HOOVER, Ala. — The Georgia Bulldogs were in a good mood Tuesday at SEC Media Days. Expectations are high and Georgia has become a summer darling with two months to go to the season.
But then someone mentioned the Tennessee Hail Mary game.
“Never been part of anything like that,” said linebacker Roquan Smith with a somber look.
And then someone mentioned a three-game losing streak against Florida.
“That’s a game where we keep coming up short,” said running back Sony Michel. “That’s a big reason I came back.”
For all of the optimism in the Bulldog camp, the reality is that this team lost five games last year. The sample size is still too small on Kirby Smart to make a determination as to how good a coach he is.
On the one hand, Georgia lost last year by 31 points to Ole Miss in a game that wasn’t that close and by two touchdowns to a Gator team that was offensively challenged.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs lost two games by a single point and a third on a Hail Mary and almost everyone is back.
That includes Michel and Nick Chubb, who decided to play their senior years and are a big reason why the league’s media is expected to pick Georgia to win the East and many preseason magazines are sliding the Bulldogs into their Top 25s.
Even though none of these players have won an SEC East title.
And the Dawgs haven’t won a conference title in 12 years.
And the offensive line is still a big question mark.
“Our players expect to win,” Smart said. “And we don’t want players who don’t expect to win. When you come to the University of Georgia, that’s the man that sits out in front of you. You’re going to be one of the best players in the country, coming from one of the best states in the country, one of the best high school football states in the country. We expect them to come in with that attitude and demeanor.
“You create that, and it permeates your program by how you carry yourself and perform on the field. And we have not performed on the field from the level we should. That’s something we have to continue to improve on.”
Georgia hopes to avoid becoming this year’s Tennessee, a team that looks good on paper but can’t make it translate to a division title in a town that is starving for a return to Atlanta.
With so many starters returning, including 10 on defense, and a highly-rated recruiting class coming in, Georgia has set the talking season bar high.
“I think we can be one of the best defenses — not just in the SEC — in the country,” Smith said. “We have talent all over. Expectations are always high at Georgia. We can’t believe in the hype. We just have to attack each and every day.
“A lot of the guys know what we have in store. It’s going to be a great year for Georgia. That’s why so many of these guys came back.”