Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) and Jaylen Johnson (23) warm up before an NCAA college football game against South Carolina Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. Georgia won 45-16. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
- Georgia star receiver George Pickens has torn his ACL during spring practice
- The standout sophomore will require surgery and could miss most of the 2021 season
- Read below to see how this news affects UGA’s 2021-22 National Championship odds
UGA has been dealt a devastating blow to its 2021-22 National Championship odds. The team announced Wednesday that wide receiver George Pickens will require surgery on his right knee after suffering a torn ACL in a spring practice.
There’s no timetable for Pickens’ return, but he likely won’t be able to return until late 2021 at the earliest. He was expected to form a dynamic 1-2 punch with QB JT Daniels in the SEC after the two showed great chemistry to close out 2020.
How has this move affected Georgia’s National Championship odds? Is Kirby Smart’s team still worth a wager to win a championship?
2022 CFP National Championship Odds
Odds from DraftKings as of March 24th
Pickens Injury a Major Blow
George Pickens tearing his ACL is a massive loss for a UGA team that was set up nicely to contend for a national championship in 2021. Pickens was arguably the top returning receiver in the SEC after a strong sophomore campaign that saw him make 36 receptions for 513 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.
What’s most disappointing about the news is just how good the 6-foot-3, 200-pound WR looked alongside new UGA QB JT Daniels last year. In Daniels’ four starts at QB for UGA, Pickens caught 23 passes for 374 yards and four TDs. He closed out the year by eclipsing 100 yards receiving in each of UGA’s final two games against Mizzou and Cincinnati.
Georgia’s 2021 National Championship odds stayed put at +700 immediately following the news, but there’s a chance they could lengthen as we get closer to the fall season. The Bulldogs open the 2021 season on September 4th at Clemson and almost certainly won’t have Pickens back for two big October games against Auburn and Florida.
2021 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
Bulldogs Remain 2021 Contender
While the Pickens injury is a massive loss, there’s still reason to believe Georgia could end up in Atlanta this season.
Daniels was slinging the ball around in his four games at UGA last season and will still have two reliable targets at receiver in Kearis Jackson and Jermaine Burton. The injury also opens the door for TE Darnell Washington, who came on at the end of 2020 with a season-high three catches in the win over Cincinnati.
The Pickens injury will have some impact on the team’s plans to run the air raid offense under Todd Monken, but UGA is loaded at the running back position if they opt to run the football more. Zamir White and James Cook are both returning for another year and give UGA a dynamic 1-2 punch on the ground. White ran for 779 yards and Cook for 303 last year.
NEWS: Zamir White announces he is returning for another season at UGA. #RBU ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/CNxRLZfvbq
— 960 The Ref (@960theref) January 13, 2021
The backbone of UGA remains its defense, which is massive in a year where Alabama and Florida both lose plenty of offensive talent. The Bulldogs’ front seven is perhaps the best in the country and should continue shutting down rushing offenses and creating chaos for quarterbacks. The secondary lacks experience, but this is where we were going to see UGA forced to open up the offense and make big-time passing plays.
Verdict on Pickens’ ACL Injury
Georgia still remains a great bet to win the SEC East this season due to the talent they boast at each position, but this injury to their best receiver certainly impacts the team’s overall ceiling for 2021. Whether or not the team can compete for a national title will likely depend on if players such as Washington can step up and fill the void.
The positive news is that Pickens’ MRI showed it to be an isolated injury with no other structures involved, so we could see the standout WR in the latter half of the season. UGA takes on Clemson in the opener, but they should be favored in every other game. The Bulldogs avoid Alabama in the regular season and could have Pickens back by the time they face the Crimson Tide in December or January.
Locked in… 🔒#ATD #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/ZPI8nctLA4
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) March 23, 2021
You should temper your 2021 expectations for UGA, but there’s enough skill and depth at the wide receiver position to keep them a contender. Given how impressive Daniels looked in 2020 and the return of Zamir White, Georgia would be worth a look as a championship longshot if their odds start to lengthen as a result of this injury.
Brady is a passionate hockey fan and sports writer with over five years of experience specializing in digital media, plus a degree in Broadcast Journalism. His work has been published by outlets such as ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and Fox Sports.