The Baylor Bears came within a play of winning the Big 12 championship game and reaching the College Football Playoff.
They were no match, however, for a Georgia team missing several prominent pieces during Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl. Kirby Smart's Bulldogs built a 19-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 26-14 triumph, avenging their disappointing performance in last season's 28-21 upset loss to Texas in the same bowl.
True freshman receiver George Pickens was the MVP and redshirt freshman running back Zamir White rushed for 92 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and a touchdown, leading that next wave of talent moving through Georgia's program. That returning talent also includes two of Georgia's top defenders Wednesday, freshman safety Lewis Cine and redshirt freshman outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
Such a youth movement should provide excitement for the Bulldogs in 2020, but Smart was a bit more cautious when asked about the months ahead.
"To be honest, the future is only bright if these guys continue to work," Smart said in a news conference. "There is a disease that creeps in at Georgia to where kids believe they're better than they are, and they read their own press clippings. We'll only be as good as we can be if we stay hungry.
"When you're not hungry, you become average, and I think that has affected us in the past. We've got to find a way in this program to not let that creep in, because we've had guys who were hungry become full."
Georgia was able to flip the script from a program viewed in mild disarray with a lengthy list of players skipping the New Orleans trip to one that has quite a foundation on which to build. Of course, the biggest piece of the puzzle to the 2020 season for the Bulldogs will depend on junior quarterback Jake Fromm.
Fromm has provided the standard line of meeting with his family before making any decision and skirted questions in New Orleans about his grade from the NFL's Draft Advisory Board. He arrived at the Sugar Bowl in a five-game slump in terms of accuracy but broke out of that with a 20-of-30 showing for 250 yards and two touchdowns.
His favorite target was Pickens, who looked like a man among boys in the Baylor secondary while reeling in 12 receptions for 175 yards and a touchdown.
"I love George," Fromm said. "George is a great teammate and a great football player, but what I love about George is that he loves football and loves going out and competing. He's the same guy and competitor at practice, so seeing him go out and do what he did was no surprise at all, He's playing the game he loves."
Said Pickens: "Jake pushes me every day, and Coach Smart pushes me every day to be the player I am."
Georgia's optimism for the months ahead will be aided by a 2020 signing class that ranked fourth after December's early signing period and on Thursday night moved into third by announcing the addition of five-star tight end Darnell Washington. The 6-foot-8, 261-pounder from Las Vegas signed with the Bulldogs last month in the early period but publicly declared at the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Florida.
Results of bowl games can weigh too heavily on the months that follow, but Georgia remains a program on very solid footing, especially when dialed in. Fromm called the nearly three weeks of practices leading up to the Sugar Bowl "the best we've had all year."