No. 1 Georgia still hungry as defending national champions

Dec 24, 2022, 3:10 PM | Updated: Dec 25, 2022, 6:16 am
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) hoist the trophy after defea...

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) hoist the trophy after defeating LSU in the Southeastern Conference Championship football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Kearis Jackson insists he and his Georgia teammates are not content even after adding this year’s Southeastern Conference championship to last season’s drought-breaking national title.

The Bulldogs are motivated to keep winning.

In fact, Jackson, a senior wide receiver, insists No. 1 Georgia is working harder than at this time last year as they seek a new goal — back-to-back national championships. The Bulldogs won their first national title since 1980 last season.

Jackson says motivation isn’t an issue as the Bulldogs prepare for their Peach Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal against No. 4 Ohio State on Dec. 31. He says some observers will think Georgia players might be satisfied following their 50-30 win over LSU for the the SEC championship.

It’s a change from one year ago, when Georgia players had extra incentive following a loss to Alabama in the SEC title game.

“Last year after the SEC championship, it was like we came in with a chip on our shoulder because of the loss,” inside linebacker Smael Mondon said. “This year, I feel like we came with that same intensity, without coming off of a loss. We still have that same fire and intensity that we bring in practice.”

Jackson also says winning the conference championship hasn’t taken away the team’s hunger as they enter another playoff.

“I feel like this year coming off a conference win I think we will work harder than we did last year coming off a loss,” Jackson said. “It’s crazy because people can look at it and think they’re complacent, they’re happy about their win.”

Jackson was thrilled and relieved after Georgia’s first SEC title since 2017. He was a member of three teams that lost in the SEC championship game.

“Shoot, that’s just another checked box that we wanted as one of our goals,” he said. “I mean, our season is not complete yet. We still have goals we want to reach.”

The win over LSU left the Bulldogs (13-0) undefeated and the top seed in the CFP. They will return to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the site of the SEC championship game, for the Peach Bowl as they pursue their biggest goal.

No Georgia team has won back-to-back national titles, and the Peach Bowl winner will earn a spot in the Jan. 9 national championship game in Los Angeles against No. 2 Michigan or No. 3 TCU.

“We’re excited we get that opportunity to play in that game,” said Jackson of the Peach Bowl. “Just know that we’re motivated because we haven’t completed anything bigger than what we already want.”

Georgia’s defense is motivated by the challenge of facing quarterback C.J. Stroud, a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, and the high-scoring Ohio State offense.

Coach Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs posted their second consecutive undefeated regular season despite losing a record 15 NFL draft picks, including five defensive players in the first round. Former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett became an unlikely Heisman Trophy finalist and the defense reloaded to rank second in the nation in points allowed.

Defensive tackle Zion Logue said the Bulldogs avoided a letdown during the season by maintaining focus.

“We treat every day like a game,” Logue said. “You try to make practice harder than the game so that by the time Dec. 31 gets here, we’ve seen everything and done everything to get ready for that moment.”

___

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No. 1 Georgia still hungry as defending national champions