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

Ron Mexico

January 7th, 2014
3:32 pm

I’m so sick of these high expectations. We were overrated this year and will be next year. It seems the players and coaches buy into it. Who cares? We shouldn’t be higher than 20th.
Climpsun and SC will be tough with the players that will be suspended for the opener that we don’t know about yet. Plus injuries will probably hit again as they always do, in addition to the coaching staff we have. This program is jinxed and stuck in the mud.

fan

January 7th, 2014
3:36 pm

i had them in the top 10 or 5 a lot of upper classman mean something these kids will be ready this time around for sure

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
3:37 pm

I feel better that the season is over!!! I feel a lot less stress!!! Does anybody else feel like that? I mean I’m glad I don’t have to see anymore of this sinking ship!!! Richt should of stayed at FSU as a OC!!

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
3:39 pm

I mean Texas got rid of Mack brown

Auburn got rid of chizik and tubervile

When will be our time to get rid of Richt??? We may very well be the most underachieving team in America!

JB

January 7th, 2014
3:41 pm

Just read an article on Pollspeak.com. They list the 5 most overrated teams from 2008-2012 based on hype vs reality. They are in order
1. Oklahoma
2. USC
3. Georgia
4. Virginia Tech
5. Nebraka

JB

January 7th, 2014
3:44 pm

Bill King. Read this article I’ve listed above. pretty damning and backs up a lot of the smack on here today. This is NOT a local poll but research done with your topic today, pre season hype, vs what they actually do. It really tells the tale. Sad. Drink on NCDawg

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 7th, 2014
3:46 pm

Richt’s biggest upset was over undefeated Vols with the “hobnail Boot” call. … pass to veron Haynes

JB

January 7th, 2014
3:47 pm

Here’s the question. If the AD would of lured Richt back to FSU 4 years or so ago instead of Fisher, is that Richt holding that trophy last night? ( of course I know the answer silly rabbit.)

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 7th, 2014
3:47 pm

Pollspeak.com was invented by Tech Nerds – mere propaganda and why isn’t Tech on that list? No Notre Dame? No Ohio State?

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 7th, 2014
3:49 pm

Saban was gloating big time on ESPN when FSU ran back that kick return for a TD….. he was lovin’ AuBarn getting theirs.

Macclenny_dawg

January 7th, 2014
3:51 pm

Jb,
Oklahoma played for a National title. Usc played for one.Vtech played for one when Vick was there. That only leaves 2 teams. Guess who should be number 1 in this. Richt at his best. So sad but true. Things will not change until we pull the upsets something Richt hasn’t done the last 8 years.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
3:52 pm

JB

I think they should put UGA at number 1. 2012 we had the. Ost talented team in the nation and got stomped by SC 35-7! Another Richt melt down!!!

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
3:53 pm

Auburn was overrated and shouldn’t of even been in the bcs title game but the UGA db’s are incapable simply batting the ball down!

gtcaryd

January 7th, 2014
3:54 pm

If Pollspeak was invented by Tech then you can be sure its spot on, dont recall Tech being rated in the top ten preseason poll recently. Hell i cant remeber that ever, good point Floriduh

ElStinko

January 7th, 2014
3:57 pm

If it has been 8 years since UGA won a SEC championship in football then that is the longest stretch that a UGA coach has gone without winning a title!!!!!!

Dawgs 73

January 7th, 2014
3:57 pm

If Richt can’t win or even get to a NC with Stafford, Moreno, and Green on the same team, then how in the he!! is he ever going to get UGA to the next level. The jury is out, the book has been written, the Mark Richt era needs to come to an end.

Like I’ve said many times before, I’m willing to go through 6 coaches and 13 years, if it means the AD is dedicated to winning a championship.

ElStinko

January 7th, 2014
3:58 pm

At least the longest streak in the last 50 years!!!

ElStinko

January 7th, 2014
4:00 pm

I would bring in a coach and tell them up front. You win the Sec title and you get a bonus of 5 million dollars and each coach will get 1 million each. If you win the National title you get a 10 million dollar bonus and the coaches get 2 million each. that will make their sorry asses coach.

JB

January 7th, 2014
4:03 pm

I just read it. I didn’t research it. Georgia is on the list. Nuff said. I posted 3-4 days ago, how much longer will beating Dawgs be considered a “signature win” by any foe.

RiffRaff

January 7th, 2014
4:05 pm

Was Auburn even ranked to begin the 2013 season? Seems UGA would be better served to start out 2014 preseason unranked since this is how we finished.

gbal

January 7th, 2014
4:06 pm

JB, I agree 100%. We should have been much better last year with the talent we had. Not letting the coaches off the hook at all or making excuses for 2012. I am saying that the media missed big time in 2013 prediction with us having such a young defense.

We make things to complicated for our team to learn. A NC was jus won by first year QB

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
4:06 pm

The dead period lasting to jan 15 where coaches can’t talk to recruits is one dumb rule!

JB

January 7th, 2014
4:07 pm

Dawgs 73………Well said………..We have Fulmeridious in Athens…………. It’s the fear of making any change because others before you have done it and failed…………….Not Auburn or FSU mind you, but you know who……….And the worshipers on here like to say, Golly, who would we hire , oh my………………….I would say the staff at Buford High would be an upgrade.

ElStinko

January 7th, 2014
4:09 pm

Actually I would love to see the Buford coaching staff replace the UGA staff.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
4:09 pm

We need to fire the whole staff! What are you waiting on?? Another 5 loss season?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
4:10 pm

Clemson loses Boyd and Watkins
SC loses Clowney and Shaw
Missouri loses a lot on defense their QB and two of their top WR
Tennessee is a question mark
Auburn who knows they are losing Matthews and some on their O-line
Florida could easily have a turnaround or look like they did this year

With the players coming back and the easy schedule

next year is setting up for the mythical 2 loss season followed by the kool-aiders saying the program is fixed and about to knock on the door to greatness ;)

UGA Insider

January 7th, 2014
4:12 pm

You cannot win week in and week out with 65 scholarship players. Please note I did not say scholarship walk-ons Kool-Aid drinkers.

Jawbone

January 7th, 2014
4:17 pm

After watching several bowl games and assessing talent, Ga is not making good recruiting decisions in either line of scrimmage. Our O lineman are soft and not very athletic. While Hutson will be ready, do you really hang your season on his skills. Where are the other highly recruited QB’s we have landed. Why are some transferring. Did we make mistakes in recruiting them? Our coaching is lacking in almost every area. While I like Richt, I don’t think he has the fire he had years ago and that would be a normal occurrence. No special teams coach? Compare us to Auburn schemes, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina. All have better direction from the coaching staffs. Why are so many top players leaving the State?
I hope I am wrong, but I do not see a huge change coming next fall because the coaching and schemes are holding us back. Can you truthfully say that our coaching staff measures up to the teams I mentioned above?

UGA Insider

January 7th, 2014
4:20 pm

ST’s will be another debacle.

Gman 84

January 7th, 2014
4:26 pm

Let’s see….. same coaching, weaker offensive line, clueless secondary and special teams……

I’ll say 8-5 again…. good for 3rd place in the SEC East and unranked.

Can’t wait to get my new bumper-sticker: “Continuity! It’s good for Georgia”

I-DOG

January 7th, 2014
4:28 pm

Not sure the optimism is justified.

Seems like a four loss season in 2014 is about what we can expect. Here is why I see it that way:

We just lost to Nebraska, a team that we were nearly a double digit favorite to. In that game there was once again a game losing type special teams gaffe

The first series defensively was a microcosm of the season. Well played on first down, well played on 2nd down, and then on 3rd and 13 or 14, we give up an easy first down to keep the drive going.

The 3rd and long 99 yard touchdown pass was a result of confusion in the secondary and the kind of horrific play that has become just a little too routine lately for the Dawgs.

I’m not convinced we will be any more physical and consistent along the offensive line next year. I understand that we will have tremendous talent and depth at receiver and the depth at running back will be perhaps the best I can remember if the two recruits sign and play anywhere near their potential. Could rival Worley, Henderson and Hampton. I do think we have the potential to be a good offensive team.

Very concerned about the defense. Will this group be more talented than the 2012 defensive squad? They gave us pretty mediocre results. I think we will be better on defense than we were this year, but that isn’t saying very much. I don’t think we can rise all the way to mediocrity next season defensively.

Biggest concern is that we are hearing there will be NO changes to special teams, offensive line, defense, or strength and conditioning. I’m not a FIRE EVERYONE IN SIGHT kind of guy, but 5 losses is HISTORICALLY poor results for Georgia. How many times in the last 30 years have we suffered that many losses? Really just a handful. Donnan’s first year (and then NEVER again with him), didn’t happen in the last days of Dooley, and happened a few times with Goff (but he inherited a mess and then had to play Hines Ward at QB with a broken wrist). I’d like to hear Richt promise some changes and some improvement in the areas that are obviously bringing the program down.

If I was hearing…we aren’t going to hire a special teams coach, but we ARE VERY CONCERNED with the problems in this area over the past couple of years and we are going to put a TREMENDOUS emphasis on special teams basics this offseason… I would be more optimistic.

If I was hearing …we aren’t going to fire Grantham, but we are going to simplify the defense this Spring and make sure that our athletes can make plays and create turnovers and get off the field on a reasonable number of third or fourth and longs, I’d be optimistic.

I am going to assume that we will have a handful of starters out for the opener due to suspensions against Clemson because year in and year out, that is the norm.

We haven’t played well in openers against good competition the last 5 or 6 years. Okie State, Boise, Clemson, etc… not sure we should expect that to change without something CAUSING it to change.

It is likely Gurley’s last year at Georgia (it goes by quick doesn’t it?). Unfortunately, I think we will look back at his career in a similar manner to AJ Green’s and scratch our heads as to how we didn’t win more with him while we watch him succeed at a very high level in the NFL.

I hope I am wrong, look like a moron if we can get things turned around, and have to eat my words. Nothing would make me happier.

browndog

January 7th, 2014
4:30 pm

I think the ranking is too high. The favorite in the SEC East has to be South Carolina (which has the best coach) followed by Mizzou, Vandy, then UF and UGA with UT and UK rounding it out. Hope I am wrong, but nothing I have seen from UGA recently make me think otherwise.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
4:36 pm

I would of called this years recruiting class a success if we would gotten deshaun Watson and David sharpe and josh Malone! Oh well another poor recruiting class forth coming.

BankerDawg

January 7th, 2014
4:37 pm

What’s interesting to me is the apathy coming from the coaches and lack of pride. They have relived themselves from responsibility of another let down season by telling themselves, and probably the players too, that if it weren’t for injuries we would have done allot better.

UGA football can be summed up this way “consistently underperforming”. The big question is “why”? Many of us fans have already done the examination and come to the same conclusion, it’s coaching. But more specifically, it’s our “system” or way of doing things. We underperform in recruiting, player development, game day coaching, and overall vision:

1). Recruiting: We consistently miss on high profile GA kids where we need to build depth and where it would make the biggest impact – on the lines and in the secondary.

2). Player development: See Damian Swann as an example and see Marlo Brown as another. We consistently hear of ex-UGA players dominating the NFL but they have lackluster careers at GA

3). Game Day coaching: I dont think I need to provide any examples here on poor play calling and game clock management

4). Vision: the eyeball test confirms that we do not have a “identity” as a team. Look at Duke this year. They know that they are not the most athletic or the most talented, but they “are” the most cohesive and determined. It’s afforded them wins in games they shouldnt have competed in and achieved at a higher level than expected.

All of these things are controlled or instituted by coaching. Sorry NCDawg, this is why we pay someone 3MM a year, not just because they know X’s and O’s. It’s apparent to me that our system is broken. Ive said it before, it’s either indifference or Incompetence and neither one is acceptable.

dbc

January 7th, 2014
4:44 pm

When was the last time a Mark Richt team beat someone they weren’t supposed to? When was the last time a CMR team lost to a team they weren’t supposed to? Enough said.

When you can’t even find a guy to return a punt properly, you can forget about any kind of championship talk. Just keep replaying CMR’s post game pressers because they all sound the same. One other question? What’s the over/under on the number of UGA SEC basketball wins this season. I say 2. Meanwhile, McGarity sits in the corner gumming a soft cracker.

Taco

January 7th, 2014
4:49 pm

FSU beat two teams that beat the Dawgs, but you are correct Castle Pines that ain’t saying much. UGA lost to Vandy. C’Mon Man!

UGA will be better than year but strictly second tier again. Sorry.

BTW I do hope Tech loses every game so we can get a new coach.

7576DAWG

January 7th, 2014
4:50 pm

Georgia has way too many great players and great new Recruits not to be near the top ten every year. THE PLAYERS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.
THE PROBLEM IS THE WAY THEY ARE COACHED. No Special teams coach. Special teams lost us 3 games this year. No Coaching changes even though we lost 5 games. Texas lost 4 and fired their head Coach. I don’t want to fire Richt but I want a fair evaluation of his Coaches and McGarity will see that at least 3 Coaches just are not SEC material. A ton of season ending injuries and Richt doesn’t even give it a thought that it may be the S&C or method of practice.

UGADawgs

January 7th, 2014
4:57 pm

The ways I seez it.. Ya can’t speell UGA with G for Georgia. I was a speellin’ major.. So Boom!! I thank UGA will go underdefeeted the next 3 yeers… R coaches ROCK!! We r so much smarter then any1 else. UGA!!! UGA!!! UGA!! We live to for football!! Because, well there ain’t nuttin else. I heard pray tell there was students that actually went to class.. Funny… I didn’t see any while I was a goin’ to school there. Me and my frends just hung out drinkin’ beer mostly.. But, hey I gots me a degree. Now I am a master burger flipper!! Oh and I love Kool-Aids.. The go great with beer and rum. So keep drinkin’ da Kool-Aids at UGA.. I do.. Nuttin’ say Kool-Aids like UGA.

old dog

January 7th, 2014
5:09 pm

7576DAWG,
Gotta throw in one thing, though; we have not recruited well enough up front. We have to get better o-linemen. Ole Miss, for example, even out-recruited us up there!
On D, I fear that even though our youngsters will have another year under their belt (and I agree with you on this) we just cannot teach/coach or whatever the system we are now in. A couple of good plays, sure, but then the deer-in-headlights looks way to often. To quote an older fellow I know concerning the defense: “What we doin’ ain’t workin’!”
We need to start from the ground up. Our D could not consistently stop my grandaughter in her Barbie-car!

CHDawg

January 7th, 2014
5:11 pm

To the whiners and crybabies: you need to go get some koolaid, so you can feel better kids. You have become so negative, nobody listens to you! UGA can improve their special teams a lot. But, Auburn lost because of a missed field goal and kick return. Bama lost because of special teams. Anybody can identify a problem after the fact. So, even if your fit pitching negativity could get Richt fired, you would be whining just as hard over having Saban or Malzahn this year if either was your coach. One team gets to be the champion. It is very hard to be the champion. UGA has been in the hunt, way, way more than the average team. That you spend your life on the AJC blogs lamenting a program that is way above average should worry you!

old dog

January 7th, 2014
5:11 pm

p.s.,
No disrespect for Ole Miss on the recruiting statement. They will have (and folks will see in a couple of years) one of the best programs in the SEC soon. There-in lies my point. Ole Miss had done what it needs to do…………we are spinning too much in the mud instead of calling the wrecker to get us out…

DawgDadII

January 7th, 2014
5:15 pm

“the Bulldogs seem to play their best defense when expectations are lower”

Very astute analysis of next year’s team there. He gets PAID for this?

“the secondary returns safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and cornerbacks Damian Swann and Shaq Wiggins”

Ouch. Hopefully there are players ready to challenge these guys. If they start the same guys it’s hard to see how the undisciplined play will improve much, but I guess we can hope.

I look for Georgia’s offense to be more conservative, fewer downfield shots. Mason is not a double-threat; he’ll need to be effective throwing downfield or it will be a long season.

Silly-Dawg

January 7th, 2014
5:23 pm

I don’t know what we should expect this year but agony. If I die I want two Falcon, two Brave and two UGA players to let me down one last time.

Debriefer

January 7th, 2014
5:36 pm

What???

Jawja ain’t ranked #1?

ESPN prejudice, that’s what it is! ;-)

bulldog born & bred

January 7th, 2014
5:50 pm

hey Tide is rolling & nothing can stop it Did you die

maconexpress

January 7th, 2014
5:59 pm

@Dawgs 73

January 7th, 2014
3:57 pm
Like I’ve said many times before, I’m willing to go through 6 coaches and 13 years, if it means the AD is dedicated to winning a championship.

____________________________________________________________________________

Well, start with Jess Simpson. He’s a religious family man, worked as a graduate student @aub, he teach physical education, hc @Buford where he won 5 state titles and more importantly he’s home grown and can flat out coach!

JB at home

January 7th, 2014
6:23 pm

Tide fans must be working overtime at the plants. Not a lot of smack from them. Ending the season with two losses brought them back to earth. The ” process” must have a flat tire.

Dawg89

January 7th, 2014
6:27 pm

Saban is brilliant. Even though Alabama didn’t make the title game, Saban made it. What a recruiting coup. It sort of angered me some given they had their choice of talented analysts that do it for a living.

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
6:28 pm

Hey Insider! Why was FSU sucking wind in the 4th quarter last night? Well? How come the Dawgs were attacking and harassing Marshall the entire 4th quarter and mighty FSU was sucking wind? I thought the strength and conditioning program sucked?

Last night made my point for me. You know nothing… you are just another Bulldog hating troll that uses 4 year old information and tries to pass it off as current. In other words: A LIAR.

The proof is in the pudding. Your assertions are completely DEBUNKED. Our guys were BETTER conditioned than FSU’s were. Go back and look. FRAUD.

NCDawg

January 7th, 2014
6:28 pm

Hey Bill… I appreciate your efforts but your blog has been hijacked by the worst fans in all of sports. So given that you won’t quit writing and that you must not be able to ban people, why don’t you just rename this septic tank the “Graveyard Blawg”?

You sure have quite the assortment of soul sucking ghouls on here. If a poster says anything remotely positive they are set upon by this pack of Champions of Negativity. And since no one wants to see “kool aid” and “homer” 500 times a day…they leave. And they won’t come back. I am about to join them.

This is an exercise in futility. Is that what you want your Blawg to be known for? For being a cesspool of negativity and fraudulent Bulldog fans that ruin every topic? That is what you have, like it or not.

This blog is essentially Night of the Living Dead remade. The zombies run around groaning “kool aid” and “delusional”… Oh what a JOYOUS PLACE!

You frauds can eat each other alive arguing about who is just not negative enough. I’m done.