The college football world was shocked by the news of Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs agreeing to a massive 10-year, $112.5 million contract extension last week. The deal makes him one of the highest paid coaches in the NCAA football.
Although that number may seem very excessive, Smart has proven he is one of the best in the business, leading the Bulldogs to the New Year’s Six Bowls in all but one season since 2016. Most importantly, last season, he led the team to its first national title since 1980, defeating Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, 33-18.
However, the Bulldogs lost multiple key players in the 2022 NFL Draft, including defensive end Travon Walker, who was picked first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team had 15 players selected, the most from one school in a single draft in the seven-round era.
Because of that, it is still up in the air whether Smart can command a team full of new players to immediate greatness. With this new huge deal, pressure will be on him 24/7.
Here are some bold predictions for Smart and the Georgia program for the 2022 season.
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Bold Predictions for Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs in 2022
2. The Bulldogs will have the best regular season record once again
Last season, Georgia had a perfect regular season record of 12-0 and 8-0 in SEC play. However, following a big shake-up in the locker room due to the draft, will there be a difference in the team’s performance on the field?
Losing key players like Walker can make a difference in big games but the team was still able to retain other important players such as quarterback Stetson Bennett, tight end Brock Bowers, as well as Jalen Carter, who will lead the defensive line. Smart and his staff were also able to recruit multiple five-star players, meaning that, at the surface level, the Bulldogs will be just fine.
Additionally, another thing to consider on Georgia going undefeated once again is how its schedule was built. The Bulldogs will mainly face the SEC East, with teams such as Florida and Vanderbilt. Once threat, Auburn from the West division is projected to finish dead last.
Also, teams such as the Alabama Crimson Tide, probably the Bulldogs’ biggest challenger, will have much tougher schedules. Bama will face teams such as Texas A&M, which defeated Nick Saban’s side with a walk-off field goal last year, and Arkansas, which was projected as a top 20 team in the early NCAA preseason rankings.
Even if Smart and the Bulldogs struggle a bit against team like Kentucky, other teams will have more to worry when looking at their schedule.
1. Smart will lead the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff
With the already mentioned slightly easier schedule, Georgia has a real chance of dominating the regular season and going undefeated. This means that, even if losing to Alabama in a potential SEC Championship game, the Bulldogs will likely have a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
The problem is, if the team once again collapses in a potential conference championship game, the Bulldogs might end up finishing the year at No. 2 or No. 3 in the rankings despite the stellar regular season. If the Bulldogs fail to end the season as the No. 1 overall team, they put themselves in a more difficult position to reach the CFP Final.
Inexperience shows up most when the spotlight is shining brightest. It’s in those big games where the young Georgia team will have to step up. Smart needs to make sure he prepares those youngsters during the regular season, so they are ready to take it to the next level when the going gets tough.
Smart has already shown he is capable of developing his players into college stars and future NFL players. By leading a Georgia team to the playoffs after losing 15 players to the NFL, he will prove that it was not a mistake by the Bulldogs’ athletic department to offer him such a massive deal.