An SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama may have put a damper on it, but Georgia's 2021 regular season was one for the record books.
With an overwhelming defense and methodical offense, the Bulldogs stifled one opponent after another en route to a divisional crown and a return trip to the College Football Playoff.
Any lingering disappointment from the SEC Championship Game can be erased with a national championship. In the interim, Georgia's regular-season standouts deserve kudos for an excellent campaign.
Offensive MVP: Brock Bowers, TE
Last season was the Year of the Tight End in college football. In 2021, first-year Bulldog Brock Bowers carried the mantle. With 47 receptions for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns, Bowers wasn't just Georgia's most valuable offensive weapon: He was arguably the nation's best pass-catching tight end.
Defensive MVP: Jordan Davis, DT
Picking one Most Valuable Player on the Georgia defense is a near-impossible feat. However, Davis' work on the interior of the line provided so much of the foundation for the Bulldogs' dominance. Davis may not have racked up eye-popping statistics, but his command of blockers and physicality on the line set the table for other Bulldogs to get to the quarterback and close rushing lanes. His importance also is recognized in his unanimous All-American status, as well as winning the Outland Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award.
Best Freshman: Brock Bowers, TE
Right from the jump, Bowers established himself as an elite playmaker with six receptions in Georgia's tone-setting defeat of Clemson. He followed it up with a pair of touchdown catches and eclipsed the 100-yard mark in Week 2 against a good UAB bunch. Bowers' freshman season continued on this trajectory all the way through the SEC Championship Game, making him a clear-cut choice for the Bulldogs' top freshman.
Best Play of the Season: Nakobe Dean's pick-six
Florida came into 2021 as a trendy pick to win the SEC East, perhaps even the conference. By the time the "Don't Call it the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" rolled around, the Gators were out of any such conversations.
Dean's pick-six against Florida wasn't a defining moment for Georgia's divisional domination so much as an emphatic exclamation mark in a cathartic blowout of a rival. And, it gave one of the Bulldogs' best players a signature highlight in an individually outstanding season.
There's another pick-six in Georgia's season worthy of mention; that's still to come.
Best Performance (Player): Nakobe Dean vs. Florida
Keeping with that same theme, Dean's pick-six provided the definitive highlight of arguably the top individual showing of the season. Dean had other performances worthy of consideration, namely his two-sack showing Week 1 against Clemson, but his seven tackles, pick-six, and pass deflection against Florida showed off Dean's defining versatility.
Best Performance (Team): Oct. 2 vs. Arkansas
Arkansas was coming off an emotional defeat of longtime rival Texas A&M when it visited Athens in the first week of October. The Razorbacks were undefeated, had ascended to the top 10 of the AP Top 25, and were averaging 35.8 points per game. Against Georgia, Arkansas totaled 162 yards and went without a point. While the Bulldogs had other memorable defensive performances, like keeping Clemson out of the end zone and stifling an explosive Tennessee offense, shutting down an Arkansas squad that posted 51 points against a top-10 Ole Miss team the very next week might be Georgia's most impressive feat.
Defining Moment: Christopher Smith's INT vs. Clemson
This one could also go down as Georgia's best play of the season, but fits here as the defining moment of the campaign. The rock-fight defeat of Clemson foreshadowed the Bulldogs' outstanding defensive season to come, and thus, it was only fitting that the game's lone touchdown came on that side of the ball.
Biggest Surprise: Todd Monken's play-calling
Kirby Smart's hire of Monken to coordinate the offense before the 2020 season was a boon to a Georgia offense that has endured long stretches of stagnation over the years, even predating the current regime. Several noteworthy injuries, including quarterback JT Daniels and standout receiver George Pickens, could have limited the Bulldogs. Instead, Monken worked well around the multifaceted backfield and quarterback Stetson Bennett to oversee an offense that averages almost 40 points per game. Even in the SEC Championship Game defeat to Alabama, Georgia's offense gave the Bulldogs opportunities to keep pace thanks to some impressive play-calling from Monken.
Biggest Disappointment: SEC Championship Game
After steamrolling through the regular season, and with Alabama coming off an underwhelming offensive showing in the Iron Bowl, Georgia looked poised to win its second SEC title under Kirby Smart. Credit the Crimson Tide and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young for taking it to Georgia's defense in a way no other opponent was able all season, but the showdown in Atlanta marked a disappointing finish before the postseason.
Seniors Who Will Be Missed the Most: Jordan Davis and Channing Tindall
The two veteran leaders of the excellent Georgia defense, Jordan Davis on the line and Channing Tindall at linebacker, are potential first-round NFL draft picks. Their contributions to making this defense what it was are difficult to fully articulate because both did so much not necessarily reflected in stats.
Player to Watch in 2022: Xavian Sorey Jr. , LB
Five-star 2021 recruit Xavian Sorey Jr. was limited in his first season with the Bulldogs due to injury, but made a splash late in the season. He came away with an interception against FCS Charleston Southern, and recorded his first tackle since the Week 2 win over UAB. A full offseason should help Sorey add some weight, and find a fit at either outside or inside linebacker.
Offseason Storyline: Quarterback questions
Daniels' outstanding play to close the 2020 season set expectations for the Georgia offense heading into 2021, particularly with Monken back for his second season as offensive coordinator. Injury issues sidelining Daniels for much of the campaign left the job in Bennett's hands, while the Bulldogs had promising youngsters on the depth chart.
The pressing issue ahead of the College Football Playoff could extend into the offseason. Daniels has remaining eligibility, and current freshman Brock Vandagriff is a 5-star recruit with intriguing potential.