Posted: 5:42 pm Friday, December 30th, 2016

Bulldog Nation hopes it got a glimpse of what it will soon demand 

By Jay Black

Georgia players celebrate their Liberty Bowl victory. (Getty Images)

The last time the Dawgs had a season this bad, it also finished in the Liberty Bowl. At least this time, Georgia will leave Memphis ringing the bell on the Liberty Bowl trophy.

If you’re going to come to this part of Tennessee you might as well go home with some hardware.

This 31-23 win over TCU will also edge up what is already sky-high expectations for 2017. You know, sort of like the sky-high expectations for 2016.

December has probably been the best month of the 2016 season. Five of Georgia’s impact juniors said they are coming back and recruiting is going pretty great. UGA has at least at top 5 class and maybe better.

At least the Dawgs finally got a win on the actual football field to close out December.

“Nobody is happy with 8-5,” Kirby Smart told the UGA radio network. “Certainly not us. We know what we have to do to get better and we have to go out and do it.”

Georgia did look like a better football team today, at least in the second half. The first 28 minutes though, were a bit rough.

Jacob Eason will be at the center of next year’s giant expectations. (Getty Images)

Save a 77 yard pass from Jacob Eason to Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia’s offense looked as bad and as boring as ever. Three plays in a cloud of dust. Then a short punt. Georgia had five 3-and-outs in its first seven possessions. The other two were a TD and a turnover.

Wake me up when something happens.

Georgia’s defense did well to hang on for the TCU no-huddle ride with the offense giving it only three plays to take a break. This game had a chance to really get out of hand, until the game’s MVP made the biggest play of this bowl.

With his team already up 16-7, Kenny Hill’s 45 yard run put the Horned Frogs on the verge of a blowout. Two plays later, Trenton Thompson stuffed the quarterback for the first of his three sacks, knocking TCU out of field goal range.

Next drive, Sony Michel goes in for 33 yard TD catch and Georgia goes to the half down two instead of down 16.

A big 14 point swing caused by Georgia’s biggest defender.

“Trenton played hard all game, so disruptive and so athletic,” said Smart. “There’s no limit to how good Trenton can be if he just buys into the system, which he has done this year.”

Thompson’s three sacks ties him with Marcus Howard and David Pollack for the UGA bowl record.

Sony Michel was the game’s offensive MVP (Getty Images)

From there, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel did the rest, with Georgia rushing for 199 yards in the second half.

That’s the Georgia formula. That’s the plan. The defense makes the stops and the running game wears you out.

If it were only that easy, the Dawgs wouldn’t be spending its December in Memphis.

“Those two backs wear you down,” said Smart. “You tackle them in the first quarter when your fresh. The fourth quarter and that’s 220 pounds of muscle coming right at you. You get tired of hitting those guys.”

And Bulldog Nation will get to watch them run one more season. Reasons number one and number two as to why Bulldog fans will be expecting something more than “Liberty Bowl Champions” in 2017.

The chorus has already started, as it generally does in Athens every December. All together now “next year is going to be our year.”

However, It’s pretty hard to argue that Georgia has a real shot to produce.

Kirby Smart will be expected to lift much more important trophies very soon (Getty Images)

The entire defense is basically back and all (breaking news, scratch that) almost all of the offensive skill players return (McKenzie says he’s going pro). Sprinkle a bunch of recruits with a bunch of stars and all is right with the world.

One problem: This team went 8-5. It was mediocre. Is it really fair to expect so much for a group that produced so little in one year?

“I’m certainly confident that they will be ready,” said Smart. “They have to not read their press clippings if they are playing. And if they aren’t, they need to work harder.”

The future should be bright. There were glimpses of it today, even though it’s a 7-5 team beating a 6-6 squad. Thompson’s performance might be the biggest one of all. He was supposed to be the best recruit in his class. This was the first time we truly saw it. He will be a junior next season.

So wow we see what Smart can do with his “Squad 17” recruiting call.

Because the honeymoon is officially over. The mulligan season is gone. Championships will be expected very soon.

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