four touchdowns combined. McIntosh added 242 yards and two touchdowns receiving. UGA has one of the nation’s top tight ends back in Brock Bowers, who logged an All-America and Freshman All-America season with team-high totals and Georgia tight end records for catches (56), yards (882), and touchdowns (13) in 2021.
Passing game coordinator Bryan McClendon, who is returning to the Georgia staff after a 6-year gap, inherits a deep and talented receiver room. Ladd McConkey ranked second in catches (31), yards (447), and touchdowns (five) a year ago. Adonai Mitchell followed closely with 29 grabs for 426 yards and four scores, including the go-ahead touchdown in the CFP National Championship Game.
Senior OLB Nolan Smith, redshirt sophomore DB Kelee Ringo and senior S Christopher Smith are the Bulldogs’ three returning starters for last season’s championship season. Smith and Ringo started and ended Georgia’s 2021 season with pick-six touchdowns. Senior Jack Podlesny is back in 2022 for his third season as UGA’s top kicker. Podlesny made 22 of 27 field-goal attempts last year and drilled 71 of 72 PATs.
Georgia opens with a very tough test in the 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta against Oregon on Saturday, Sept. 3. Oregon is coached by Dan Lanning, who was UGA’s defensive coordinator last year. It will mark only the second time the two programs have met. The one previous meeting resulted in a 27-16 home win for the Bulldogs in 1977. The Dawgs have opened as 17.5-point favorites. Their other non-conference games will be total blowouts. Frankly, UGA isn’t likely to be an underdog in a single game until it possible meets Alabama in the SEC title game again.
Georgia Expert Pick
- 11-1 regular season, return to SEC title game