Will the 2013 Dawgs pick up where they left off?

The return of Aaron Murray is a big factor in the lofty projections for the 2013 Bulldogs. (Associated Press)

The return of Aaron Murray is a big factor in the lofty projections for the 2013 Bulldogs. (Associated Press)

Georgia will open the 2013 football season amid a major rebuilding of its defensive unit while also facing a much more difficult schedule front-loaded with ranked opponents.

And yet that hasn’t dissuaded most of the college football observers previewing the 2013 Top 25 from seeing the Dogs picking up pretty much where they left off this season — a Top 10 or even a Top 5 team.

I think you can safely say that Aaron Murray’s decision to return for his senior season leading a prolific, veteran offense that boasts Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall at tailback has a lot to do with that.

Our own Mark Bradley pegged Georgia as No. 5 in his early Top 25. But, as he noted, with the Dogs opening at Clemson and then playing South Carolina and LSU in two of their next three games, they could either play themselves out of the To 25 by the end of September or mark themselves as the biggest threat to Alabama’s intended threepeat.

Bradley’s certainly not alone in pegging Mark Richt’s Bulldogs as a preseason Top 10 team. The highest ranking I’ve seen so far is at Nationalchamps.net, which has the Dogs a lofty No. 4.

Athlon Sports has Georgia at No. 5, behind Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Texas A&M (Johnny Football Fever!). Rounding out their Top 10: Stanford, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Clemson and Louisville, with the Gators at No. 11 and LSU at No. 12.

Athlon credits Murray’s decision to return, which they think means the Bulldogs will “narrowly edge Florida and South Carolina for the top spot in the SEC East.” While Athlon notes that “the defense is losing nearly everyone,” they believe “Murray will be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC, and running back Todd Gurley should contend for All-America honors as a sophomore next year. Helping Murray’s cause is a receiving corps that returns Malcolm Mitchell, and an offensive line that brings back all five starters from 2012.”

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach pegs Georgia at No. 6, behind Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, Ohio State and Texas A&M.

Todd Gurley will be part of one of the nation's most explosive offenses. (Associated Press)

Todd Gurley will be part of one of the nation's most explosive offenses. (Associated Press)

Schlabach notes that “UGA will have to rebuild much of its defense” and that “Georgia’s schedule is much more difficult in 2013″ but the key is that “The Bulldogs might have one of the most explosive offenses in the country in 2013, now that quarterback Aaron Murray has announced he’s returning for his senior season. UGA scored a school-record 529 points while going 11-2 in 2012, and receiver Tavarres King will be the only departed starter on offense. Murray completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 3,893 yards with 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this past season. Freshman running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley combined to run for 2,144 yards with 25 touchdowns, and the Bulldogs will get back injured receiver Michael Bennett, who missed much of 2012 with torn knee ligaments.”

The Orlando Sentinel puts Georgia at No. 5, behind Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and LSU. Says the Sentinel: “Georgia was five yards away from playing in the BCS national championship instead of Alabama and that memory will fuel the Bulldogs in 2013. Quarterback Aaron Murray’s decision to return for his senior season makes Georgia a favorite to repeat in the SEC East.”

USA Today isn’t quite as high on Georgia, though the Dogs still make the paper’s Top 10 at No. 7, behind Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford, Oregon, Florida and Florida State. They sum up the situation pretty well: “With Aaron Murray and the two young backs returning, Georgia’s offense should be the best in the SEC. However, with Jarvis Jones and others gone, Georgia has questions to address on defense.”

Are these projections pretty much on the mark or overly optimistic? It depends on whether Murray — and what should be a formidable offense — will be enough to carry the team over those early-season hurdles while Todd Grantham searches for answers on the defense.

What do you think?

Got something you want to discuss about the Georgia Bulldogs, or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email me at junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

133 comments Add your comment

Spivedog

January 10th, 2013
10:46 am

The South Carolina game will determine how good the Dawgs will be imo. Everyone else on the schedule should be beatable.

Dawg_Mike

January 10th, 2013
10:49 am

Any chance we could petition the NFL to accept Sophomores before we play SC in September ?

Tatman

January 10th, 2013
10:54 am

Glad to see Bennett returning. And I really don’t see Stanford and Florida State a head of us…

Independent

January 10th, 2013
11:14 am

Doesn’t matter. Capital one bowl will be where you finish, so it doesn’t really matter where you start…….

JB

January 10th, 2013
11:15 am

I just can’t understand these Florida rankings. They’re not a bad team, but their offense is TERRIBLE, how can they keep getting ranked so high? Defense may win championships, but if you can’t SCORE, you can’t WIN…

SC Dawg

January 10th, 2013
11:34 am

If the O-Line proects Murray well next year the Dawgs will be fine. Clemson’s D is good but not great their O is amazing. SC is great all a round but they come “Between The Hedges.”

dawgs out for blood

January 10th, 2013
11:37 am

INDEPEDENT UR REARDED THE DAWGS AREFAR BETTER THAN NOTER TAMED

dawgs out for blood

January 10th, 2013
11:38 am

dawgs out for blood

January 10th, 2013
11:42 am

INDEPEDENT IS JUS MAD THAT IF NOTER DAME PLAYED IN THE SEC THE WOULD BE SUB PAR WIN LIKE 5 GAMES NEVER MAKE A BOWL TAO COULD NO HOLD JARVIS JONES JOCK STRAP

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
11:44 am

SC Dawg, Carolina is losing some key players as well! Also, now that Garner is gone, you guys will see how much better of a recruiter Coach Grantham is! He’ll do just fine, filling the holes on defense!!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
11:51 am

I’m not mad at all. I actaully completely agree with, I just wish you would recognize that what you are saying about ND, is exactly who Georgia is.

Dan in AR

January 10th, 2013
11:59 am

The O-line made progress through the year and will be a better unit next year. The defense can be better if they learn to play as a unit first. Imho we will challenge for the NC next year, GO DAWGS!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
12:11 pm

You challenged for the NC this year, but ended up in the capital one bowl, and the year before that, the year before that, and the year before that! My point is Georgia will challenge for the NC every year, that’s what major football schools do, at what point will you actaully contribute some real crystall to a league that wins it every year?

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
12:31 pm

Independent, let us not be deuche-juice! I saw that program “ND- Undefeated Season” after your Irish nancies got their arses handed to them! Ya played cupcakes all year, and BARELY slid by a couple!!…Pitt?!..really?! This is why ND would get pulverized in the SEC!! Heck, whenever they play ACC football, they will probably lose 4 games!! Point is- the NC game PROVED how overrated ND is!!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
12:34 pm

We MIGHT lose 4 games a year in the SEC, I can;t argue that because we will never know. However, I do know that you do lose to every major SEC opponent every year….yet you are not overrated?

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
1:05 pm

So, Florida is not a major SEC opponent? When we beat them, they were #2 in the country, and their only loss during the season..Tenn and Auburn? Even Ole Miss was pretty decent, ..another WIN! Also, we proved in the SECCG how overblown you are! We almost won,..how close did ND come to winning?!…yeah, try again, son!

Stiffneck

January 10th, 2013
1:06 pm

SC and Florida will be the toughest games as last season. Go Dawgs!

Desert Fox

January 10th, 2013
1:06 pm

With KG leaving just about wipes out most of the starting Defense for the dawgs. Well, most folks thought after losing 3 starters on the OL from 2011 team that would be a problem but actually the OL performed better this season then last. Having Gurshall as RB’s helped ease the transition. Maybe the same will happen to the D w/all the new faces next season. Hope so. Having most of the Offense returning next season will help D immensely. Hope so, again.

Independent

January 10th, 2013
1:10 pm

I will try again, boy, Florida was dominated by Lousiville in the Sugar Bowl…..So stop riding thier coattails for this year. You almost beat Bama, congrats, it was great losing effort and you got your doors blown off at South Carolina. Go home boy, I hear you’re Mama callin ya! Send a grown man to come talk to me please!

SC history

January 10th, 2013
1:18 pm

since about 1968 or 1969 SC has hired three MNC football coaches and has YET to win the SEC East twice, even WITH STEVE.

YES! UGA lost three years in a row but in that era, UGA HAS WON the East twice and ended up AHEAD of SC at year end.

Case closed.SC is for now, a good BUT lower level Tier Two program. UGA is for now an upper level Tier Two program.

Spurrier will never again win the SEC, certainly not at SC.

SC Dog fan

January 10th, 2013
1:21 pm

Anyone who has followed Grantham’s recruiting for the last two years knows there are some seriously gifted defensive players waiting to step out on the field. Best of all, they will be eager to prove themselves rather than worried about avoiding an injury that could affect their draft prospects.It will likely be a better defense.

Independent

January 10th, 2013
1:26 pm

SC History: Thanks for that info, I see what you are saying and you are correct. But what Florida in the same time period? Being better than SC is about as good as being better than Notre Dame…..

SEC will in 2013 be DOWN

January 10th, 2013
1:27 pm

Mystery teams are UT, with a decent O line and QB.
Florida will not be Florida of 2012 and is a mystery team with tons of D leaving and too many unknowns on O at QB and running back.
MSU and Ole Miss and Vandy are also mystery teams, looking to break through and/or re build.

A&M, Alabama and UGA are the upper tier teams, barring spring injuries, or flunk outs or druggies.
LSU is a huge mystery with a crummy QB and tons of NFL defections on going and who knows with Les Miles.

SC is the lon dark horse to challenge UGA in the east.

bill arp

January 10th, 2013
1:28 pm

Like I’ve said before, as long as Grantham tears out the page where he has only 2 down-linemen, 2 speed rushers on the end and his LB’s playing 6-7 yards deep, we should be okay. When we’re in that formation on D, we’re guaranteed to give up 7-8 yards a play! Just see the tape on the last 2 games.

Grantham's The Man

January 10th, 2013
1:33 pm

UGA will be a top 5 team in 2013.

Haters need to get used to UGA Dominating the East.

Look for the Dawgs to go all the way real soon. The new Recuiting rules have taken away the advantage of the Oversigners , you know who you are, Alabama, South Carolina, LSU, etc.

Georgia now has what’s been holding them back. UGA now has Talent and Depth.

Go Dawgs!!!

bubba4dawgs

January 10th, 2013
1:35 pm

Somehow, I believe the defense will improve as the year goes on. Grantham will have some good athletes to develop but needs to recruit some really big DAWGS to fill the holes. The defense was really suspect all year long. They gave up a lot of yards, certainly not in the class of Alabama where they need to be in order to win the conference championship. They must get by it before they can even get to the NC. Otherwise, back to Capital One or some other honorable mention bowl.

They need balance, strong defense and strong offense! Without both, it ain’t gonna happen in my opinion! We shouldn’t expect one to carry the other! If they can coach….great! But, they must recruit well and so far, they can’t seem to compete with Nick Sabin in that area!

There is room for a lot of improvement in the defense despite that they had Jarvis Jones and Alex Ogletree. Gave up way too many yards on the run. And, do forget, only Damian Swann is returning in the secondary, so a lot of development will have to take place there. It will be an interesting season! Can’t wait for the Spring to get here!! GO DAWGS!!

bill arp

January 10th, 2013
1:35 pm

Well, that, and as long as we don’t have multiple arrests over the summer..What’s the over/under on that? 5?

Independent

January 10th, 2013
1:39 pm

Thank You, Grnatham’s The Man, you actually gave a tangible reason as to why Georgia can get over the hump, unlike Spanky, he’s a cute kid, but all he does is rip other teams to try to convice people that Georgia is the best, while never giving reasons why he would expect a different outcome from his dogs!!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
1:41 pm

I meant dawgs, sorry!

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
1:48 pm

Independant-..did I touch on a nerve there, princess?! I AM HOME, you idiot!! This is a UGA blog, remember?? BTW- Why, exactly are you on this blog?? Another BTW- Your coach just interviewed with the Eagles in the NFL….good luck with that!…Oh my bad, the Irish don’t need luck!! LOL,..now pyss off!

Strat Cat Dawg

January 10th, 2013
1:52 pm

Defensively, UGA underperformed last year- don’t ask me why w/all the NFL talent that’s leaving. If the replacements perform, we are capable of outscoring anyone. I like our chances to take out Bama in the de facto NC game otherwise known as the SEC Championship

Stiffneck

January 10th, 2013
1:53 pm

Yep, other than JJ, the D never lived up to the hype. SO I look forward to some new guys stepping up.

Independent

January 10th, 2013
1:54 pm

Spanks, at it again, I know this is a UGA Blog, I can tell because only a UGA fan such as yourself debates / argues, spewing garbage with out ever answering a question! By the way, scooter, I’m hear to stay, you have convinced me that ND is not worth following, with your compeeling argument!

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
2:02 pm

compeeling? You’re a genious!

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
2:05 pm

You mean you couldn’t tell that it’s a Georgia blog by looking at the top?? That’s just special..

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:06 pm

No I’m not a genious, which is why I’m talking with you!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:09 pm

IF you were really smart, you would have caught that I used the wrong spelling for here to stay, I’m here to stay, I spelled it as hear, as in a I hear you. I’m so ashamed of my self!!!

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
2:18 pm

No thanks…try a Tech blog..they know all about wagon jumping, plus they could use a few (thousand) more fans! Your application is denied….sorry.

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:22 pm

Spanks, are you actually telling me that you are considerded management around this place!?

Wayne dawg

January 10th, 2013
2:26 pm

“Your application is denied….sorry.” LMAO-spanky!

AltamahaDawg

January 10th, 2013
2:31 pm

Independent is just one in a long line of trolls that come in a Georgia blog and spews non-stop a few days about nothing, no point, then fades away when he realizes he is not getting the attention he craves.

Spanky

January 10th, 2013
2:32 pm

Indeprincess, nope,…just a proud member of DawgNation! Any more of your snazzy little questions, sport?

Thanks Wayne.

Wayne dawg

January 10th, 2013
2:33 pm

I’m denying your application, too!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:34 pm

AltamahaDawag: You are correct! I’m done fishing for the day, I caught a big SUCKER, named Spanks!! Peace out Dawg Nation, I hope you represent your university better than Spanks Does!!!!

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:36 pm

Wayne dawg: don’t chim in with that weak come back!!!!

AltamahaDawg

January 10th, 2013
2:39 pm

BTW, I’ve known Spanky a long time, and trust me……he can debate you down with very little effort. OBVIOUSLY he knows more about the personel and recent history/trend/future expectations of Georgia than you do. But why on earth would he waste his time giving you “tangible reason ” or “answers” to legit questions when CLEARLY that is not your agenda.

We have all seen your type, so many times, come and go. A dime a dozen.

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:41 pm

I was almost starting to like you AltamahaDawg….

Wayne dawg

January 10th, 2013
2:42 pm

Independent got served up. LOL! Also, Spellcheck is your friend.

AltamahaDawg

January 10th, 2013
2:45 pm

Peace out?represent?

Just going to zip up your baby blue FuBu hoodie and leave huh?

Independent

January 10th, 2013
2:46 pm

Wayne dawg, I don’t know why, but I think I like you….keep it real!