With the 2023 college football season fast approaching, Yahoo Sports is rolling out our annual Top 25. We revealed Nos. 11 through 25 in three parts and are now counting down from No. 10 to No. 1 in the days leading up to the official start of the season on Aug. 26.
No. 1 Georgia
2022 record: 15-0
National title odds: +225
Over/under: 11.5 wins
Even after two consecutive national titles, comparisons to Nick Saban are going to be inescapable for Kirby Smart. But if Smart’s team can do in 2023 what no Saban team has, Smart will have a great case to be college football’s new standard bearer.
The Georgia Bulldogs enter the season aiming for a third consecutive national title. No team has won three straight titles in the modern era of college football. The last to three-peat was Minnesota in 1934, 1935 and 1936. College football was a heck of a lot different back then.
Much like last year’s team, this Georgia roster lost a lot of production to the NFL in April’s draft. But thanks to stellar recruiting classes year after year, some key transfers and an extremely manageable schedule, Georgia is in prime position to be back in the College Football Playoff.
Carson Beck takes over for Stetson Bennett
Georgia’s run to a third consecutive title will happen with a new quarterback. Three-year starter Stetson Bennett is now with the Los Angeles Rams and his backup at Georgia, Carson Beck, has been named the starter.
Beck, a four-star recruit in the class of 2020, saw playing time in seven games a season ago, thanks to Georgia’s dominance and threw for 310 yards on 35 pass attempts. He was competing with former five-star recruit Brock Vandagriff for the starting quarterback job, but it seemed like a formality weeks before Beck was officially named the starter that he would be the No. 1 QB in Week 1.
Beck takes over an offense that brings back Heisman dark horse TE Brock Bowers and WR Ladd McConkey. Bowers is college football’s version of Travis Kelce with the added dimension of a handoff here and there. The junior can line up all over the field and had 63 catches for 942 yards and seven TDs. He also ran nine times for 109 yards and three scores.
McConkey is a dependable option out wide and had 58 catches for 762 yards and seven scores a year ago. He’ll return as the No. 1 receiver, though Georgia added Dominic Lovett (Missouri) and RaRa Thomas (Mississippi State) in the transfer portal to bolster its receiving depth.
Beck will also be working with a new offensive coordinator this season. Former Georgia quarterback and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is back for a second stint running the offense after Todd Monken’s departure to the Baltimore Ravens.
A backfield by committee (again)
Kenny McIntosh is off to the NFL, but the Bulldogs bring back Daijuan Edwards and Kendall Milton in the backfield. They should each surpass 100 carries in 2023. Edwards had 769 yards and seven rushing TDs a season ago while Milton averaged seven yards a carry on 85 rushes and scored eight TDs.
The Bulldogs have relied on more than two rushers a season in recent years, however, and it’s unclear who the No. 3 back will be entering the season. Branson Robinson (68 carries for 330 yards) is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in fall camp.
Robinson’s injury could pave the way for a player like Roderick Robinson to get immediate playing time. The 240-pound rusher was a four-star recruit and the No. 3 running back in the country in the class of 2023.
The offensive line should be very good once again with the return of guards Xavier Truss and Tate Ratledge and center Sedrick Van Pran. While Georgia does need to replace both of its starting tackles, there’s little reason to worry given the depth the Bulldogs have up front.
Reloading on defense (again)
Five Georgia defenders were selected in the 2023 NFL Draft after eight were picked in 2022. And there’s still a ton of talent back for this season.
Linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon are back after leading the team in tackles a season ago. Mondon had 76 stops and eight tackles for loss while Dumas-Johnson had 70 tackles and four sacks.
Safeties Javon Bullard and Malaki Starks form one of the best pairings in college football, while cornerback Kamari Lassiter is also back. Smart complained about his team’s pass defense at the end of 2022, and you can bet preventing another in-season drop-off has been an offseason priority.
The defensive line returns just one starter in Nazir Stackhouse, but Smart’s defense rotates defensive linemen so much that being a starter isn’t as significant as it is at other programs. Mikel Williams led the Bulldogs with 4.5 sacks in 2022 and could have a bigger role along with Chaz Chambliss, and Warren Brinson (three TFL's) could also be a bigger part of the rotation.
Don’t be surprised if the Georgia defense gives up fewer than 17 points per game for the third consecutive season.
Biggest game: Nov. 18 at Tennessee
Georgia is the prohibitive favorite for the national title because of its depth up and down the roster. And also because of its incredibly easy schedule.
The Bulldogs will likely be favored by multiple scores over their first 10 opponents before a trip to Tennessee in the penultimate game of the regular season. The Vols look to be the second-best team in the SEC East and took down Alabama at home a season ago. If Joe Milton has the Tennessee offense humming, UT could put a scare into Georgia. And barring something extremely unforeseen happening, the Vols are the only team that could scare the Bulldogs this season until the SEC title game.
That will change in 2024, however. With the SEC dropping its divisional format because of the arrival of Texas and Oklahoma, Georgia won’t get to romp through the East again. The Bulldogs have Ole Miss on the schedule again next season along with trips to Texas and Alabama and a neutral-site opener against Clemson.
Impact player: WR Dominic Lovett
With Bowers and McConkey back on offense, the Bulldogs don’t need to find a leading receiver in 2023. But Lovett could become a valuable deep threat to complement the two returners.
The Missouri transfer led the Tigers with 56 catches for 846 yards and three touchdowns in 2022. He was the only Tiger to have more than 500 receiving yards and also led the team in yards per catch among players with more than 10 receptions. Lovett broke 100 yards in four games a season ago and had six catches for 130 yards against Arkansas before he announced his intention to transfer.
Pick: Over 11.5 wins (+115)
This bet is simple. Is Georgia going to go undefeated during the regular season or not? We're going to take the plus money and go with yes, simply because of the schedule. Tennessee was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs' defense a season ago, and we can envision that happening again in 2023.
And as we said above, it's hard to see who else is capable of beating this team. A trip to Auburn on the final Saturday of September could be tricky, but the Tigers may be a team that gets better as the season goes on. While it's possible Georgia could drop a game at some point before another trip to the SEC title game, we aren't counting on it.