SMITH COLUMN: Update on Dawgs

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, October 19, 2022

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A team in football today is made up of divergent personalities and interests. Kids who can compete at the highest level emerge from different backgrounds. They are black, they are white. Some come from affluent backgrounds, while others send their Pell grant dollars back home to help a mother working two jobs to take care of his siblings.

Out of all this comes a common bond, to win a championship for the University of Georgia. If you hang around a football team, you sense certain influences, you get a feel for certain nuances, you see a pattern or trend developing.

You don’t pick up where you left off from one season to the next.  It is a new cast which must deal with different starters and different faces. They must find a way to give of themselves to the overall objective, working to win the big prize.

I believe this team has an opportunity to win another championship because of its leader, the “Smart” man in charge.  As good as his loyalists believe him to be, there is one thing different about his time. Never has the SEC been more competitive.

One of the things that has made it so competitive is that the high schools are doing such a good job turning out well-trained athletes who can perform at a high level.

The Power Five conferences cannot take them all which means there are many more quality players today than there are scholarships. That is why Appalachian State beat Texas A&M, Marshall defeated Notre Dame and Georgia Southern bested Nebraska. We are likely to see more of that with the passing of time. While it may not be the best thing for college football, it is easy to understand why there will be an expanded playoff system. When he was at Colorado State, Mike Bobo thought it was important to expand the system. “I’m speaking for the little guy,” Bobo said. “It is hard for some schools to have a chance to get into the current playoff system and Colorado State is one of them.”

His viewpoint was, “Why penalize my school because we are not in a talent rich area with deep-rooted tradition. An expanded playoff with give schools like ours hope of making it someday.”

The downside to expansion is that the better team may get knocked out of playing for the championship. Look at what has happened in the baseball playoffs. The Dodgers, who some experts think is the best team in the Big Leagues, will not even make it to the playoffs for the league championship. The Braves, the defending World Series champions, are home for the winter.  While this is all exciting, giving more opportunity to more teams, it does tend to be a slap in the face for the body of work by the better teams for an entire season. With an expanded playoff system, it is easy to see that the day will come when the best team in the country will get knocked off by a decided underdog.

There will be cries that such is “unfair.” But is it not unfair, as Mike Bobo suggested that a team like Colorado State has virtually no chance to get into the playoffs under the current system?

I like it that college football is so enduringly popular today and that we have players like Darnell Washington, who with good health, can display remarkable talent that is electrifying. 

His one-handed catch of a Stetson Bennett pass on the Georgia sideline followed later by a catch and “tiptoe through the tulips” footwork to stay in bounds on the opposite side of the field, makes you aware that he not only can catch the ball, his “yards after catch” stats are always going to be consequential. And make him a rich man.

Nice to see Carson Beck, having a successful afternoon in relief of Stetson Bennett. Likely no team has a more capable and reliable backup than Georgia.

Perhaps he will be the next Tom Brady. Didn’t play that much until he reached his junior year and became an entrenched starter his senior year only to become the greatest of all time with New England and Tampa. 

Naturally, the Georgia locker room has abundant Braves fans. Many of the Bulldogs go to Truist Park during the season. There is one exception, place-kicker Jack Podlesny, who is a big Phillies fan. That is easy to understand. His dad, Ike, is from Toms River, N. J. and worked for the Phillies before moving South.