Early 2014 rankings have Dawgs in or near the Top 10

Todd Gurley is a big reason early predictions have Georgia ranked fairly high for 2014. (Phil Sears / USA Today)

Todd Gurley is a big reason early predictions have Georgia ranked fairly high for 2014. (Phil Sears / USA Today)

Some of the earliest predictions on college football’s preseason Top 25 have Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs in or just outside the Top 10, which is lower than last season’s Top 5 preseason poll position but a lot better than the Dogs finished the season — unranked.

The highest credible ranking I’ve seen so far comes from Jerry Hinnen of CBSSports.com, who has Georgia at No. 10. Hinnen’s reasoning: “Aaron Murray’s gone, but Todd Gurley isn’t, and the Bulldogs seem to play their best defense when expectations are lower. (Having up to 10 returning starters on that side of the ball should help, too.) If the Bulldogs’ collection of injured receivers can return to full strength in 2014, this is still the likely SEC East favorite.”

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach puts the Dogs just a notch lower, at No. 11. Says Schlabach: “Nothing seemed to go right for the Bulldogs in the second half of the 2013 season, from myriad injuries to the final minutes of a crushing 43-38 loss to Auburn to a 24-19 loss to Nebraska in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. But if there’s a silver lining in UGA’s disappointing 8-5 campaign, it’s that a lot of injured players are coming back in 2014. The Bulldogs will have to replace record-setting quarterback Aaron Murray, but rising senior Hutson Mason performed pretty well in two starts after Murray suffered a season-ending knee injury. Georgia might bring back six starters on offense, along with top receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley and tailback Keith Marshall, who suffered season-ending injuries. The Bulldogs will have to replace three starting offensive linemen. UGA might have back 10 starters from its underperforming defense, which started six freshmen and sophomores in 2013. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will be under fire to fix UGA’s problems on that side of the ball. The Bulldogs open the season against Clemson at home and don’t play Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M during SEC play.”

And Athlon Sports pegs Georgia at No. 12 in its early ranking, saying: “The SEC East is the early favorite as the biggest mystery in 2014. Who knows what to expect from Florida, and Missouri and South Carolina both have key pieces to replace. The Bulldogs return a good chunk of their depth chart next year, and Hutson Mason has a two-game showcase to make his case for the starting quarterback spot. Mason won’t have to do it alone, as running back Todd Gurley is one of the best in the nation, and Michael Bennett, Chris Conley and Malcolm Mitchell are a talented trio in the receiving corps. The biggest concern for coach Mark Richt is the defense, which allowed 29.4 points a game in 2013. Will another full offseason help some of the young talent on the Georgia roster? Linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd could be two of the best pass rushers in the SEC next year, while the secondary returns safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and cornerbacks Damian Swann and Shaq Wiggins.

I have to admit that’s almost enough to lift some of my post-Gator Bowl pessimism about the Dogs’ 2014 prospects. And Gurley alone is a big plus in the Dogs’ favor. But, as I wrote last week, there are quite a few lingering problems that need to be addressed in order for Georgia to get into the College Football Playoff conversation — which at the very least means winning the SEC East.

So what do you think? Are these early rankings overly optimistic, or do you see the 2014 Bulldogs as a legitimate Top 10 to Top 15 team?

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731 comments Add your comment

Tripp

January 7th, 2014
11:08 am

Sounds accurate to me. We lost close games in painful ways and too many injuries. We beat some top 10 teams. Things are looking up! How bout we have no one suspended for Clempson as a goal?

Jonesdawg

January 7th, 2014
11:09 am

I’m tiring of high expectations for this team. I think we should concentrate on what’s wrong rather than crowing about winning the NC. If we underperform again, then it’s time to start looking at the AD and the staff. We have too many good players to be losing to inferior teams, injuries or not.

db

January 7th, 2014
11:10 am

UGA will be a good team that never reaches their full potential again next year. There is too much talent for them to fall flat on their faces, but there will be some lack lust performances and lack of discipline that will cost them a few games along the way and keep them from reaching their full potential. As much as I want to believe this coaching staff can get it done, history tells me the little things will add up and this team will be decent but not championship caliber.

NEGA Dawg

January 7th, 2014
11:12 am

Love the Blawg Bill. You do an awesome job.

I think those are a bit optimistic. I see UGA maybe in the bottom of the Top 25. One thing I am noticing around the SEC and the rest of the country is that alot of teams are losing key guys to the NFL and that could bode well for GA. The unknown in FL helps but what about Vandy? They seem to be improving. The schedule helps as well. Clemson should have a drop off and that game seems to maybe go our way. They really need to fix the defense and special teams and I think that view is shared by most if not all Dawg fans.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
11:13 am

“Next year! Next year! Next year!”

Please step away from the Kool Aid.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
11:13 am

That ranking will last only till UGA takes the field against Clemson and Clemson will destroy UGA because of our mediocre coaching staff and y’all can take this to the blood bank!

SBC Pastor

January 7th, 2014
11:15 am

I don’t know if the problem is the coaching, a lack of talent, bad strategy, or what, but unless our defense improves, 2014 is going to look a lot like 2013.

Jaxdawg34

January 7th, 2014
11:18 am

Happy New Year Bill!

I think all the freshmen and sophomores we had to play on defense this year had more to do with the shortcomings than the play calling. There were several instances where Grantham made the right call, but we had defenders either making poor tackles or simply missing assignments. They should play faster with more experience and the game slowing down. That said, I do think his schemes at times can be too complex, so hopefully a year in the system will correct that.

As for the offensive side of the ball, getting all those playmakers back should definitely help. And while our record says who we were, 4 of those 5 losses saw UGA with a chance to win the game late in the 4th qtr. Can’t help but wonder what if we’d been healthy for all those games, but injuries are a part of the game.

Question for you do you think Richt will have an open competition at QB this spring, or will Mason enter spring with the job?

Thanks for the great articles and looking forward to more from you this year.

Go Dawgs!

VinceVanGo

January 7th, 2014
11:18 am

The Dogs need more fire from Richt & the players, less of T. Grantham(send him packing), & a special teams dedicated coach(do they really need a tight ends coach, they don’t use the tight ends enough now). Too many new coaches & teams in the SEC are passing the Bulldogs by. Long term stability can be good in a lot of professions but complacency in sports is never good.

Atlantan

January 7th, 2014
11:21 am

UGA is a lower top 25 team at best – new QB and tough schedule. They’ll finish somewhere from 8-4 to 10-2.

Dawg_Mike

January 7th, 2014
11:23 am

Saw some excellent coaching last night – both teams in the NC game. Wish we had some. Until then, damper the expectations.
Talent wise, we have as much if not more than most, but they lack discipline and are not coached well.

double dawg

January 7th, 2014
11:26 am

Talent can’t carry us all the way. It’s the lack of heart, lack of fight, lack of want to – call it whatever you wish and Richt teams don’t have it for many games. That intangible factor plus getting out coached once or more every season will give us 3-5 losses just about every year.

Rick Page

January 7th, 2014
11:26 am

Bill, hard to share the optimism as much as I would want to do. This year’s average to mediocre OL, combined with mediocre to horrible defensive secondary and Special teams play and mix in a Coaching Staff that doesn’t make the most of the 4 & 5 Star Recruits makes it difficult to impossible to believe better results are on the horizon.

True DAWG

January 7th, 2014
11:29 am

A little high but im like the rest- im pessistic on our coaches and AD- just cant seem toget the job done!! But come Clemson Ill be ready to give them another shot but i another mediocre season -something needs to change!

Macclenny_dawg

January 7th, 2014
11:29 am

Time for the koolaid. Everyone come get your big glass full. Who else gets suspended the 1st two games besides JSW. Anybody expect Mitchell to stay healthy. Special teams gonna get any better. How can we have continuity if each week we got different starters because of suspended and injured players. Continuity is a good thing maybe in our players but definitely not in these incompetent coaches. Grantham doesn’t know anything about pre snap movement trying to dictate to offense what players are blitzing and what players are not. Grantham and his prevent defense is just that. They prevent us from any chance of winning. Up the middle Bobo with him taking his foot off the gas. Somebody please tell him when a play works you can keep running it. But it will be nice to drink a little koolaid for a few months. Just can’t let myself get caught up in the same ole same ole continuity is a good thing.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
11:30 am

I want a staff that can win the recruiting wars against SC and auburn! I want a staff that will remind the players during a time out to

Knock it down!!!

Knock it down!!!

Knock it down!!!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
11:30 am

Yea that ranking is about right

With all the NFL talent we have; if the coaching staff can postpone some of the…..night before a game partying…… we might get to the mythical 2 loss season again

SimpleDawg

January 7th, 2014
11:35 am

Defense and Special Teams continue to be an albatross around the Dawgs’ necks…..

Having to score 35 points every game in order to be close at the end is not a good plan. We must build a DEFENSE and develop the Special Teams, or we will see the same dance next year.

Defense never sleeps.

Rooster

January 7th, 2014
11:36 am

Here comes the kool-aid again. With Georgia’s coaching staff, ya’ll should not even be considered in the top 50.

RNB

January 7th, 2014
11:37 am

Bottom Line there is no hope under this coaching staff. Go get James Franklin or Kirby to bring a little energy to the program.

John

January 7th, 2014
11:38 am

WOOOHOOO!!! Next year….Next year…….BS!!!! BS!!!! BS!!!!! We are really good at pronouncing ourselves as ready to make a run. It wont be long till we hear our players talking all kinds of smack talk….bottom line……its all total BS! Same problems just a different year. It will be something- always is. The bottom line is this: These coaches and the AD have no commitment to putting a respectable team on the field….no accountability. Case in point- The owner of the Falcons came out and said…IT WILL BE FIXED. WE WILL GO FROM WORST TO FIRST…….time will tell, but he lit a fire. What do we get???? A HC that said continuality is a good thing and NOTHING from the AD. Again, enjoy the offseason of all the smack from players, coaches etc…..When Clemson comes to town- let the excuses begin. No longer buying into the crap.

Rooster

January 7th, 2014
11:39 am

After watching the game last night, there is no way on God’s green earth Richt ever beats Gus Malzon while he is at Auburn.

tjg

January 7th, 2014
11:39 am

UGA football has fallen into mediocrity and there is no work ethic to remedy the situation. It takes guts and huge effort to change coaches and coordinators. Are we really working as hard as the other programs at recruiting and coaching and training our players? I think not.

If you look at programs like MSU and CFU (both of which beat UGA in recent bowls), they are consistently overachieving with less talent. If you listen carefully to HCMR, he always says things like, “we did not kick a field goal b/c there is a risk on the return”, etch. Not – this is a bowl game so we rolled the dice and go for it!

If you look at special team play, there is not even any attempt to return a punt (just don’t fumble the fair catch is a victory), or confidence in the coverage teams. If you look at D, there is no attempt at simplifying an overly complex scheme where play calling is late and the players are confused and out of position since CTG has been here.

You have to step in and make the tough decision with coaches and realignment and adjustments and training but that takes WORK. It is so much easier to just delegate and promote continuity and not rock the boat. The issues on special teams and D have been going on for years… more of the same???

UGA is one of the premier places to recruit and a top ten program by definition. It has become a second tier program on the field and in player development. Sad to observe but there is no real desire to change the culture b/c the work required – from top to bottom – is just too damned hard.

Starting with HCMR who is a fine Man and represent the program well, recruiting is slowly eroding but still in the top ten every year (losing too many in-state players). But the prep work and on the field coaching, especially return teams and secondary play, is just atrocious – how can he say “continuity is good and desirable?”. Answer: too much effort required to change things up…

Rooster

January 7th, 2014
11:41 am

Georgia will be pretenders next year just like their coaching staff has been for the last 20 years.

Macclenny_dawg

January 7th, 2014
11:43 am

I can handle not getting a new defense coordinator but not naming a special teams coach. There is three phases of the game and we are terrible in two of them. There goes my koolaid right in the floor.

Rooster

January 7th, 2014
11:45 am

All georgia recruits need to stay as far away from Richt as possible. Go to Mizzou, Auburn, or Tenn. Your chances of winning a NC will be greater at these schools than at Georgia.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
11:45 am

The 2014 Pre-season National Champions t-shirt will be ready soon

Castle Pines Canine

January 7th, 2014
11:46 am

After watching Auburn and Ala, our special teams were not as bad as I thought.

I wonder if Auburn would’ve won it with Christian Lemay? Good runner, better passer.

1) there are reasons that Hutson Mason was second string

2) Offense should be loaded, but they need to learn to execute, and staff more strategic.

3) Defense needs to fix secondary, and improve line and linebackers

5) Special teams continues to improve. For all the other bs, it was the difference in the MNC BCS game.

6) Coaches need to be always coaching and improving too! No status quo should accepted.

7) We have the talent, schedule, experience to make it to the next level. I’m not sure we have the coaching or desire to get there. Watching some of the games in clutch times, Grantham was the only coach on the sidelines with any enthusiasm, or emotion displayed! Before you guys nail him, look at some of the others acting like zombies on the side lines.

Just saying.

Steve

January 7th, 2014
11:48 am

YUP…..it’s the offseason, and who always wins the NC in the off season???? Why, US of course. Soon we will hear some of our players giving us the old line of “its us against the world” “were gonna prove everyone wrong”…LOL unfortunately, guys, you have been poorly coached with no discipline so you will again finish maybe 8-4 MAYBE. Look for a beatdown from Clemson and Carolina, Fla wakes up and smacks you in the face. Never know about Vandy, but my guess is UT does what they should have done last year and leave Athens with a W- likely because of some stupid, but predictable mistake on special teams. Likely one more from either Mizzou or the Barn.

here we go again

January 7th, 2014
11:50 am

This pre season hype about UGA is what we use to call a pipe dream. With the kids today, “pipe” has an all new connotation.

UGA in 2014 will be what all UGA teams have been lately. They will showcase some real talent here and there but lethargy and lousy player development will lead us again to 7-5, 8-5.

Go Dogs.

PDawg5960

January 7th, 2014
11:50 am

The Dawgs of 2014 will play pretty much the same as the Dawgs of 2012. The secondary played well in 2012 and I expect the more experienced secondary of 2014 to do the same. The rush defense will be better than 2012 and the defense better as a whole. The offense will score points in bunches like they have been. They should win the east and be in the hunt for the four team playoff.

Al M

January 7th, 2014
11:51 am

7-5 next year will be a gift from the football gods.

Kyle

January 7th, 2014
11:53 am

Amazing, we have heard NOTHING from the AD on the state of UGA football. That should tell us all something.

Al M

January 7th, 2014
11:55 am

I saw James Franklin on one of the pre-game shows yesterday and that guy has some fire in him. It would be nice to see some of that in Athens.

Pre-season Champs!! Go Dawgs!

January 7th, 2014
11:57 am

The best thing that could happen to us next year is to have a year like Florida did. Yup- 4-8. That would not only get our large contributors to finally grow a pair and confront the president about the state of this joke of a football program, but would likely force change in coaches and AD.

Question for Bill

January 7th, 2014
12:00 pm

Bill, Do you honestly think our coaches and AD have any idea of how much the fan base is fed up? I wonder why we have heard nothing from the AD. That seems a little weird to me…..you thoughts?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
12:04 pm

If they did you wouldnt hear things like

Continuity is a good thing

and

Society of the miserable

bdjazz

January 7th, 2014
12:06 pm

Geez, it only took 6 days for the “Countdown to the NC” to begin in the blogsphere…we know that Richt isn’t making any coaching changes, but maybe he will finally introduce a new DAWG battle cry to replace “Finish the Drill…” We haven’t done that in many years, and it’s getting old.
I propose “Make coaching adjustments at halftime” because no one gets spanked like us in the 2nd half!

99% of UGA fans suck

January 7th, 2014
12:06 pm

So much negativity! Get off of it people! I don’t care if we finish 2014 with zero wins, I’m still going into the 2015 season expecting zero losses! This season has passed. Nothing can be done about it. Time to move on to the next and support the team that you say you’re a fan of…To the ones expecting a 7 to 8 win season, if that’s what you expect there’s a college up on North Avenue for you…

Castle Pines Canine

January 7th, 2014
12:09 pm

Constructive criticism is not negativity. Tell me where my entry is negative, for everything else, who cares if it is

maconexpress

January 7th, 2014
12:12 pm

We had many returning players for the 2008 and 2012 seasons too. No thank you, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.

Castle Pines Canine

January 7th, 2014
12:13 pm

There are two ways to get to the big games, one you play your way in, like Auburn did, or you don’t play anyone like FSU did?

Raidrbeater

January 7th, 2014
12:13 pm

I watched the BCS Championship last night. The Auburn and FSU rosters were stacked with Georgia kids. Why can other schools stacked with Ga kids win big while we fall flat each year?

Coaching….a broken record.

Desert Fox

January 7th, 2014
12:14 pm

I keep hearing how talented GA players are yet it doesn’t translate on the field. With few exceptions (Gurly being one) I don’t see it. As I watched the NC game it was very clear GA lags behind the AU’s and FSU’s in talent and I dare say coaching as well. They tackle better, block better, defend better, and are always around the ball. If GA is ranked as high as the top 10-15 it won’t be after the first game. I don’t think GA will beat Clemson nor SC. There’s still basically the same D and DC. CTG’s 3-4 D just doesn’t work. The “talent” just isn’t there. There’s no defense on the perimeters and the secondary play is just about as bad as you can get in CFB. I don’t care how young they are after 13 games there was no improvement in those areas. And the offense loses AM and three OL. Mason is still a ? So are the new OL. Not sure if the injured players will be at 100% after those knee surgeries. Then there’s the same coaches. No ST coach, again. We saw what FSU did w/their KO return for a TD. You don’t see that at GA. We have #81 that muffed more punt returns in one season and probably set a record doing it. Yet these coaches still put him back there. No common sense at all. 2014 will be the same disappointing season as 2013 as long as this staff remains there. Recruits are going elsewhere and who can blame them. They see what most GA fans see. Ineptness. many fans have just lost faith in this current staff. They refuse to fix what’s broke. When they leave take the AD with them. He’s part of the problem.

Anton Chigurh

January 7th, 2014
12:14 pm

The defense underperformed all year, yet UGA was an unjust targeting call and a miracle play away from a 10-win season. Of course, they were a Pig Howard fumble away from a seven win season too. If they don’t get too banged up and Grantham can bring the defense close to 2011 results, it’ll be a good year.

JimDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:14 pm

I am not hopeful of ever winning the championship so long as things remain consistent and stable inwhich CMR takes great pride. There needs to be a shake-up in our program or it will be the same over and over and over again. One or two win seasons seem to be more an exception than a rule with our program.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
12:17 pm

“To the ones expecting a 7 to 8 win season, if that’s what you expect there’s a college”

Umm

What do think fans are going to expect when 6 of the last 8 seasons have been 3 or more losses and the last 5 years have returned to the Ray Goff years of 3 seasons of 5 or more losses

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:21 pm

Yup the usual… can’t you folks just do something “” for your comments? That is quote, unquote by the way which covers the depth of your comments in every way possible. You say the same thing over and over and I can tell you this blog has died because of it. Congratulations.

No it isn’t about disagreeing with your views…it’s about the fact that you have absolutely nothing else to say and that is beyond boring. It is psychotic.

So some of you have the nerve to say “well the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…” So why doesn’t that apply to you doom and gloomers? Yeah..IT DOES APPLY. You’re bat guano crazy and won’t admit it. Repeating the same gripes over and over and expecting anything to come of it is just plain INSANE. Sorry but you can’t escape that one.

Nut jobs…just damn…

Macclenny_dawg

January 7th, 2014
12:22 pm

Every year with Richt is just like ground hog day. The reason we keep losing recruits is because of continuity. When the recruits we get come they all say I came to Uga because Richt is a good man. The tuff questions is when has Richt helped send any coaches to the next step. In 13 years who has Richt helped turn into a head football coach??? In 13 years who has Richt fired??? There is no energy in this program that screams we will become champions. The energy vampire is driving the energy bus and nobody is man enough to strong arm him out of his seat. With the running backs we recruit why can’t we get the linemen we need. Its because we don’t have a coach on our staff that when you look at that describes ferocious leader. So that’s why we don’t recruit or get the big nasties.

HairyMax

January 7th, 2014
12:24 pm

And the preseason hype begins. Will end 2014 unranked with the following typical developments between now and next season’s end.
1. Richt and staff will underperform in recruiting, letting top talent from GA go elsewhere
2. 2 – 4 key starters suspended for 1 – 4 games during the offseason
3. Defense gets torched in 2 – 4 games = at least 2 losses.
4. Special teams meltdowns = at least 2 losses
5. Uninspired and unemotional effort = loss to a lesser team.
6. Lousy bowl, lousy coaching, and uninspired play = loss.
7. 214 Result = same old unde Richt. 7 -6, bowl loss, unranked.
8. Repeat cycle for 2015