Kramer: College Football Championship Recap and a Peek at Next Year’s Top 25

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Sometime after midnight, having just watched one of the worst football games I have ever seen with my own eyes, I took a gander at Georgia’s schedule.

Not the 2022 schedule. The Bulldogs passed that test. They finished a perfect 15-0 overall, winning a second national championship. They also finished a superb 11-4 against the spread.

 

After losing 15 players to the draft, Georgia finished off a perfect year. It did not come without some close calls, especially against Ohio State in the semifinals, but it was undamaged.

Now, back to that schedule. The 2023 schedule for Kirby Smart’s team is complete, and it is, well, underwhelming.

As we dive headfirst into the offseason abyss, we can’t help but look ahead at what’s to come. And for Georgia, which will open the offseason as a +260 favorite to win the national championship, it’s hard not to envision another trip to the College Football Playoff.

The season begins with uninspiring games at home against UT-Martin and Ball State. From there, Georgia plays South Carolina, UAB, at Auburn, Kentucky, at Vanderbilt, Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss, at Tennessee and Georgia Tech.

Sure, there are a few landmines. Playing at Tennessee likely won’t be easy. Playing at Auburn could be tough. Kentucky, Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss might push back. The key word there? Might. But let’s keep it real. This is a remarkably manageable schedule for a team loaded with talent. That should go without saying.

The notion of a three-peat in college football, with so many moving pieces, is hard to imagine. But it feels within reach. When asked about this very possibility in the postgame presser, Smart didn’t shy away. He also made it clear that an emotional reset will be in order. “The disease that creeps into your program is called entitlement,” Smart said. “I’ve seen it firsthand. If you can stomp it out with leadership, then you can stay hungry. And we have a saying around our place; we eat off the floor. And if you’re willing to eat off the floor, you can be special."

Time will tell if that’s the case, although the chase starts now. And when you head to the window to bet your futures, which we will in time, we must consider all that Georgia is and all that schedule isn’t first.

The Appetizer: Football Tidbits and Observations

We’ll get to the national championship game in a moment, although there are a ton of football items to discuss.

1. Blake Corum is coming back to Michigan, and it says a lot about where the sport is heading. A running back with a ton of carries returning to school? I know Corum will likely spend months rehabbing his injured knee, but this is a massive deal for the school. It’s also likely going to come with a good amount of NIL money, which is going to reshape whether athletes return to school or not. In this specific instance, it’s a massive deal. Corum is excellent, and the Michigan offense could be a force in 2023. Speaking of…

2. There are rumors circulating that C.J. Stroud is weighing his options, and he could return to Ohio State in 2023. We’ve assumed for months that Stroud would head to the NFL Draft, although NIL could make this a more complicated decision. Stroud could demand millions of dollars at Ohio State to return to school for one more year rather than enter the draft. While he is likely a first-round pick, maybe even a top-five pick, the Buckeyes could change that. The fact that he hasn’t declared yet is fascinating, and this is one worth monitoring. If he comes back, it will completely change Heisman future betting and shift national championship odds.

3. Nick Saban will have a new defensive coordinator in 2023. Will he also have a new OC? We shall see. Regardless, Lane Kiffin plucked Pete Golding from Alabama, which means the Crimson Tide will have a new defensive lead this fall. Bill O’Brien, who is not beloved by the fan base, could be next to go. O’Brien might look to take a job in the NFL. If that is the case, it could be a massive overhaul for the Tide this year. (The timing might be right for one.)

4. Garrett Riley should have a massive impact at Clemson. I love this hire, and credit goes to Dabo Swinney for bringing in one of the brightest offensive minds in football. Riley guided the TCU offense to the national championship as OC, and he’ll now be asked to turn around an offense that has been up and down over the past two years. He’ll also have some remarkable weapons to work with. Running back Will Shipley and QB Cade Klubnik should make a dynamic tandem.

One Week Later: Five National Championship Takeaways

1. A few things stood out from the field in pregame warmups. Georgia looked loose and large. TCU looked tight and a lot, and I mean A LOT, smaller. You learn a lot from being down on the field, although you don’t want to overreact to what you see. It was not hard to feel like the Bulldogs were going to dominate that game, although I never expected it to be as bad as it was.

2. Now, let’s talk about how bad this game was. The point spread closed just south of two touchdowns, and Georgia won by 58 points. I liked the under in this game, largely because I didn’t expect Georgia to hit the over by itself. Oof. TCU was simply helpless. Outside of one long pass play that came on a secondary miscue, something that burned Georgia this year, the Horned Frogs didn’t stand a chance. This wasn’t just the most lopsided college football game I’ve ever been to; it’s one of the biggest blowouts I can recall in a game of this magnitude in any sport. Period.

3. My review of SoFi Stadium is largely positive. In terms of the general vibe, it was excellent. The stadium is massive and beautiful, the scoreboard is magnificent, and the amenities are (obviously) top-notch. Seeing rain blow in through the back of the endzones, however, was absolutely wild. I didn’t fully grasp how an outdoor stadium with a roof would work, but the water, which flooded parts of the stadium, showed what would happen in an instance like this. I know this isn’t the norm, but it certainly was a sight to see. As a whole, however, the stadium experience was excellent.

4. We already talked about Georgia’s schedule, but let’s talk about the roster moving forward. Stetson Bennett, finally, will attempt a run at being an NFL quarterback. Jalen Carter will depart the defensive line, which will be a sizable hole. But when you look at what Georgia will return, including all-world tight end Brock Bowers, there is a lot to like. The focus will be on the QB battle, although there are options there. Years of elite recruiting should help, although many key pieces return.

5. TCU has work to do. The Horned Frogs had a sensational season, although keeping momentum will be challenging. We already hit on Riley, and his departure will be huge. TCU will also say farewell to QB Max Duggan, wideout Quentin Johnston, offensive lineman Steve Avila, defensive back Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and others. There will be an exodus of talent, and the Horned Frogs will likely take a sizable step back. That said, Sonny Dykes has been brilliant, and the team will likely remain a pest in 2023 and beyond.

Way-Too-Early Top 25

Everyone does this now, although here is another ranking.

I plan to hit some teams and players to look at in the future market next week, although we’ll keep the ball rolling with a look at how I would rank teams right now.

This will shift violently over the coming months, although here’s where we stand right now.

1.     Georgia

2.     Alabama

3.     Michigan

4.     Ohio State

5.     Notre Dame

6.     Clemson

7.     Penn State

8.     Washington

9.     Florida State

10.  Tennessee

11.  USC

12.  Utah

13.  LSU

14.  Oregon

15.  Texas

16.  Oregon State

17.  TCU

18.  Tulane

19.  Kansas State

20.  South Carolina

21.  UCLA

22.  North Carolina

23.  UTSA

24.  NC State

25.  Wisconsin