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.
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?
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg