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

graphite

January 7th, 2014
12:26 pm

For Sale …… A condo on Lumpkin and 6 season tickets…….. I’ve had enough …

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
12:30 pm

Rooster, I thought the same exact thing. Malzahn is going to own Richt. He’s smart and full of enthusiasm. While Richt is working on his tan Malzahn will be working on football and how to kick azz.

Please check yourself in to the nuthouse if you think it’s ever going to happen with Richt.

Al M

January 7th, 2014
12:31 pm

Lets not even discuss rankings until about game 6 of the season. By then we may have an idea if we are going to pretty darn good or just plain horrible. If we spend the entire off season focusing on fundamentals, toss and catch, blocking, tackling, defending the pass, opening a hole, protecting the QB and then concentrate on not beating ourselves with turnovers and stupid penalties, then maybe we have a shot at a good season. We have the talent, do we have the coaching?

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:36 pm

I’d say 10-15 is about right. Not that preseason polls mean anything. They are useless piles of horse crap. There shouldn’t be polls until at least October. Maybe even mid season.

I paid $$ for my opinion

January 7th, 2014
12:40 pm

Lately, this ld alum has been very negative toward UGA football, NOT the University.

I paid to have this right. I attended UGA from September of 1967- 1973.

Our football program and a few other sports programs at Georgia are fair to just awful.

As one example, Lady Gym Dogs Coach Landers needs to be long retired by now.

Baseball? Please. UGA men’s basketball? UGA needs to boot them too, OR AD McGarity needs to be gone. Championships are his standard for success. Well??

My opinions are bought and paid for.

PS: UGA in my era cost about $2,000 per year for tuition, books, rent, food, etc per year. What a deal!!

Veteran Fan

January 7th, 2014
12:43 pm

Everyone except for one respondent has missed the biggest issue! Coach Richt doesn’t recruit linemen well! All the four star receivers and running backs in the world cannot overcome the fact that both lines were dominated by Nebraska and now the OL needs to rebuild! Championships are won in the trenches not with creative scheduling and preseason HYPE! The game last night was a prime example, both lines for both teams were outstanding! Until this is fixed the only time uga will be in the top ten is in the preseason! Auburn, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Missouri, Texas AM, Alabama, and LSU are on the rise or maintaining excellence! Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Tennessee are second tier or dropping! Thank God for Kentucky, who is on everyone’s homecoming schedule if they can get them!

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:43 pm

I can be excited about potential but I have to see some results before it goes beyond that. No preseason championship stuff from me. I don’t do that. If we beat Clemson and SC out of the gate… everybody but the trolls will be excited. Incidentally doom and gloomers = trolls.

I think I’ll have some fun next year. I’ll take posts from those trolls from this year… even following victories and post them and see if anybody can tell the difference. I bet no one would notice. LMFAO!

CHDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:45 pm

Dawgs should do better in ‘14. We have more secondary talent coming in and the whole defense is a year older and back. Mason is the key. I think the rest of the offense will be about as good as ‘13. If he can quickly get better, we could have a good year. What many forget is that 1 year still makes a big difference with 20 year olds. Just look at the talent our first two opponents lose–Boyd, Watkins, Shaw, Clowney and many more.

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:45 pm

I paid for my opinion – “Lady Gym Dogs Coach Landers” are you sure about that? I think your opinion cost you your brain. LOL!

gmandog

January 7th, 2014
12:47 pm

Bill – I agree with the kool-aid comments. You pundits seem to drink it to the extent that you lose all objectivity. UGA may start out as a top 15 team based on talent but it will wind up just like this year – unranked. You can see that 80% of the bloggers believe there is a coaching issue at UGA and that coaching weakness translates into not getting the 4 and 5 star recruits that this State is blessed with. UGA will not win another SEC championship much less a NC until Richt is fired. And because of you Kool-Aid drinking reporters it will not change.

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
12:47 pm

NCdawg, you mean like our bold prognostications that we will lose 2 or more games? Where do we get this stuff?

Roswell Dawg

January 7th, 2014
12:48 pm

I’m thinking more and more that the AD is the real problem. It appears that CMR signs his checks instead of the other way around. McGarity has done absolutely nothing to improve football or basketball. Just the status quo. We don’t need a warm body in that position, we need someone that will only accept the very best from his staff. Clearly this is not the case.

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
12:51 pm

CHDawg, what you Kool Aiders forget is that one year makes absolutely no difference with Richt because “continuity is a good thing.”

Please get real.

UGADawgs

January 7th, 2014
12:51 pm

What? No… We be #1!! Those refs lost us da game on every one. Me, as a UGA grad noes, when we be duped. I loves me some dawgs.. best tickle piles EVER!! Wiat.. my burgers are burnin’.. beeter flip em’ be4 I get fried.

Bob F

January 7th, 2014
12:52 pm

Georgia’s biggest problems are twofold:

One, our continued medocrity and 60’s style offense makes top recruits not want to come to UGA. That’s why the Auburns and FSU’s will feast on our top talent. These kids want to play for a championship and I don’t think the top prospects see that coming at Ga.

Secondly, the recruits that do come to UGA don’t get coached up. Look at how many guys play just ok at Georgia only to become stars in the NFL. Coaching!!

Richt has no passion. Bobo has great numbers but as long as he’s calling the shots at UGA, we will continue to be a predictable, also ran football team. Murray’s incredible skill is the only thing that kept Bobo from getting more heat the last 2 years. Take the bowl game for example. 4 red zone field goals won’t get it done.

Problems, we got them: Grantham can’t get his guys to understand their position assignments. Try running the ball when you are continuously hit at the line of scrimmage every time. No D line pressure. Our LB’s don’t hit, they just grab and take a ride for 5 yards. D backs have no clue.

How many teams would go 8-5 and not make ONE CHANGE to their coaching staff? Lost to Vandy, should have lost to Tn, should have lost to Tech, could easily have lost to Florida.

Fire the D coordinator, conditioning coach, O line and D line coaches tomorrow!!! Hell, the Falcons fired both line coaches when they weren’t even given the talent to even compete by their GM.

Hey 99%......

January 7th, 2014
12:54 pm

Got news for you dude…..that school is in Athens! Truth hurts…..no more buying into the “next year” crap.

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
12:59 pm

Uh…did anybody watch the BCS CG last night? All you people with your obsession with O-line play… did you notice that the almighty, all powerful FSU line had trouble with Auburn’s D-line for almost exactly the same amount of time it took for our Dawgs (with their supposedly crappy O-line) to get it under control and start having our way with them? LOOK AT IT before you give some knee jerk reaction… if you have ANY objectivity you can see that I am DEAD ON.

No I am not saying I don’t think our O-line can improve… they can but they aren’t nearly as crappy as you bozos seem to think. Everywhere I look I see this panic and it is totally unwarranted. I repeat the line is not as good as it can be but it isn’t nearly as bad as what you people seem to think.

Auburn was all over Winston for the first 25 minutes of the game.. he was in shock. By everyone’s estimation that is a pretty good O-line there. The Dawgs struggled in almost the exact same way But some people can’t look and decide for themselves… they just hear what their friends say and take it as gospel.

Yes we need to get more linemen…but that is true of any program. We have a pretty stout D-line but we need to add more guys for the future too.

Damn.. why do I even bother… no one thinks on these damned blogs anyway..

Hey 99%......

January 7th, 2014
1:00 pm

Enter your comments here

raymondsamuel37

January 7th, 2014
1:07 pm

so what im getting from most of these comments is that richt will never get the job done . and if so many people know this what is taking ad so long to know this

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
1:09 pm

Fraud – just wait…you’ll move the bar around…I called you on it earlier this year. If we get to the playoffs with 1 loss you’ll be screaming about that 1 loss and how it cost us top seed or some other BS. And if the Dawgs go undefeated it will be because of luck and luck alone. It’s in writing and I will dig it out and beat you crazy SOBs over the head with it when it happens.

And it WILL happen.

MSNBC

January 7th, 2014
1:10 pm

Recruiting the fastest players in the defensive backfield doesn’t always mean success. There should be some guys who can think on their feet!

beanster

January 7th, 2014
1:14 pm

It’s hard to imagine the team being noticeably better in 2014. But I hope I am wrong.

I liked Brandon Kublanow’s play in the bowl game. I hope that guy turns out to be a beast.

After watching the game last night, UGA missed out big on Carl Lawson. I am glad Rodney Garner’s team lost last night.

Skokie Dog

January 7th, 2014
1:16 pm

Bill, I think that the high ranking for U.Ga. is about right–if we’re talking about rankings of high diving skills at the swimming pool, which is where they’ll be this summer rather than on the practice field. Once the games begin, I don’t believe that the ‘Dogs will maintain a high ranking, due to several weaknesses pointed out by other above.

hifalls

January 7th, 2014
1:16 pm

Again here we go with the “Wait till next season” mantra. Untill we solve the special teams debacle nobody on the coaching staff seems to want to acknowledge we’re going to continue to be very vulnerable.

GaRxGrad

January 7th, 2014
1:16 pm

Top 10 unlikely by season’s end, much less even in Top 25…..what year was the D good in CMR’s tenure?

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
1:19 pm

raymondsamuel37
January 7th, 2014
1:07 pm

The answer is that the sample size you are seeing here are a fringe minority of the Bulldog Nation. Hundreds of times more fans believe he can get it done and that is fact. These are the people that just like to complain and have a form of “penis envy” that comes very close to “well Jimmy’s got one!” type whining.

LIsten to Championship coaches and they will tell you that you need a degree of luck to win a National Championship… things have to fall the right way. The tipped pass didn’t fall the right way for the Dawgs last year… otherwise this discussion is about “what do we have to do to get back?” Auburn made it to the CG because they got the right bounces at the right time. Otherwise they don’t even get to the SEC CG and the last BCS CG has a completely different dynamic.

These complainers will never acknowledge that and that is why I don’t give any credence to what they say. They are whiners…nothing more, nothing less. The fools that sit at the breakroom table and complain about everything and thing they can do it better…but never do anything at all BUT complain.

Reality Dawg

January 7th, 2014
1:20 pm

UGA hasn’t lived up to pre-season rankings in the past. Why would they start now?

Continuity is a good thing…

Voyager Dawg

January 7th, 2014
1:21 pm

Mark Richt’s New Years Resolutions (Top Ten List):
1. Make “Finish the Drill” more than a slogan on a T-Shirt. Work hard and execute when games are on the line (see end of Auburn game).
2. Hire a Special Teams Coordinator, or coach, or advisor, or whatever you want to call it, but let’s stop the dropped punts, blocked punts, let’s get a real punt returner, let’s not fall for the obligatory fake punts and onside kicks.
3. We will have our corners harrass receivers at the line of scrimmage instead of giving them a five yard head start and momemtum. We will use the five yards legally allowed to hit a player and disrupt their route and the quarterback’s timing.
4. We will have a defense that doesn’t look like a Chinese Fire Drill before every snap.
5. We will not have a penalty coming out of a time out for illegal substitution.
6. We won’t have any more stupid suspensions that keep key players out of critical games (every game is critical)
7. If we kick a player off the team for conduct unbecoming a Bulldawg we will consider that conduct unbecoming the SEC and invoke our priveledge not to allow that player to “transfer” to another SEC team to later come back and haunt us.
8. We will stop teams on third and foreever and quick giving up the big play in prevent defense (see Auburn and Nebraska games)
9. We will teach our defensive players that wrapping up and tackling (yes Virginia) is required not only in the SEC but all throughout the NCAA (see North Texas Game)
10. We will do all of these things and maintain the High Standards of the Bulldawg Nation!

dale

January 7th, 2014
1:24 pm

Is there a single stat that would contradict my belief that Georgia has, hands down, the worst DC in the league?

Skokie Dog

January 7th, 2014
1:26 pm

Okay, NC, you want something new in one of my posts? Try this.
Besides the limited skills of our coaching staff (not a new point, I know), a key factor that has hampered this team for the past few seasons is lack of leadership on the field.
This is one reason that I have been less impressed with Murray’s passing records than many of our friends here and elsewhere. Great quarterbacks tend to make the players surrounding them better than they would be with someone else taking snaps. I read that somewhere, and it seems to be generally agreed upon by people who write about sports for a living.
Similarly, team leaders call out teammates for making stupid moves, like late hits, excessive celebration, or running out of bounds when bleeding the clock is the goal. One reason I appreciated many of the Dooley-coached squads is that these teams tended to police themselves on the field. Players, usually seniors, but sometimes underclassmen, were in the faces of their teammates when they screwed up or appeared to be giving less than full effort. Dooley’s teams often had star offensive linemen as well, and they made the difference when the pressure was on.
I don’t see this type of leadership on the field when I watch Georgia games these days. I’m not sure if that’s a problem with recruiting, coaching, or simply personal pride and accountability. If that problem were corrected, then I think we’d see some welcome progress with this team. Then again, by your definition, I’m a troll, so I may be wrong.

Mobile Dawg

January 7th, 2014
1:26 pm

From my perspective “continuity” sux.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
1:29 pm

NCDawg

its not hard to predict another 2 or more loss season

we have been doing it for a decade and since continuity is a good thing; expect the same this year

Getting Older

January 7th, 2014
1:30 pm

Dawg fans all seem to be on the extremes… it is always either “we are going to win the NC” or “we will never win a game again with the current coaching staff”, depending on the results of the last game.

@Rooster … I agree that looking at Auburn last night it might seem like UGA won’t beat Auburn while Malzon is there, BUT Malzon was coaching Auburn last Nov, and UGA should have won that game. So, while all the hype is currently how great Malzon is, I don’t see Malzon turning in to a Spurrier or Meyer situation against UGA.

JB

January 7th, 2014
1:33 pm

Final poll out for this year. Dawgs NOT IN IT. We lead the league with hope, promise and predictions, Sadly, the coach and staff is still in place. Jimbo Fisher wins a NC in less than four years and Malazahn plays for one in year one……and 13 years later, we talk a good game still. Richt ain’t got it. He ain’t going to have it. And those of you who worship him need to buy him out and follow him to whatever he starts…..Because in the SEC, he is a boy among men. He’s such a nice guy his peers won’t bash him publicly. He’s just not a great coach. Great guy…..but not a great coach. Sorry

DogOne

January 7th, 2014
1:36 pm

the SEC east should be way down next year–Ga should win the division easily—fla and ut will suck again, usc loses their Qb and a bunch of other talent. Missouri won’t have the same offense. Ga v. Alabama for the sec title—book it!

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
1:37 pm

What we should be making predictions about is how many preseason practices Richt will skip. He made it 6 this past year?

Can he top that?

JB

January 7th, 2014
1:39 pm

Richt ought to be considerate of all the older Dawg fans, the baby boomers, the elderly, the lifers……And step out of the way for their benefit. He has not got the tools to get this program to the top. 13 years. What will be different in 14……Are we waiting on ” luck” ?

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 7th, 2014
1:40 pm

QB holds the key – haven’t seen enough of Mason getting the ball down the field. He’s no Aaron Murray – that’s for sure. Needs to improve his pocket presence and going through his progressions. The OL is a big ? mark. The “D” has to be better. Special teams should be better. Haven’t evaluated the schedule yet but both Clemson and South Carolina have lost their QB’s as well as UGA.

Mason needs to improve – not impressing me yet.

Skokie Dog

January 7th, 2014
1:40 pm

I agree that “a degree of luck” is helpful to teams that win championships. So are having the team prepared to play at a high level for four quarters each and every game, having skilled players, including linemen, who perform well under pressure, and paying attention to details to avoid nasty surprises (or “lucky” plays by the opponent) during games.

gbal

January 7th, 2014
1:40 pm

Well this is simply 3 media predictions….If you take this as your expectation…. that’s on you.

The media completely missed the target on UGA his year ranking them in the top 5. And many people bought it; turned these bad predictions into expectations. Our D was just too young to win consistently in shoot outs. Best we could have hoped for going into the regular season was 10-2. Once the injury bug hit our offense, it made winning shootouts even more difficult.

UGA should have expected a 10-2 record going into the season and without high number of injuries, is where the would have been. And then ranked 8-12 depending on the SEC game and bowl.

With what we have coming back, I think we CAN be better than last year. With a little better luck on injuries and good attitude and start, I’d predict 7-10.

JB

January 7th, 2014
1:41 pm

Dogone…….don’t count out 23rd ranked Vandy. Yea THAT Vandy. The team that won 9 games with 20% of the budget of UGa. 20% of available talent to recruit. 20% of a history……………but 100% of heart and desire. THAT VANDY.

Skokie Dog

January 7th, 2014
1:43 pm

“Special teams should be better.” Few here would disagree with that statement, but many of us don’t see any evidence that positive changes in that aspect of the game are likely. Flo- Ri- Duh: Have you heard something that we’ve missed?

JB

January 7th, 2014
1:43 pm

gbal………….Our defense was to young…….? What about the year before with 8 going to the NFL.
We can make excuses all day long for this regime. The AD does.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
1:44 pm

I wonder how many Parties before a game will be held this year

Anyone want to predict that?

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 7th, 2014
1:49 pm

What y’all think of AuBarn folding last night? Up 18 points (just like against UGA) and blows a big lead in the 2nd half. Is it conditioning? Do we need to get rid of the DC. The DL ran out of gas and quit putting pressure on the QB. They gave up a ton of yards. Fire the DC. Malzahn went conservative after he got a lead. Fire Malzahn. The QB threw a stupid interception. What was with that unsportsmanlike penalty… should kick #8 off the team for that kind of attitude. Their WR’s dropped passes all over the place and the QB couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a 2×4. Special teams gave up the game winning kick return. Fire the special teams coach. Call off next season – AuBarn stinks!

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
1:52 pm

Richt and the staff should go see Bo pelini over the summer and learn from him on how to beat better teams….cmr needs to stop losing to the teams we should beat….I doubt he ever will though!

monty

January 7th, 2014
1:53 pm

Inexperienced O-line and QB next year, QB with somewhat weak arm strength and not a real run threat = sacks, interceptions and false starts at inopportune times another 8-5 season. I doubt they’ll be ranked at the end of the season, yet again. Not good for a team that consistently recruits well. Could it possibly be the coaching?

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
1:56 pm

When is the last time we won a game we shouldn’t of won!??? It’s been a long time….this staff is on a sinking ship….if I was gurley would most definitely leave UGA for the pros next season,…and if they don’t put out a better OL next year….if I was gurley I would fake injury the whole year…..save yourself for the NFL young man….save yourself some big hits!

OkieDawg

January 7th, 2014
1:56 pm

How does a team than consistently brings in a top10 ten team in recruiting not finish in the top 25? Lots of excuses…injuries, youth, bad officiating and bad luck. Which still leaves me with the same question. Scott Lakatos and Todd Grantham should be given next football season’s objective as fix it or make sure you have another job by the end of the season. It’s easier to get a job when you have a job.

Hoping all those rebuilt knees are healing well and those guys will be back.

ElStinko

January 7th, 2014
1:57 pm

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