What a difference a year makes for Georgia football

Georgia fans at Rose Bowl

An aura of good feeling permeates the Georgia Bulldog fan base. Such conviction and confidence is unmatched since at least the early 1980s, and perhaps even surpasses the optimism from that golden age of Herschel hurrying between the hedges.

What a difference a year makes.

The reasons for the rosy outlook are clear, starting with the remarkable finish to the 2017 season.

Kirby Smart recently pointed out that the captivating final triumvirate of Georgia games ranked as three of the four most watched college football broadcasts of the year. The demolition of Auburn in the SEC Championship Game ranked fourth in viewership, and garnered more viewers than all college football games, regular season and bowl season, except the playoffs.

The dramatic Dawgs victory over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl ranked second in viewership, behind only the overtime loss to Alabama in the National Championship Game. In those three games, a combined total of nearly 60 million viewers watched the Bulldogs play winning and exciting football in front of predominantly Red and Black clad crowds.

Contrast the 2017 numbers with the end of the 2016 season when slightly more than three million viewers watched Georgia beat TCU in the Liberty Bowl.

Kirby is another factor in the sunniness surrounding Athens. His relentless, organized, and systematic approach to recruiting just reeled in the nation’s top class. He benefitted from the completion of an indoor practice facility, and has been the driving force behind a Sanford Stadium west end zone expansion meant to enhance – you guessed it – recruiting.

He’s pushed for, and gotten, a massive increase in spending for support staff and his on-field coaches.

From a laymen’s perspective, his coaching appeared improved too. After an at times uneven sideline performance in his rookie season, he made all the right moves in 2017; even the most critical fan would be hard-pressed to disparage Smart or his coordinators after last season’s performance.

Smart was particularly adroit from a psychological perspective after the season’s only setback at Auburn. When Tiger coach Gus Malzahn stuck his foot in his mouth boasting about the win, Kirby wisely kept quiet, but had his team ready for SEC Championship rematch two weeks later. The younger, less experienced coach was the more measured man.

Such maturity bodes well.

RELATED: Coaching change could lead to more action for Georgia’s tight ends.

Dawg fans have fewer personnel concerns to fret over this year too.

During spring practice and into fall camp before the 2017 season, fans still felt good about the direction of the program, but few were giddy. Offensive line caused the most angst, and quarterback maturity triggered anxiety as well.

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