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Photo by Travis Bell / Georgia sophomore receiver George Pickens, right, is a big reason the Bulldogs could have one of the SEC's top offenses in 2021.

A springboard into next season is often an element in bowl game conversation, and Georgia football coach Kirby Smart understands people will apply that to his Bulldogs entering Friday afternoon's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Cincinnati.

"Everybody tries to spin the bowl game as building momentum, and it is 100% an opportunity to build momentum," Smart said. "Everybody wants to talk about 2021 anyway. Once you're not in the playoff, that's what people want to talk about. They're going to talk about the next season.

"It will be way up high if we win and way down low if we lose, but the truth always resides somewhere in the middle."

The truth with Georgia in the Smart era is that bowl outcomes have meant very little when it comes to the next season. The Bulldogs have been ranked No. 3, No. 3 and No. 4 in the past three Associated Press preseason polls, which have followed the 26-23 overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship game of the 2017 season, the lackluster 28-21 succumbing to a four-loss Texas team in the Sugar Bowl following the 2018 season, and last season's 26-14 drubbing of Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

The Bulldogs did not have starting tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson in last season's Sugar Bowl, and starting running back D'Andre Swift received just one carry.

Returning talent and incoming talent are the far greater barometers when it comes to offseason momentum for the Bulldogs, who are in the process of assembling a fifth straight top-three national recruiting class. Georgia established some momentum with a 31-23 topping of TCU in the 2016 Liberty Bowl, but the springboard to a Southeastern Conference championship several months later was more about the announcements that running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter would be returning.

Georgia's 2021 offense could give Bulldogs fans the desired attack that Alabama and Florida produced this season. Provided all of these components return, Georgia will have JT Daniels at quarterback, Darnell Washington at tight end, a running back contingent of Zamir White, James Cook, Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards, and a receiver room headed by George Pickens, Kearis Jackson, Jermaine Burton and Dominic Blaylock, who missed this season with a torn ACL.

It also would be the second season under offensive coordinator Todd Monken, so while nobody in Athens would complain about a victory over the Bearcats, any significant springboard effect is highly unlikely.

"What I want to do is play good, sound football, and I want our seniors who are in this game to go out on top," Smart said. "It's a reward, and it's an opportunity for our guys to go out and play a top-10 opponent and a team that has not lost a game all year. We want to play our best game, so I'm not auditioning for next year.

"At the end of the day, it's how you finish things off with something you started."

 

Game sold out

The Peach Bowl announced last week that Friday's game was sold out, marking the 22nd sellout for the Atlanta game in the past 24 years. Of course, this year's sellout comes amid coronavirus guidelines that have resulted in Mercedes-Benz Stadium's capacity being roughly 16,500.

Georgia and Cincinnati each sold 3,250 allotted tickets last Wednesday, their first day of sales.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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