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

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
11:42 am

SAban is hearing criticism for the first time from his know it all fans – most of whom never graduated 4th grade. He doesn’t like it. He was out coached in back to back games and knows it. He’s going to hire Lame Kitten. 5 (count ‘em) of his commits have flipped to other schools and he was humiliated by losing to Aubarn on TV. His OC jumped the rat infested sinking ship. He’s peeked and headed down…. wishes now that he had rabbited to Texas and his wife is criticising the opposing team’s QB publicly. There cracks forming in the Saban empire.

Bulldawg35

January 9th, 2014
11:45 am

Flo ri duh

Age doesn’t mean anything! I hate to be so critical of UGA! But they have to prove it to the dawg nation that we can win on the road against spurrier….we haven’t won there since 2008.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
11:50 am

Saban screwed up with his OC hire. He knows they had the wrong “O” plan. Instead of throwing medium and deep passes all night they could have controlled the line running the ball and throwing dink and dunk passes. He’s got the best TE in the country and never throws to him. He’s got one of the top 5 RB’s in the nation and all he did until the Bowl game was play special teams. He tried to feature A J McCarron but he’s not NFL elite – just a game manager. He overestimated McCarron and underestimated Derrick Henry and he lost to Okiehoma who’s far less talented. He should return 3 or 4 million to the alumni and apologize to his inbred fans.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
11:53 am

Well BS35 (aka Milk Dud) “we” have only played at SC twice since 2008 and even Spurrier said they didn’t deserve to win one of those games ’cause they got out played and got lucky…. his words – not mine.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
12:00 pm

Jus in from ESPN – James Franklin is headed to Penn State…. he’s a yankee from Pennsylvania himself and, of course, his paycheck will double. Can’t blame him – but guess all that stuff he said YESTERDAY was a lie? Pulled a Saban and said he wasn’t going anywhere. Let’s see how many of his commits that ticks off.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
12:00 pm

Jus in from ESPN – James Franklin is headed to Penn State…. he’s a yankee from Pennsylvania himself and, of course, his paycheck will double. Can’t blame him – but guess all that stuff he said YESTERDAY was a lie? Pulled a Saban and said he wasn’t going anywhere. Let’s see how many of his commits that ticks off.

Bulldawg35

January 9th, 2014
12:06 pm

If mike bobo becomes the coach in waiting….that won’t be such a bad idea if he will hire great assit coaches! Mcgarity better open up the wallet!

Bulldawg35

January 9th, 2014
12:08 pm

Flo ri duh

You must be mistaken….the game you’re talking about was the 2011 home game for UGA…..we got beat in 2010 17-7 and 35-7 2012…. Spurrier made those comments in 2011 game in Athens!

Bulldawg35

January 9th, 2014
12:15 pm

Lane kiffin and nick saban together! Two arseholes in one! Sad thing is….Richt can’t beat either one of them!

Z dawg

January 9th, 2014
12:51 pm

Talent alone can’t carry us all the way, specially if they sit on side line for some disciplinary reasons. It will take a much improved defense and special teams coa.ch. Go Dawgs

SC Dog fan

January 9th, 2014
1:11 pm

Thank god Franklin is headed north. Now maybe we can exhale for that game again.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
1:17 pm

Bobby Petrino back to Louisville – Hope he can keep his hands off the staff this time.

He said the worst decision he ever made was leaving Louisville the first time. Liars never change.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
1:24 pm

Hutson Mason (QB) was behind Aaron Murray on the depth chart for a reason. He’s just not as good yet. Doesn’t have the pocket presence that comes with experience or the scrambling ability that Murray has. Murray may go in the 3rd round of the draft but he will be the next Russell Wilson in the NFL if he is on the right team. He’s that talented.

UGA Insider

January 9th, 2014
1:47 pm

Flo-ri-duh

The fact that you and others are worried about who Vandy hires tells me everything I need to know about the state of UGA Football. One guy was even wondering if we could possibly get a couple of their recruits.

Holy Cow! Am I living in some kind of backwards universe now?? Way to go CMR… now Vandy is one of our biggest rivals to people like Flo-ri-Duh and NCdawg.

wreckmaniac

January 9th, 2014
2:05 pm

And Miami and Va Tech will be in the top 10 too. The key is to get the rankings out now. Today. Don’t spend 5 minutes thinking about it. Just take last years preseason top10, jiggle it a little, and put it out there. And at the end of the year, all fans can laugh at the absurdity of it. That’s how you get a 2013 preseason top 25 without Michigan State or Central Fla. That would have required thinking and analysis which no respectable sportswriter will do today.

WDE

January 9th, 2014
2:17 pm

wreckmaniac stop it you are using logic again and we both know that on a sports blog that never ends well….good points by the way.

alb-dawg

January 9th, 2014
2:48 pm

Early rankings are frivolous. I hope the Dawgs will be around the 15 mark at the beginning of the season. They need a chip on their collective shoulder.

Jaxdawg34

January 9th, 2014
2:53 pm

I don’t think it’s a matter of mediocracy, it’s more of a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality.

Put yourself in McGarity’s shoes, the Big Money Alumn are still writing checks, the Hartman Fund is doing fine. No drop off in season ticket sales, or merchandise. College Athletics is all about the money.

You’ve got a bunch of conservative high dollar alumn who are happy with Richt – don’t get me wrong I’m sure there are a few that want a change like a lot of folks, and trolls here do, but certainly not enough to move the needle. They like Richt because, in most years he’s going to have a winning record, he’s going to get the Dawgs to a New Year’s day bowl, and yes there is still hope that everything will fall into place and they will see him hold up the crystal football at the end of the year.

He runs a clean program, quickly gets rid of troublemakers, doesn’t do under handed things. Under Richt we won’t have to worry about a “tattoo-gate” (OSU), letting agents get too close to the program (Miami/UNC), Richt is not going to embarrass himself or the program (Kiffin, Petrino), and by all accounts is the ideal southern gentleman.

For the big money alumn at UGA those things are every bit as important as winning a NC maybe even more.

Folks we don’t have the knee jerk, stroke as many checks, pay as many recruits as we need to, win at all costs, deal with the fallout if any down the road, kind of boosters. If we did, one of them or a group of them would have stepped up and said , “here’s the money, give coach his indoor practice facility, just make it happen).

The bottom line whether you believe in Richt and his staff or not, want him gone or want him to stay forever, NOTHING you, me, Bill King, Chip Towers, or anyone else even remotely associated with the program thinks or says, is going to make one bit of difference in what happens.

McGarrity is like Foley and every other major program AD, they listen to one thing and one thing only, THE MONEY. If the Money says Richt is gone tomorrow, then he’s gone, if the money says he stays he stays period.

Until the Hartman Fund sees a SIGNIFIGANT drop off and/or enough of the Major Donors say otherwise, Richt will be here as long as he wants.

In Chip’s interview McGarrity spelled it out pretty clearly:

“I get tons of letters. ‘You need to fire (Todd) Grantham, you need to do this, you need to do that.’ Three years ago it was, ‘you need to fire (Mike) Bobo.’ It’s just the soup of the day. But I tell them, I don’t hire assistant coaches. After the LSU game, it was totally different. It’s amazing, the swing of emotions people have. I wish I saved them all. Even during games people are emailing me. Those are the ones I wish I could read back to them because people are so reactionary. There are so many ways of technology to get to people. It’s our world today and we’re living in it. We shouldn’t be surprised what anybody does any more. Sometimes people do irrational things. But it’s our world and nothing surprises me these days. We just have to manage the best we can.” – See more at: http://ugasports.blog.ajc.com/2014/01/08/fans-have-let-georgia-ad-mcgarity-know-how-they-feel/#sthash.ATqcO1FO.dpuf

Big Time Donors don’t write letters, folks, they pick up the phone or ride up to Athens and speak directly with the man.

Btw – Forbes ranked college football’s most valuable programs, UGA came in #8 behind -in order 1-7, Texas, Notre Dame, Bama, LSU, Michigan, Florida, and Oklahoma.

8. Georgia Bulldogs

Team value: $91 million
Revenue: $66 million
Profit: $40 million
Conference: SEC
Head coach: Mark Richt

Last year the Bulldogs collected $22.5 million from ticket sales and another $28 million from contributions, highlighting how important a loyal alumni base can be to a team’s financial success. The athletic department contributed $4 million back to academic programming.

Go Dawgs

WDE

January 9th, 2014
3:11 pm

Jaxdawg34 damn that was a good post….love the they pick up the phone or ride to Athens and talk to the man line…cause that is how this plays out.

RiffRaff

January 9th, 2014
3:16 pm

Jaxdawg34 – yep you nailed it……

Snoop Dawg

January 9th, 2014
3:19 pm

Richt’s teams always wind up lower at the end of the season than their preseason rankings. That’s because he and his coaching staff are probably the most inept in all of major NCAA teams.

This past year we went from preseason #5 to postseason zero–not even an also considered vote. 2014 will be no different. The only difference is last year we had the SEC all-time record holding QB, while this coming year we’ve got Hutson Mason who is really too slow and not mobile enough to survive. Also, next years’ OL will be rookies for the most part…

Result: Brace yourself, Maggie, for a major disaster…

SC Dog fan

January 9th, 2014
3:26 pm

Jaxdawg34 for Congress!

RiffRaff

January 9th, 2014
3:28 pm

I thought Hutson Mason did pretty well considering. Roughly 300 yards passing, a number of well thrown balls DROPPED, including the potential game winner. Does he have things to work on? Sure….footwork, stepping up in the pocket, etc., but this is Bobo’s strong point – QB’s.

WDE

January 9th, 2014
3:30 pm

And Snoop Dawg we always end up better than you thought we would don’t forget that…and your banging on your own line of put Hutson in Murray can’t win the big game BS from the last couple of years..troll on Snoop troll on.

drdawg

January 9th, 2014
3:34 pm

Georgia always gets a high preseason ranking because of the talent. Then the coaches get involved and everything goes downhill. Could you imagine what the Duke coach could do with UGA talent? Tennessee and Florida will both be improved in 2014. We will be going back to Tampa at best.

Debriefer

January 9th, 2014
3:56 pm

What if Georgia doesn’t even get a bowl bid next year?

Would that create pressure for the coaching staff to perform better in the 2015 season?

bulldog born & bred

January 9th, 2014
5:34 pm

not good news Bulldog Fans GA is getting blown away again on the Recruiting front . we’ve got to do better in our own state or we will never compete for any championships

dawgfan

January 9th, 2014
5:53 pm

Jaxdawg34, if you have any hard evidence of our rivals cheating to win NCs I suggest you get that information to the NCAA ASAP. Otherwise, I suggest you quit talking out your arse with a bunch of excuses because you are embarassing all of us, but mostly yourself.

dawgfan

January 9th, 2014
6:03 pm

Yes Kool Aiders, Richt can likely stay a long as he wants because there are enough of you making excuses for him that are content with Georgia not living up to his potential. We get it. Here’s what you don’t get. Until he wins more than what he has his legacy will be that of an underacheiver. No Hall of Fame. No stadium named after him. No statue. He’ll just be the guy that coached Georgia along time but didn’t have a damn thing to show for it while his chief competition was winning titles. He’ll be know as a C+ coach at best. It was front page news when Mack Brown retired. It’ll be a little blurb on the ESPN ticker at the bottom of the screen when Richt retires, at best. No one will care.

Since you Kool Aiders love the guy so much I thought you should know all of this.

dawgfan

January 9th, 2014
6:18 pm

Actually I’ll give him a solid B-. He can knock it up to a B if he beats Vandy next year.

The sad part is he could have an A if he cared enough, but he doesn’t.

Bulldawg35

January 9th, 2014
7:17 pm

The defense is even worse than when wiillie Martinez left….plus we were minus 7 in the turnover margin! That’s pretty pathetic!

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
8:08 pm

Saban should be fired – Kirby Smart is awful. The Bama defense gave up 79 points in the last two games.

Bulldawg35

January 9th, 2014
8:18 pm

Scott lactose has resigned!!!!!! Hallejulah!!!! Woo hoo !

wreckmaniac

January 9th, 2014
8:30 pm

I guess unless you pay for ajc online you don’t get in on the recruiting discussion any more. Any way ESPN rated UGA with the #6 class in the conference. What ? This is horrible ????
Know what. UGA will do better and win more with a lower ranked class. These top 10 classes over
the past 10 years have done nothing.

RedDawg

January 9th, 2014
9:22 pm

I can’t believe that the AD and coaches can’t see that the fans are tired of the same crap every year. The only way that change will come if we stop the contributions and get into their pockets. That’ s getting a little drastic but something has to change,

ShowMeYurTD's

January 9th, 2014
9:23 pm

The Sacrificial Lamb…..is it, what is the UGA secondary defensive coach, Alex?

Dawggie Marge Mead

January 9th, 2014
9:26 pm

Believe it RedDawg happening in front of our eyes!…Richt fired Willie…now Lakatos…next he’ll fire Kat as Gatorade pourer!……And some point in next 15 yrs CMR retires or the Asst. Athletes Foot Applicator will be fired or “resign under pressure”.

MAJ Dawg

January 9th, 2014
9:29 pm

Jaxdawg 34, thanks much for your mature perspective and realistic expectation management suggestions…for all of us!

Think we would of all liked to have been the fly on the wall in today’s ’sit-down’ between AD and CMR.

One week after our disappointing and ( for me) yet unexplainable loss to Nebraska, looking forward to the complete unknown that the 2014 season will present. I completely agree with so may of the posts that suggests the tenet of, ‘…being careful for what you wish for…’ re coaching changes. Bowden, Dooley, Paterno, Dye, Bryant, Carroll, Miles or even Saban never have, nor will win 4 or more Conf championships or NCs in a 10 year stretch.

A lot more parity out there because of what Jax34 eluded…money. Next year, the SeC will have its own tv network….and take a look at the 35-50 colleges / univ that have played live network tv more in the last 2-3 years versus combined previous 50-60 years…that all equals revenue and cash infusion… That makes smaller programs as attractive for both ’student’ athletes as well as those focused on a shot at the pros…obviously along with newer and modern facilities…even if just for a an entire student body of 3-5k

Go Dawgs!!!

drdawg

January 9th, 2014
9:30 pm

Franklin leaves Vandy for PSU. Maybe we have a chance.

Dawggie Marge Mead

January 9th, 2014
9:41 pm

Chance for Richt to go to Vandy?

crowell

January 9th, 2014
9:54 pm

Jax dog! You da man! The Spokesman or spokeswoman for the happy 35% of Dawgs that enjoy 8-5 wins! Keep up the good work!

mtdawg

January 9th, 2014
9:54 pm

jaxdawg34 is right. another way to make things happen fast is to load up the athletic board with big time donors. I mean a midnight jet to Louisville fast, then tell the AD in the morning but only if you want to.

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 9th, 2014
9:55 pm

Scott Lakatos, UGA’s DB coach has resigned for personal reasons unrelated to the team. Before you smart of remember that these coaches have families .

Wishing you the best coach Lakatos.

BigWally

January 9th, 2014
10:12 pm

I have been a big basher of Lakatos. That being said, best of luck to him in his future endeavors. Now go out and hire Deion Sanders as DB Coach.

Bill Mitchell

January 9th, 2014
10:30 pm

Db isn’t our problem BigW, is it?

Hashtag Luginbill

January 9th, 2014
10:33 pm

Flo showing a lil heart nowadays for Bulldogs besides hating…We like that. BUZZZZZ

DawgVoiceofReason

January 9th, 2014
10:50 pm

Thank goodness he’s gone. I was suffering from Lakatos intolerance something fierce. Lol.

DawgVoiceofReason

January 9th, 2014
10:52 pm

Now if Grantham would come up with his own personal reasons for leaving.

silkyredUndiesAD

January 9th, 2014
11:04 pm

if you folks werent so snooty this would be our 4 Natl. Champ. coaching staff: HC-Will OC-Bobo DC-Kirby OLC-Stinchcomb DLC-Goldberg LBC-MO DBC-Flack

TheTechMuseumPuppy

January 9th, 2014
11:28 pm

Richt:126-45…2 SEC Titles..NO NCAA violations..Plenty ‘O Dawgs to NFL…Good Cristian Man….What else do we need?