Malcolm Mitchell understands more than anyone the frustration of Georgia's habit of coming agonizingly close. It was Mitchell who was Aaron Murray's intended receiver on that final play in the 2012 SEC championship game, when Alabama's C.J. Mosley tipped the pass and Georgia's Chris Conley instinctively caught the ball on the 4-yard line, allowing time to run out.
That's the closest the Bulldogs have come to playing for the national championship since the 1982-83 Sugar Bowl.
The 2013 season unravelled due to one major injury after another, the first of which was Mitchell's season-ending knee injury -- when he tried to body-bump Todd Gurley after the Dogs' first touchdown. He made it back last season, but it took several games to regain the trust to make sharp cuts.
Now, as a fifth-year senior, Mitchell feels the urgency to win a national championship.
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"Oh, it's time," Mitchell said. "Our goal is to break through that glass ceiling."
Mitchell was asked why the Bulldogs seemed to make a habit of losing at least one game they should have won.
"If I knew that," he said, "I'd be the smartest man. But I don't have that answer."
Nor does Jordan Jenkins, who came back for his senior season primarily to win a championship. But Jenkins does have some thoughts. He believes the Bulldogs overlooked Missouri in 2013 because they simply didn't respect the Tigers.
"We just thought they were the little brothers of the SEC," Jenkins said. "Come in, clock in, clock out, and leave. As that game went on, we realized that was a big mistake."
The Dogs lost 41-26, which eventually cost them a return trip to Atlanta. Apparently they didn't learn from their mistake, as they lost to Florida 38-20 last season. Gurley had been suspended for signing autographs for pay. The Dogs thought he'd play against Florida only to find out his suspension would last two more games. If that distracted them from taking care of business, that's their own fault.
"Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt likes to call it clutter," Jenkins said. "We let the clutter get to us. We had the news with Todd's situation and our minds immediately went to two games down the road, three games down the road. We're like, 'We get Todd back. We don't have to worry about this game. We're going to be so much better.' "
This year, this team, Jenkins said, will be different. For those who have followed the Bulldogs for years, it's hard not to be skeptical. But Jenkins believes the Bulldogs are a much different program than the one he joined three years ago out of Harris County High School.
"We've just changed the overall attitude of the program this past offseason," Jenkins said. "It's not in us to let that happen. We respect every team."
Maybe. We'll see. There's certainly enough talent dream big. The offensive line is experienced and talented. They are three-deep at quality running backs, and have enough receivers to make plays. If one of their quarterbacks -- probably Brice Ramsey but possibly Faton Bauta or Greyson Lambert -- can command the offense, the Dogs should put up points. The linebackers are as good as anyone's, and the defensive line has more depth than it has had in years.
Head coach Mark Richt offered his annual dose of optimism. While that's his customary view, Richt does seem genuinely pleased with the offseason work ethic.
"Our guys have been working extremely hard," he said. "These guys have been paying the price for the ability to compete in the best league in America."
"The goal is to get there and win it when you get there. Our focus is on the process again. Our focus isn't on getting there as much as what do we have to do on a daily basis to earn the right for that victory? That's what the guys have been doing throughout the offseason, the spring and the summer workouts."
-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can writer to him at firstname.lastname@example.org