Red and black confetti falling from the rafters. The Redcoat Band breaking into a loop of Glory, Glory. Kirby Smart on a stage, raising the College Football National Championship trophy high above his head. An army of Georgia Bulldogs players fanned across the turf, arms up, index fingers pointed skyward.
We’re No. 1.
It all felt familiar, but that didn’t dampen the excitement. Not even the out-of-character rain showers that blew through the sides of the roofed SoFi Stadium in southern California dampened the excitement.
Is there a single play or an image that defines the Georgia Bulldogs’ national championship season of 2022? Not from UGA’s 65-7 dismantling of TCU in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
How could you really pick just one? After a while, victory became a blur.
It wasn’t Ohio State’s missed 50-yard field goal attempt that sealed Georgia’s 42-41 win in the Peach Bowl, either. The kick was no gimme, and the Bulldogs didn’t have much to do with it anyway.
The three plays before that miss, though—a stuffed run and two pass breakups—those were pretty important. If Ohio State gained seven more yards, you’d likely not be reading this story.
Could it be any one of the 76 touchdowns Georgia scored on the season? Probably not, but it would be fun to watch them all again.
Maybe it’s the Georgia defense throwing various Tennessee Volunteers down in the slop of a waterlogged Sanford Stadium, proving who really was the top team in the nation. But, again, that entire game was series of moments—offensive and defensive—that built on the one that came before.
There probably isn’t a single image to define this second consecutive national championship season. The story of the 2022 Georgia Bulldogs is one of consistent excellence. Choppin’ wood. Not beating themselves. And beating the daylights out of others.
Familiarity can often breed complacency. But not with these Junkyard Dawgs.
We’re No. 1. Again.
“This year’s team was different,” said head coach Kirby Smart, following the Bulldogs’ win over TCU. “They just had this eye of the tiger. They weren’t going to lose.”
And they didn’t, even though there was no guarantee. Following the 2021 national championship, 15 Bulldogs were drafted by the NFL, the most ever from a single school.
More than 70 players returned, however, many of them ready to step into expanded roles and hungry to prove that they belonged there. Throughout the season, Smart stressed the importance of hard work, and the Bulldogs played the entire season with a target on their back that’s worn by every defending national champion.
They weren’t phased.
Still, even in a perfect season, nothing ever goes perfectly.
But whenever the Bulldogs were faced with a challenge, they rose to meet it. They set a standard of excellence that continues to climb higher. It is a rare and remarkable thing to see.
Georgia now has four national titles—only six teams have more in the AP Top 25 era, which began in 1936. And a compelling argument can be made that this latest one is the Bulldogs’ most impressive.
The 2022 Bulldogs won 15 games (three more than the beloved 1980 champs), including an SEC title (which eluded the 2021 champs). Georgia is also the first team to repeat as national champions in the College Football Playoff era, which began in 2014, and is just the fourth repeat winner in the last 30 years.
In the AP Top 25 era, no team has ever won three national championships in a row.
A(nother) season to remember
Sept. 3, Atlanta, GA
No. 3 UGA 49 (1-0)
No. 11 Oregon 3 (0-1)
Georgia began its national title defense in spectacular fashion, piling on a pretty good team from Oregon in front of a national television audience. If there were questions about whether the Bulldogs had replaced the talent lost to the NFL draft, they were answered very quickly.
Sept. 10, Athens, GA
No. 2 UGA 33 (2-0)
Samford 0 (1-1)
The Bulldogs’ home opener was an opportunity to take a national championship victory lap and stretch their legs before the start of the SEC schedule the following week.
Sept. 17, Columbia, SC
No. 1 UGA 48 (3-0, 1-0)
South Carolina 7 (1-2, 0-2)
Back atop the AP poll, where they probably should have been in the first place, the Bulldogs made quick work of the Gamecocks and left no doubt they were the team to beat in the SEC.
Sept. 24, Athens, GA
No. 1 UGA 39 (4-0, 1-0)
Kent State 22 (1-3)
The Golden Flashes proved to be a tougher opponent, perhaps, than most fans expected.
Oct. 1, Columbia, MO
No. 1 UGA 26 (5-0, 2-0)
Missouri 22 (2-3, 0-2)
Truly tested for the first time, the Bulldogs overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit on the road at Missouri. Georgia never lost its cool, but after two wobbly performances, it did lose its No. 1 ranking.
Oct. 8, Athens, GA
No. 2 UGA 42 (6-0, 3-0)
Auburn 10 (3-3, 1-2)
Georgia fell to No. 2 and took out its frustrations on Auburn.
Oct. 15, Athens, GA
No. 1 UGA 55 (7-0, 4-0)
Vanderbilt 0 (3-4, 0-3)
The 100th anniversary of UGA Homecoming was a joyous celebration for all. Except for the Commodores.
Oct. 29, Jacksonville, FL
No. 1 UGA 42 (8-0, 5-0)
Florida 20 (4-4, 1-4)
It’s great to be a Florida Gator? No, not really.
Nov. 5, Athens, GA
No. 3 UGA 27 (9-0, 6-0)
No. 1 Tennessee 13 (8-1, 4-1)
Georgia retained its No. 1 ranking in the AP poll, but when the first College Football Playoff rankings came out, the Bulldogs sat at No. 3. They were looking up at Tennessee, ranked No. 1 in that particular poll for the first time, and the Volunteers swaggered into Sanford Stadium with the intention of keeping it.
They did not.
Georgia routed the upstarts in orange, holding Tennessee without a touchdown until the game’s waning moments. The more than 92,000 fans at Sanford Stadium were fired up too. Reaching noise levels louder than a jet plane, the crowd unnerved the Vols, who were penalized seven times for false starts. A second-half rainstorm washed away any lingering Tennessee hopes, and Georgia earned a statement win.
Nov. 12, Starkville, MS
No. 1 UGA 45 (10-0, 7-0)
Mississippi State 19 (6-4, 3-4)
There was no post-Tennessee hangover, and Georgia hit the road to dispatch the SEC’s other Bulldogs.
Nov. 19, Lexington, KY
No. 1 UGA 16 (11-0, 8-0)
Kentucky 6 (6-5, 3-5)
The win over the Wildcats wasn’t pretty, but it clinched both the SEC East and a perfect regular-season conference record. No small accomplishment.
Nov. 26, Athens, GA
No. 1 UGA 37 (12-0, 8-0)
Georgia Tech 14 (5-7, 4-4)
Looking ahead, but not really, to the SEC Championship, Georgia notched its fifth straight win (and 18th out of the last 21) over the Ramblin’ Wreck.
Dec. 3, Atlanta, GA
No. 1 UGA 50 (13-0, 8-0)
No. 14 LSU 30 (9-4, 6-2)
With a midseason win over Alabama on its resume and fond recollections of its 2019 trip to the SEC title game, which led to a national championship, LSU came to Atlanta on a high.
It didn’t last long.
Georgia made up for that 2019 game (a 37-10 loss) and solidified the top seed heading into the College Football Playoff.
Dec. 31, Atlanta, GA
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
No. 1 UGA 42 (14-0, 8-0)
No. 4 Ohio State 41 (11-2, 8-1)
At times sloppy, maddening, exhilarating, and exhausting, the 2022 Peach Bowl was a game for the ages.
Georgia did not play its best by a long shot, but dug deep when it mattered, twice overcoming 14-point deficits, including one in the fourth quarter. When Ohio State missed what would have been a game-winning field goal as time ran out at the exact moment the ball dropped in Times Square to ring in 2023, it symbolically announced that this would be Georgia’s year. Again.
Jan. 9, Inglewood, CA
College Football Playoff National Championship
No. 1 UGA 65 (15-0, 8-0)
No. 3 TCU 7 (13-2, 9-1)
Was this the most dominating performance in a national championship game ever?
The 58-point margin of victory was the largest in bowl history. Any bowl.
The Bulldogs rewrote the offensive record book for the College Football Playoff (most points, most touchdowns, etc.), while the Georgia defense threw a blanket over a Horned Frogs team that had scored 28 points or more in 13 of its previous 14 games. Masterful in every way.
Photography by Andrew Davis Tucker; Peter Frey BFA ’94;Chamberlain Smith ABJ ’18; Dorothy Kozlowski BLA ’06, ABJ ’10; and Tony Walsh AB ’19