Following a blowout Week 2 win against South Carolina, there’s plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to Georgia football.
Deandre Baker is building on an impressive junior campaign and looking like a potential first-round pick for the NFL, the offensive line is gelling early and playing perhaps even more physically than last year’s group and Mecole Hardman has been every bit as dominant at wide receiver as anyone could have hoped for — or expected of him.
It’s easy to look at the Bulldogs’ two-week body of work this season and pencil in W’s all the way up to the SEC Championship. And while Georgia very well might be Atlanta bound again by the end of the season, it’s important to keep expectations tempered still.
For one thing, the Bulldogs have plenty of question marks up and down their roster after losing several key members of last year’s team. The players who have taken over have performed well to this point, but the sample size remains small. Take starting right tackle Isaiah Wilson for example. Isaiah Wynn’s departure to the NFL has thrust Wilson into his new role at right tackle after Andrew Thomas switched over to the left side of the line. Wilson — a red-shirt freshman — looks the part of a hulking SEC tackle, standing at 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds, but he still hasn’t had to play against any sort of elite competition in his young NCAA career.
The same can be said for half of Georgia’s starters in the secondary, as freshman Tyson Campbell and sophomore Richard LeCounte III are both still settling into starting roles. D’Andre Swift has looked good as the Bulldogs’ new starter at running back, but the losses of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel — Georgia’s second and third leading rushers of all time — are going to be felt.
Suffice to say, Bulldog fans should be in wait-and-see mode for the time being until the team’s new starting pieces are a little more battle tested against better competition, which leads into my next point.
The Bulldogs still haven’t been truly tested by a top level opponent.
A road win against South Carolina isn’t anything to dismiss outright, but this is a Gamecock team that lost to Kentucky a season ago and was nearly upset by Louisiana Tech in its own stadium. The Austin Peay matchup speaks for itself, and things don’t get much more difficult this weekend either, as Georgia welcomes Middle Tennessee into Sanford Stadium.
When the Bulldogs beat the Blue Raiders 60-0, it still won’t be time to overreact. If they do the same to Missouri two weeks from now, they’ll at least be moving in the right direction.
In a weak SEC East, Georgia seems to have one of the easiest paths to a conference championship game of any Power Five school. But many obstacles still loom in terms of playoff contention. A matchup with LSU in Death Valley is sure to be a tightly-contested game, and Auburn at home is certainly a no gimme.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Georgia is a great team, and a repeat championship appearance wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. The way the Bulldogs have burst out of the gate this season is both exciting and encouraging.
I would just stop a tad short of crowning them national champions yet before they’ve really proven anything.
Nathan Berg is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.