With all due respect to Georgia, we need to have a conversation about disrespect and Georgia.

Specifically, what does disrespecting the Dawgs actually look like as we enter 2023?

For some, disrespecting the 2-time defending champs is saying anything other than “the Dawgs are 3-peating. End of discussion.” For others, disrespecting the 2-time defending champs is suggesting they could go 7-5.

Oh wait. Nolan Smith just made that up last year to get everyone on Georgia’s roster believing that they were being disrespected? Yep.

OK, we can all agree. The disrespect conversation can run amok in today’s world of the internet. If Georgia wins a national title for the third consecutive year, you’ll surely hear some sort of variation of “everyone said we couldn’t do it again.”

In reality, some will pick the Dawgs to win a title, and some won’t. Simply predicting a non-Georgia team to be the 2023 national champ isn’t disrespectful.

Why? Well, Kirby Smart’s squad is attempting to pull off a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1934-36 Minnesota, back when Ed Widseth led the Golden Gophers to glory. There’s also the likely possibility that Georgia starts off No. 1 in the AP Poll. If that’s the case, it’ll be working against history there, too. The only time in the last 18 seasons that a preseason No. 1 team won a national title was 2017 Alabama.

Sorry, Georgia fans. That was disrespectful of me to bring up.

So what then should we consider disrespect to Georgia if picking against the Dawgs to win it all isn’t actually a slap to the jugular? Good question.

Let’s back up for a second. Does everyone realize that Georgia hasn’t been the preseason media pick to win the SEC since 2004? That’s real. Also real? Ever since the media botched the 2015 pick to have Auburn win the SEC instead of Alabama, well, the Tide has been the preseason media selection to win the conference every year.

It’s disrespectful to Georgia if that doesn’t change this year. UGA should be the media pick to win the SEC. Period.

The Dawgs deserve that coming off consecutive seasons without a regular season loss. They’ve got a chance to be a double-digit favorite in every game they play this year. While there’s a good possibility that Alabama and LSU will get some love to knock off Georgia and win the conference, the consensus should still favor the Dawgs.

There’s another consensus that should favor the Dawgs — the aforementioned preseason AP Poll.

Anything less than No. 1 for Georgia would be considered disrespect. Personally, I’d have no problem with Georgia earning unanimous No. 1 love. After all, when you follow up your first title in 4 decades by replacing 15 NFL Draft picks and you still find a way to repeat … yes, you deserve some blind some faith.

But while I would question any AP voter for not putting the Dawgs as their preseason No. 1 team — preseason rankings are NOT supposed to be predicting how a team will finish — we need to remember something else. In the history of the preseason AP Poll, which dates back to 1950, 2015 Ohio State was the only unanimous preseason No. 1. Plenty of other teams have attempted a 3-peat and not gotten unanimous preseason AP No. 1 status (I’m following the list of official NCAA-recognized national champs):

  • 2013 Alabama: 58 of 60 first-place votes
  • 2005 USC: 60 of 64 first-place votes
  • 1996 Nebraska: 50 of 67 first-place votes
  • 1980 Alabama: 24 of 65 first-place votes (preseason No. 2)
  • 1976 Oklahoma: 6 of 60 first-place votes (preseason No. 5)
  • 1972 Nebraska: 28 of 50 first-place votes
  • 1971 Texas: 5 of 50 first-place votes (preseason No. 3)
  • 1967 Michigan State: 1 of 32 first-place votes (preseason No. 3)
  • 1966 Alabama: 15 of 35 first-place votes
  • 1957 Oklahoma: 127 of 174 first-place votes

Yes, while we had a different system for crowning a national champ throughout the 20th century, it’s still important to note that 13 teams — that list didn’t include 1948 Notre Dame, 1946 Army or 1942 Minnesota because the preseason AP Poll didn’t start until 1950 — have attempted what Georgia is trying to do, and all of them came up short. Hence, why it’s not disrespectful to say the Dawgs could reach the Playoff but not win a national championship.

Speaking of that, is it disrespectful to predict that Georgia will miss the Playoff altogether? It depends. We need a little more context. Saying that a 12-1 record with an SEC Championship loss would keep the Dawgs out of the Playoff because of the weak strength of schedule would be more dumb than disrespectful.

But what about a 9-3 prediction? Disrespectful? Yep. Context is key. That take reeks of someone trying to make a splash.

(I won’t call it “clickbait” because people often misuse that word when there’s nothing to click on.)

It’s hard to imagine that any sort of 9-3 prediction is rooted in logic. Even if there was a world in which Kirk Herbstreit came out on the first College GameDay and said he’s going predicting a 9-3 finish because he keeps hearing there’s some massive divide in the Georgia locker room, we’d all question his intel (that didn’t happen and it’s totally hypothetical). If a respected voice in the college football media landscape rolls out a 9-3 prediction because Stetson Bennett IV is no longer running the show, that would probably ignore the fact that without him from 2017-19, UGA never suffered more than 1 regular season loss.

It’s not disrespectful to predict that there’s someone who could possibly knock off Georgia in the regular season. Obviously that depends on the team getting the upset love. Mizzou winning in Athens? Disrespectful. Tennessee winning in Knoxville? Not disrespectful, though at this point, I’d have a tough time applying logic to that, too.

(I say that as someone who banged the drum all last offseason that the Vols were going to go into Athens and win … and at no point after the first quarter of that game did I think Tennessee had a chance.)

I know plenty of UGA fans don’t want to hear it, but 3 consecutive seasons of 12-0 in the toughest conference in America is no small feat. Accomplishing that, even with favorable odds to do so in 2023 because neither LSU nor Alabama are on the regular season slate, would be worthy of serious praise.

What would be worthy of a serious eyebrow raise would be picking anyone other than Georgia to win the East. That’s disrespectful. Why? Since UGA’s last regular season loss on Nov. 7, 2020 against Florida, the Dawgs:

  • A) Went 14-0 vs. the East
  • B) Won 13 of 14 East games by double digits
  • C) Allowed 21 or less in 13 of 14 East games
  • D) Went 5-0 w/ +25.2 avg. scoring differential in regular season crossover games
  • E) All the above

It’s “E.” It’s always “E.”

I get it, though. Some will enter 2023 with some Georgia fatigue. It could fuel disrespect, or it could fuel something that’s perceived as disrespect that really isn’t. When you dominate the sport like the Dawgs, anything but overwhelming love can be viewed through that lens.

Let’s just keep things in perspective. Not everything is a slap to Georgia’s jugular.