If you haven’t yet checked out CollegeFootballNews.com’s preview of the 2010 Georgia Bulldogs, by all means do so. It’s a remarkably optimistic and yet balanced look at the strengths and weaknesses of Mark Richt’s team.
Writes CFN’s Pete Fiutak: “Georgia can absolutely win the East and it can absolutely rise up at the right time to win the conference championship if everything breaks right. And lately, if you win the SEC Championship, big things tend to follow. No, this isn’t a national title team, but that’s not to say it can’t come back and rebound in a huge way.”
Fiutak correctly pegs the health of the veteran offensive line as a key to the season and says it might be “the best in America” if injuries are avoided. He thinks turning NFL prospect Justin Houston loose to harass quarterbacks will help ease the transition to a 3-4 defense.
And he notes that the team will be better than last year’s if “it wins the turnover battle and if it stops screwing up. Georgia, with enough talent and speed to hang around with anyone in the SEC, forced two fumbles and picked off 10 passes, while the offense gave it away 28 times. Alright, so takeaways aren’t necessarily indicative of success (Florida and Cincinnati only recovered three fumbles and Alabama came up with seven), but the knucklehead streak when it came to penalties didn’t help. The Bulldogs were flagged 105 times; only five teams got hit with more penalties.”
What about QB Aaron Murray? Fiutak says, “Murray isn’t all that big, but he has a next-level arm and has just enough talent to grow into the job over the next few years. If he’s outstanding right away, Georgia has a legitimate shot to win the SEC title. If he’s inconsistent, the ceiling is a Florida bowl on New Year’s Day.”
Another factor in the Dogs’ favor, Fiutak notes: “Georgia won’t be the best team in the SEC, but it has the schedule to look that way. Any SEC East team worth its salt would take this slate in a heartbeat. There’s no Alabama or LSU to deal with, Florida, as always, is at a neutral site, Tennessee is a home game, and the road games are at South Carolina, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Auburn. Throw in a home date against Vanderbilt and anything less than a New Year’s Day bowl appearance will be a mega-disappointment.”
Fiutak is setting the bar high for the 2010 Dogs, saying their season will be a success if “Georgia wins the SEC East. If you’re going to catch Florida, do it now. The Bulldogs might still be growing, too, but they have the schedule and just enough talent to win the division to get to the SEC title game. For a team with so many concerns, anything else would be gravy. If this isn’t a division-winning year, 10-2 with a January 1st bowl game would signal a big bounceback.”
Is Fiutak expecting too much of a team that’s rebuilding its defense and starting a completely inexperienced quarterback? I tend to agree with the Senator, who thinks 2011 looks much more like the year of the Dawg.
But the CFN assessment isn’t pie-in-the-sky. Bama and Florida both lost a lot of talent off last year’s teams. Georgia’s schedule is favorable. The Dogs return 10 starters on offense. Willie Martinez is no longer in Athens. The big “ifs” are staying healthy, fixing that turnover ratio, cutting way back on penalties, continuing last season’s surge in the running game, and getting at least a decently productive first season out of Murray.
Still, I think it’s going a bit far to say that success for Georgia this season will be defined by whether it wins the SEC East or not. How about you?
Former Dog Kelin Johnson has launched a Web site/blog and reports Zach Mettenberger told him he has two scholarship offers on the table — Louisville and Cincinnati — and has had heavy interest and calls from other schools, including Tennessee, USC, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Troy, Memphis and Colorado. So even if Mett doesn’t wind up at Louisville, the Dogs still could face their former teammate. You know CBS and/or ESPN would love that storyline.