The Bulldogs enter the season as a consensus top-10 team and have a chance to end their 40 year drought without a national title. However, they will need to overcome significant obstacles in order to win it all, including playing Auburn and Alabama in consecutive weeks.

Georgia has been a national power for decades, but they have never won a championship in football. Can the Bulldogs end 40 years of frustration with a national title? Read more in detail here: georgia alabama.

GAINESVILLE, GAINESVILLE, GAINESVILLE, GA JT Daniels recalls his family driving from the Atlanta airport to the University of Georgia campus the first time he was in the process of transferring.

“I’ve enjoyed it ever since I came here, seeing all the Georgia Bulldog flags flying around, seeing what it’s like for football to be such a major focus point,” Daniels said.

Daniels, who spent two seasons at USC before moving to Georgia in 2020, was likely equally pleased with the Bulldogs’ $31 million indoor practice facility, $63 million Sanford Stadium extension, and $80 million football operations complex, all of which were still under construction at the time.

“On the West Coast, football is simply another thing, while here, football is the thing,” Daniels remarked.

Imagine Daniels’ astonishment when he learned that Georgia had not won a national title since 1980.

Winning another national championship has been frustratingly elusive for far too long for a school that cares and spends so much, is centrally situated in one of the most fertile recruiting hotbeds in the country, and plays in inarguably the greatest conference in the FBS.

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“What are we going to do if it doesn’t come?” Kirby Smart, Georgia’s coach, said. “I don’t approach it with the goal of winning in mind. I look at it from the standpoint of what is most essential right now, what are we doing? And I know the individuals in this organization, the government, the state, and the people that love Georgia and the passion and excitement they have, it’s just been long overdue, right? It doesn’t matter if you won a year ago; it’s past time. So that’s the ultimate game, that’s the objective for me. That’s what you’re always striving towards.”

According to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information, 30 different teams have won a national championship since the FBS/FCS split in 1978. None of them has an active drought longer than Georgia’s. Since the Bulldogs’ last national championship in 1980, they’ve had 16 top-10 finishes in the final AP poll, the most during that span among teams that haven’t won a title.

When the No. 5 Bulldogs face No. 3 Clemson on Saturday night (ABC, 7:30 p.m. ET) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will take the first step toward ending that dreadful 41-year wait.

Former Georgia coach Vince Dooley remarked, “I wouldn’t have thought it would be 41 years.” “It’s been 20 years since we’ve won an SEC title.”

Georgia’s season opener versus Clemson in 1982 drew the same amount of interest and excitement as this year’s game. The Bulldogs had won the national championship two years before, with Herschel Walker leading the way as a rookie, while the Tigers had won their first national championship in 1981, defeating Georgia 13-3 in Death Valley along the way.

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Each week, choose the winner of ten college football games. Play confidently or straight up. Make your selections

The season opener on Labor Day against the previous two national champions was so important that ABC chose to air it on Monday night, a prime-time position usually reserved for the NFL at the time. A defeat would not eliminate either team from contention for the national title. Even in a season opener, there was considerably less tolerance for mistake before the days of a four-team College Football Playoff.

Walker didn’t participate until the second half because of a bulky cast on his right hand due to a fractured thumb, and he was mainly utilized as a decoy in Georgia’s 13-7 win. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead the Bulldogs to their third consecutive SEC title and unbeaten regular season. The No. 1 Bulldogs, however, were defeated 27-23 by No. 2 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl, denying them their second national championship in three seasons.

Clemson would have to wait another 35 years to earn another national championship. Dabo Swinney, a Tigers assistant coach with no prior head-coaching experience when he was named Clemson’s coach, broke the drought by leading the Tigers to national championships in the College Football Playoff in 2016 and 2018. Swinney accomplished it with Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence, two quarterbacks from Georgia high schools.

Since 1980, Georgia has come agonizingly close to competing for, and even winning, a national championship a number of times, the most recent being a 26-23 overtime defeat to Alabama in the 2017 CFP title game.

Dooley, who will be 89 on Saturday, left Georgia’s coaching staff in 1988. Walker, 59, declared his candidacy for the United States Senate last month. The Bulldogs have waited that long to win it all again.

So, how can the Bulldogs break their winless streak?

Former Georgia coach Mark Richt stated, “Just win that game you need to win to go in.” “It’s not a difficult task. If you make it to the game that gets you in, you have to win it. It’s simply the way things are. I’m sure they’re doing everything correctly, but just because you’re doing everything perfectly doesn’t guarantee you’ll win. Georgia had qualified for the playoffs. They were on the brink of taking home the national title. They didn’t do anything wrong, but it simply got away from them.”

Georgia could have already broken its championship drought if the CFP had been implemented before 2014. During Richt’s 15-year career at Georgia, from 2001 to 2015, his teams averaged almost 10 victories each season. The 2002 squad, which included current College GameDay commentator David Pollack and quarterback David Greene, broke Georgia’s 20-year drought without an SEC championship. In the final AP poll, Georgia was ranked third.

The 2007 squad, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, finished 11-2 but fell short of winning the SEC East due to defeats to South Carolina and Tennessee. The Bulldogs were left out of the BCS National Championship, but they played like one of the greatest teams in the FBS in the Sugar Bowl, beating Hawaii 41-10.

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Week 1 of college football kicks off with a slew of big matchups, and ESPN and ABC have you covered all weekend. There are also hundreds of additional games available on ESPN+, SEC Network, ACC Network, and ESPN streaming. (The ESPN App also has all of the games.)

All timings are in Eastern Standard Time.

Boise State vs. UCF, Thursday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m., ESPN

No. 10 UNC hosts Virginia Tech at 6 p.m. on ESPN on Friday, Sept. 3. 9 p.m., ESPN, Michigan State vs. Northwestern

Saturday, Sept. 4 Tulane at No. 2 Oklahoma, noon, ABC Western Michigan at Michigan, noon, ESPN No. 1 Alabama at No. 14 Miami, 3:30 p.m., ABC West Virginia at Maryland, 3:30 p.m., ESPN Texas Tech at Houston, 7 p.m., ESPN No. 5 Georgia at No. 3 Clemson, 7 p.m., ABC BYU vs. Arizona, 10:30 p.m., ESPN Texas Tech at Houston,

No. 9 Notre Dame takes on Florida State on Sunday, Sept. 5, at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.

Monday, Sept. 6: 8 p.m., ESPN, Louisville vs. Ole Miss

Week 1 schedule in its entirety

Richt’s greatest opportunity of leading Georgia to the promised land came five years later. In the SEC championship game, Georgia led Alabama 21-10, but wasted the advantage and lost 32-28 when Chris Conley grabbed a pass at the Tide’s 5-yard line, only for time to run out.

“When you think about it,” Richt said, “we had a shot to make it to the BCS title game.” “It stings when you’re that close to making it, regardless of who you’ll play. I’ve thought about it for a long time, mainly because it’s been brought up to me by others. We could have been in [a four-team playoff] two or three years ago.”

Following Richt left Georgia after the 2015 season, Smart, a former Bulldogs defensive back and longtime Alabama defensive coordinator, took his position. Smart’s teams have gone 44-9 in the last four seasons after finishing 8-5 in his first. They’ve been in three of the last four SEC championship games, winning in 2017, then beating Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes in the Rose Bowl, but losing to Alabama in the CFP National Championship game.

On the historic second-and-26 play, Alabama backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa delivered the game-winning touchdown to eventual Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, the game finished in overtime as well.

Former Georgia kicker Kevin Butler, whose 60-yard field goal was the difference in a 26-23 upset of No. 2 Clemson in 1984, said, “It hasn’t occurred because they haven’t made the plays.” “They’ve been in a position to do that, but haven’t taken advantage of it. The play was made by Alabama. They have the skill and the ability, but now they must go out and make the plays. Georgia needs to be on the other end of those games when it comes down to it. That’s how championships are won.”

Georgia supporters from Athens to Augusta to Atlanta to Savannah have spent the last eight months debating the same, decades-old question: Is this the year the Bulldogs finally kick down the door?

“I believe it will happen in the next two or three years if it is going to happen with Kirby,” Dooley stated.

Much of the confidence stems from Daniels, who became just the second freshman to start as quarterback for USC in 2018, before suffering a ruptured ACL in the 2019 opener. Following his recovery from a knee injury, he started the last three games of the regular season for Georgia, as well as the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Cincinnati, guiding the Bulldogs to four consecutive wins. He threw for 1,231 yards on 67 percent of his throws, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Check out some of Georgia quarterback JT Daniels’ highlights ahead of his second season with the Bulldogs.

Georgia supporters are hopeful he’ll be even better a year after his knee injury and with a full summer in offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s scheme under his belt. Last year, Monken was also a newcomer to the club, and the COVID-19 limitations made it difficult to get his offense up and running.

“When you come into the season as a starter, it’s different,” Monken said. “I believe he is more at ease with our players. The second element, I believe, is that he is just at ease with the system and his ability to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He just has a better grasp of the attack, which is to be expected. He seems to be in complete charge of what we want done offensively as we continue to evolve.”

It will be interesting to watch how much the Bulldogs open up the offense. They had never finished higher than sixth in the SEC in passing in Smart’s prior five seasons. With rookie quarterback Jake Fromm as quarterback, they were rated 12th when they reached the CFP championship game in 2017.

“You didn’t feel like you had to outscore anybody when we initially came here, the first couple of years,” Smart said. “We believed that with a good defense and a strong offense, we could win, and to be honest, Alabama wasn’t all that different from us the year they defeated us. The majority of the [Crimson Tide] wideouts selected in the first round [of the NFL draft] that year were freshmen. Nobody had that model, in my opinion, until LSU [with quarterback Joe Burrow in 2019].”

Smart thought he had the “perfect storm” on offense this season with Daniels and a strong receiving corps back. However, in spring practice, top receiver George Pickens tore his ACL in his right knee. It’s unclear whether he’ll be able to play this season. Because of personal circumstances, LSU transfer Arik Gilbert, who was expected to play receiver at Georgia, hasn’t been with the team in weeks. Darnell Washington, a tight end who fractured his foot last month, is unlikely to play against Clemson.

Georgia will depend on its rushing game and defense, at least early in the season, with so many playmakers sidelined.

“Everyone makes it about my philosophy,” Smart said, “but I’ve wanted to score since I’ve been here.” “All I requested was that you have a tight end and running backs because the greatest quarterbacks like to play with tight ends and running backs. The greatest quarterbacks aspire to play in a system similar to that of the NFL.”

Smart acknowledges that his offensive strategy has changed in recent years.

He said, “The NFL has evolved as well in the past five years.” “Now there are five pass-happy wideouts and excellent receivers in the form of [Christian] McCaffrey and [Alvin] Kamara. That wasn’t the way the NFL was when I took the job at Georgia. It all changed when LSU began tossing the ball around and shattering all of the SEC offensive records, followed by Alabama breaking all of their records the following year. That is the current model. It’s not a paradigm based on having a great defense; it’s a model built around having really outstanding wideouts and a quarterback who can make sound choices.”

Whether Georgia defeats Clemson on Saturday night or not, the Bulldogs are expected to be favorites in their final 11 regular-season games. If they win them, they’ll be in the SEC title game, perhaps against Alabama. Smart’s teams have gone 0-3 against Nick Saban, his old employer. Since 2009, Saban has led the Crimson Tide to six national championships, three of which have come in the last six years.

Smart stated, “I have no doubt that we can play with Alabama because we’ve done it three times.” “We’ve gone toe-to-toe with them and are just as excellent as they are.”

Georgia’s drought may come to an end if it eventually overcomes that colossal obstacle.

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