I’ve come a long way from my days of hating the old red and black. After my time as a Clemson undergraduate, I spent a year in Athens while earning my Masters of Marketing Research. UGA did a lot for me and the relationships I build with fellow students and professors will last a lifetime. While Clemson will always be my true love, I am interested in seeing UGA succeed on the field, and this year is particularly promising, as they should be favored in each regular season game.
I think UGA will the SEC East, and possibly do it with a 12-0 regular season. That would likely set up a battle in Atlanta (SEC Championship Game) with the winner claiming the SEC crown and a slot in the National Championship game. For a deeper, more knowledgeable inspection I asked Brendan Gibson, a 2012 UGA graduate and a current law student at Notre Dame to share analysis and predictions of his beloved bulldogs.
Thanks for the great write-up, Brendan!
Georgia Football 2012
August is officially here, which means only one thing: college football is nearly back. It’s so close I can practically smell the charcoal burning from the grills, the cheap beer flowing from kegs, and the whiskey that will permeate in and around Sanford Stadium come September 1st. Athens is buzzing with excitement and for good reason. The Dawgs are coming off of a 10 win season and are ranked #6 in the USA Today Preseason Poll. They return nine of 11 starters on a defense that was 3rd in the nation last year in terms of total yardage given up. On offense, they will be led by 3rd year starter Aaron Murray, who was announced onto the 2012 Maxwell Watch List, the award that annually honors the most outstanding collegiate football player. Their schedule features exactly zero of the “Big three” SEC West teams, comprised of LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas (ranked #1, #2, and #10 respectively in the aforementioned USA Today Poll). The Bulldogs aren’t merely primed to return to Atlanta for the 2nd straight year to compete for an SEC Championship. They have a realistic shot to play in Miami on January 7th and claim the school’s first National Championship since Herschel Walker’s freshman year in 1980. Everything is looking great in the Classic City!
Is any of this sounding familiar Georgia fans? As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Preseason hype is nothing new for Georgia football, but actually backing up that hype, has been a frustratingly recurrent problem. The bad run started in 2008 when the defending Sugar Bowl Champs began the season ranked #1 in the country. It took one whole week to lose that spot, as the Dawgs looked vulnerable, giving up 21 points to Georgia Southern, and fell to #2. Four weeks later it got embarrassed on national television by Alabama in a game that was not as close as the 41-30 score would indicate. The electric atmosphere generated by a College Gameday visit and a blackout by fans and players came to a screeching halt as Alabama carried a stunning 31-0 lead into halftime. The disappointment continued in 2008 with losses to rivals Florida and Georgia Tech en route to a 9-3 regular season and a Capital One Bowl appearance. In 2009 the Dawgs started the season ranked 13th in the country, only to finish 8-5 and unranked. More of the same in 2010 as UGA started off 21st in the polls but finished 6-7 and unranked. Last year, the Dawgs started and finished 19th in the AP Poll.
Another frustrating problem has been the off the field issues plaguing Georgia. Arrests and suspensions have become all too common in recent years and this offseason has not bucked the trend. Chase Vasser, Sanders Commings, Alec Ogletree, and Bacarri Rambo are all facing multiple game suspensions and will not play in the SEC opener against Missouri (Branden Smith was also arrested, but his original one game suspension has been rescinded). On offense, returning SEC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Crowell was kicked off the team for various weapons charges.
Despite the recent difficulties, there are still plenty of reasons to maintain that optimism I mentioned in the first paragraph. This is a very experienced team featuring 18 upperclassmen starters. The defense may face some holes early with the suspensions, but they still have their catalyst in Jarvis Jones, the #2 ranked prospect on Mel Kiper’s early 2013 draft board. Jones had 70 tackles to go along with 13.5 sacks last year on the way to being named a First-Team All American.
The biggest question mark on offense lies within the offensive line. Aaron Murray will have to adjust to a new center as David Andrews replaces four-year starter Ben Jones. On top of that, the tailback position is in a state of flux following the Crowell dismissal. Ken Malcome will likely begin the year as the starter, although heralded recruit Keith Marshall along with fellow freshman Todd Gurley and “running back-turned linebacker- turned running back- turned fullback- turned running back” Richard Samuel will also be given opportunities to carry the rock early in the season. With a lot of uncertainty it will be crucial for the young offensive line to provide some space for our backfield to run through.
The glimmer of hope for the o-line is the schedule. Georgia will have a slightly higher margin of error early on before meeting the likes of South Carolina, Florida, and Auburn. If they can start clicking and offer Murray adequate protection before the meat of the schedule, UGA will potentially have an explosive offense to compliment the stifling defense. Tavarres King will lead the receiving corps and has proven to be a valuable deep threat option. Michael Bennett displayed great hands last year and Marlon Brown, now a senior, will have his best opportunity to maximize the potential UGA fans hoped he would bring to the table. Most exciting to me is the potential weapons at TE Murray will have at his disposal. Arthur Lynch and redshirt freshman Jay Rome stand at 6-5 and 6-6 respectively. They will offer big targets down the middle of the field for Murray and can open up room for guys like King and Brown to receive more single coverage. As a Patriots fan I am well versed on how valuable two dominant tight ends can be.
Expectations are high this year. I, like many of the Georgia faithful, am hungry for this team to reach its peak potential and prove its worth as one of the SEC elite. I’m sick and tired of seeing rival fans celebrate. SEC pride is great and all, but what has UGA done to further that sentiment? In the last 15 years, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn have all won at least one national championship. It’s our turn to represent the SEC on a national stage. Before we can “finish the drill,” we need to actually start the drill and maintain it for an entire season. 10 wins means crap when you lose to the only ranked teams on your schedule (Boise State and USC in 2011). The SEC East is not good enough this year. We have too many weapons to settle for that. Atlanta should be part of the journey but it is not the finish line! That slot on the Tom Tom is reserved for Miami, FL.
So, will the Dawgs make it there? More importantly, will I be the crazy homer who predicts them to run the table and finish 14-0? Sure, why not!? Georgia has as good a chance as any, and realistically, it’s not too often that you have the opportunity to predict your team to go undefeated without sounding completely absurd. National championship or not, it’s sure to be a wild season down in Athens this year. I for one, can’t wait for the ride!
Thank you for reading. If you’re interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me via twitter or in the comments below.
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