Two years ago, the Georgia Bulldogs boasted a future Heisman Trophy finalist on their roster. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart didn’t know it at the time, but Justin Fields was on the path to stardom while sitting behind Jake Fromm.
It was a match made in heaven in Athens. You had a kid rated the eighth-best high school prospect of all time who was from Kennesaw, Georgia, and played at Harrison High School in the Peach State. Not to mention his sister, Jaiden Fields, was set to star at UGA on the softball field in 2019.
What happened after Justin Fields’ freshman season will forever be the biggest what-if in program history. He transferred to Ohio State, scored 51 touchdowns, finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and nearly won a national championship had Clemson and Trevor Lawrence not stood in the way.
With Fromm gone and Georgia facing a myriad of quarterback concerns in 2020, what would the program look like in 2020 had Fields stuck around?
What if Justin Fields Stayed at Georgia?
Sure, Fromm led the Bulldogs to the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Alabama as a freshman. He then took them the SEC Championship game against the LSU Tigers a year later.
But maybe someone on Georgia’s coaching staff should have recognized the most talented quarterback on the team was a freshman eager to light up the NCAA.
Had Smart given the starting quarterback job to Fields during the 2018 season, he probably doesn’t transfer. That means we never see Stetson Bennett or D’Wan Mathis take a snap. Jamie Newman probably never heads to Athens from Wake Forest, either.
Here’s what would have happened.
Georgia Plays in 2019 Playoff
Behind Georgia’s No. 1 ranked defense that allowed just 12.6 points per game in 2019, Fields goes undefeated in regular season play. No overtime loss to South Carolina.
Fields duals with Heisman Winner Joe Burrow in the SEC title game but Georgia comes up just short.
A one-loss Georgia earns a spot in the CFP over Big 12 champion Oklahoma because of a bad loss to Kansas State.
Fields and the Bulldogs lose again to LSU in the CFP (listen, that joe Burrow offense wasn’t lethal).
Fields finishes second in Heisman voting behind Burrow, the highest finish for a Georgia player since Herschel Walker won in 1982.
Georgia Wins 2020 National Championship
In 2020, Fields and yet another stout Georgia defense run the table in SEC play, beating the Kyle Trask-led Florida Gators.
Georgia beats Alabama in a thrilling SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, as Fields’ high-powered offense is too much for Nick Saban.
Georgia goes on to dismantle Clemson in the CFP semifinal game and win their third national title over the Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes.
Fields wins the 2020 Heisman Trophy and declares for the NFL Draft, in which the New York Jets select him first overall.
Georgia consistently reels in five-star recruits and develops into a dynasty similar to Alabama and Clemson.
Four years later, Georgia QB Arch Manning wins UGA’s fourth national championship.
OK, that last bit may have been a bit out there but this is fantasyland and anything goes. As you can see, one player can make a whirlwind of a difference to a program. That’s why watching Fields do what he’s doing at Ohio State hurts to watch so much.
Don’t get me wrong. The University of Georgia is still in very good shape (a lot better than Tennessee or Auburn) under Kirby Smart. But if Justin Fields is still wearing the red and black today, no one is asking “can Kirby win the big games?” or “why can’t Georgia beat Alabama?”
We’ve seen across the NCAA that a single quarterback can make the difference (LSU’s Burrow, Clemson’s Lawrence), and that’s exactly what Justin Fields would have done.