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

Jason 73

January 7th, 2014
6:28 pm

The program is startingto slide. When CMR got to the UGA he locked down the borders. They have been opened back up. Heck with the excuse that UGA can’t have them all. That may be true, but UGA should be getting the best, and they are not.

BobDog

January 7th, 2014
6:30 pm

These rankings assume no suspensions to start the season against Clemson, so it’s not accurate. I put the over and under on suspensions for the opener at three.

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
6:31 pm

Rest assured that whatever reason Bama lost its last 2 games Saban & Co will be working overtime to get it fixed.

As for us, Richt is probably in training for the 2014 high diving season right now.

JB at home

January 7th, 2014
6:33 pm

Jason 73. Report out today ( see my earlier post) that ranked the five most overrated, under perforimg programs since 08. Georgia was ranked #3. NCDawg will tell you we are trending up and all is well.
I think he’s Baghdad Bob’s nephew from the Iraq war.

Jason 73

January 7th, 2014
6:39 pm

It’s sad to have had a Stafford and AJ Green, and nothing to show for it. A Jarvis Jones and nothing to show for it. I really wish I had an answer to what the heck is going on at UGA.

HotDawg

January 7th, 2014
6:55 pm

I see them as a top 5 team when healthy.
Very interested in seeing new freshmen that will make impacts. Particularly 2 new stud running backs (that are committed to UGA) that can take pressure off of Gurley and Marshall if needed.

HotDawg

January 7th, 2014
6:57 pm

With our luck lately, we’ll finish #5, being left out of playoff.

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
6:59 pm

Jason 73, its really a big mystery. If only we had someone to lead the program who is responsible for its direction. That might help.

Until then let’s get ready for high dive season.

Reality Dawg

January 7th, 2014
7:00 pm

NCDawg: For 13 years people have been waiting for a NC, or even a CHANCE to play for a NC, but Richt hasn’t delivered.

UGA has failed to finish in the Top 25 for 3 out of the past 5 years.

Many fans want better than this for the UGA program and many are starting to demand better.

Perhaps your loyalty is to Mark Richt and not the University of Georgia?

UGADawgs

January 7th, 2014
7:01 pm

Quit yer belly aching… UGA is da’ best. I had Johnson as my avartar for the longest time. Secretly I thinks he be sexy/// I a non gay sorta way. Cause’ us Gawrga fans be too manly for that stuff. Yo dawgs! Wat up dawgs.. Go red n’ black stupid class attack!! Wait!!! Wat do UGA fans and UGA football players have in common?? They have no class!! HA HA!! Wait until next yeer!! UGA underdeefeted #1… R athletes R good c’ause they don’t have stoopid things like school git in the way of playin’ football. Don’t hate!! appprciate..

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
7:04 pm

Reality Dawg, NCdawg cannot process your words. You might as well be speaking Japanese to him. Mark Richt IS the University of Georgia. He can’t wrap his Kool Aid saturated mind around the idea of the two existing without each other. It’s true love.

These wacky Kool Aiders once accused me of wanting to shut the whole program down just because I want a new coach. They’re off their damn rockers.

SimDog

January 7th, 2014
7:05 pm

the dogs will win the sec east in 2014—10-2 record, easy wins over florida and UT, loss against missouri and upset win over south carolina for the title. Dogs play texas a&m for the sec title—take it to the bank!

Jason 73

January 7th, 2014
7:11 pm

dawgfan, I guess I am saying, CMR deserves blame, after all he is the HC, but it’s more than that. I am thinking the AD. Not just McGarrity, also Evans when he was there. If McGarrity is this bad, why did Foley keep him at UF all those years.

UGADawgs

January 7th, 2014
7:16 pm

UGA wins da’ SEC least Book it! UGA wins the NC Book it!! UGA football players don’t go to class Book it! Most UGA football players R thugs Book it! No matter what bank you bank at UGA is the skool for thugs!! Book it!! Slim Dog!! Come on man!! 13-0 we win it all!! BOOK IT!!!!

Mike S.

January 7th, 2014
7:32 pm

The biggest thing will be injuries. Will the Bulldogs be able to get Mitchell, Scott-Wesley, and Marshall back at or near 100%? Will Todd Gurley stay healthy all year? Will they avoid any other major injuries? If the answer is Yes, this team will win the East and definitely compete for the playoff.

Lets face it, injuries undid this team in 2013. There really is nothing to read into a Gator bowl featuring Mason in his second start minus Mitchell, Scott-Wesley, and Marshall. The offense clearly underperformed, and with good reason. You can’t take that kind of talent out of the lineup and expect to continue to roll up 40 pts per game. I don’t care how well you think UGA recruits. Murray alone being on the field means UGA wins going away, even if Martinez was also in for Nebraska.

Mason will be better next year as he will now get an entire offseason of preparation with the first team. I don’t think the O Line will be missed much since they really did struggle much of the year. That could be a good thing to have some different guys step in.

Grantham does have work to do on the defense, but I suspect much of that will get worked out with these freshman and sophomores growing up.

Bottom line, 2013 was a bad luck year, but one that often showed how good this team could have been if not for all the injuries. I think they should be pre-season 10-15.

Jon Heisman

January 7th, 2014
7:36 pm

#12? LOL! Ya’ll always annoint yourselves national champions this time of the year. Why stop now?

Mike S.

January 7th, 2014
7:41 pm

On the subject of a new coach, do we not have enough examples of universities running coaches out only to get stuck with leftovers? They are still trying to pick up the pieces at UT after running Fulmer out.

Auburn may have gotten lucky this year, but they just came off an 0-8 season. They won 4 games in the final 2 minutes. That could just as easily been a 7-5 season for them. Their D has been mostly bad to awful since Tuberville got fired. Lets see what Malzahn does next year before crowning him.

How’s Michigan doing after running off Lloyd Carr?
How about that hot name Will Muschamp? haha While on that subject, anyone heard from Dan Mullen lately?

UT runs off Mack Brown, misses on Saban and Mora, so now they have to hope Charlie Strong can build their team up without the benefit of Florida recruiting.

So please stop trying to pretend the next Urban Meyer and Nick Saban is just waiting to take the UGA job. That’s the only way you step up from Richt, but nearly every other option will be a step down.

Mike S.

January 7th, 2014
7:42 pm

Correction: Auburn just came off an 0-8 SEC season.

Cedrick

January 7th, 2014
7:51 pm

My comment would be “Can CMR do what Jumbo Fisher just did at FSU?????? Im tired of hearing “wait till next year!!!!!! I WANT WHAT FSU HAS!!!!!

fish dawg

January 7th, 2014
8:00 pm

Hudson Mason is the new Joe Cox. A DGD but not an elite QB.

MAJ Dawg

January 7th, 2014
8:02 pm

Bill, thanks for pulling the different pre-season rankings together for us.

My thoughts today. In order to be ranked 12th or higher at the end of the 2014 season, the following must occur:

- win all home games and defeat Florida
- UGA defense holds SEC opponents to an avg of 13-17ppg
- zero SEC opponent TDs resulting from UGA Special AidAidTeam turnovers
- our offense maintains below average turnover ratio in fumbles/interceptions
- no simultaneous injury loss of two or more starters on either side of the ball for more than two consecutive conference games

Macclenny_dawg

January 7th, 2014
8:05 pm

NcDawg,
This is a blawg. Which means people are able to voice their opinions. Just because you don’t agree with everyone’s opinion doesn’t make us wrong or you right. All I ask is that we the fans are divided on whether Richt should be coach or not. That doesn’t do us the fans any good or the team. At the end of the day we all want the same thing. That’s for Georgia to win a National title. I believe the best thing is to fire Richt and hire someone new so everyone will become excited and encouraged again. Maybe we don’t hire someone to get us over the hump and maybe we do. Richt has taken us almost over the hump but in 13 years he hasn’t done it. We all just need to stand together and bring new excitement and the only way to do that is to get the trolls and koolaid kids together.

Gman 84

January 7th, 2014
8:14 pm

One thing to be thankful for:The Buckeye never found the Junkyard Blawg!

Downward Dog

January 7th, 2014
8:22 pm

You are right Mike S…8-5 is way better than gettin a new coach. Of coure UF won 2 titles after they fired Zook, Auburn won a MNC after Tubbs left and when they fired Chizik they wound up in another MNC game. Bama won 3 MNCs after firing their coach but then Saban is one of a kind right? Somehow LSU won another MNC with Miles.

The last 4 coaches at Auburn have either had an undefeated season or been in a MNC game or both. We haven’t had either in 31 years (lost one in 82).

I know everyone uses Fulmer’s firing as a cautionary tale but firing coaches who aren’t going anywhere works out pretty well soemtimes.

dawgfan

January 7th, 2014
8:24 pm

I don’t know but when the head coach is smiling and chuckling after a soul crushing loss to Auburn something is seriously wrong. He’s too comfortable. He just doesn’t care anymore.

Why should he? He’s got thousands of adoring fans that do nothing but make excuses for him.

WeRunTheEast

January 7th, 2014
8:32 pm

Yea, this blog was nothing bit blue sky and lollipops. UGA in deep trouble, as the heart and fire just are not there. If UGA ever stops getting top talent ( the UGA brand keep’em coming so far), look out.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
8:33 pm

Richt is not a good head coach….he won with donnans players! Dooley should of never hired the bum to begin with.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
8:38 pm

Seems like the university only wants to brag about how many players we have put in the NFL while they just ignore the on going problems with UGA football…..but that’s right continuity is good thing! Wooooooohoooooooo!

LADawg

January 7th, 2014
8:38 pm

Losses to Clemon, SC, and Auburn because they have comporable talent and better coaching and at least one loss that is totally unexpected. That makes four losses.

At least one of the losses will be totally attributable to special teams in a close game.

A half dozen coaching staffs in the SEC would take the Dawg’s talent and schedule to the SEC championship game. Richt and company will take it to the Music City bowl.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
8:39 pm

UGA will lose every road game we play next year because Richt can’t handle other teams pumping music!

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
8:42 pm

If Hutson mason is the best we got then we are in huge trouble! But coach said since he stuck around for 5 years just give him the job! Based on what coach??? Richt is running a circus here at UGA!…..and Grantham is his lead clown!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
8:44 pm

I think we beat Missouri

Their RB just declared for the NFL plus they are losing most on their defense and 2 of there 3 good WR

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 7th, 2014
8:46 pm

Texas A&M winning the SEC West next year

LOL

Did I miss something; A&M will lose Manziel and their top WR and their defense this year looked like the UGA Defensive coaches were coaching them as well

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
8:47 pm

Richt has run out of excuses….he is just on borrowed time….he is going to stick around to they kick him out…….also he will get another beating by spurrier…..mainly because we will be weak in the trenches again…..UGA was better at stopping the run this year….but we still don’t make enough plays….not enough tackles for loss! The 3-4 is a joke! Really the whole staff is a joke….they are worse than the plague!!!

Truthiness

January 7th, 2014
8:48 pm

You would have to be a moronic imbecile to expect Georgia to be anything more than an also-ran. That may mean the Dawgs win the East, which they won’t, but it certainly doesn’t mean that UGA ascends to the SEC elite. UGA will make plenty of money, the brand will play well in Atlanta, and the monied interests will pat the administration on the back for a job well done. CMR is the dean of SEC coaches, and his commitment to a high church brand of football that emphasizes predictable, good, and morally responsible entertainment over hard nosed, kick-ass competitive football will only add to his legacy. Embrace the goodness. You ain’t getting greatness.

Bulldawg35

January 7th, 2014
8:54 pm

Any coaches on the hot seat needing a win should call Richt and schedule a game with UGA!!! UGA is your get well card! The smile on Bo pelini’s face made me sick! Thanks too Richt…..I really don’t know what coach Richt better than,,,,and that’s a scary thought!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I dropped my fried twinkie

January 7th, 2014
8:58 pm

6 spots higher than last year?
HAHAHA………………..to much respect for a coach that couldn’t find his way to the national championship game with the help of a travel agent.

MAJ Dawg

January 7th, 2014
9:02 pm

Enter your comments here

LADawg

January 7th, 2014
9:06 pm

The state of Georgia ranks fourth at producing FCS players at 6.8% behind Texas, Florida, and, California, Alabama and Louisianna are 6th and 7th at 3.8%.

Bama, Auburn, and LSU have all won NCs in the Richt era. Richt and the Dawgs have yet to sniff a NC although they are in a talent rich state. Every year should produce a Dream Team.

LADawg

January 7th, 2014
9:10 pm

The stats above are for 2008 – 2013.

cpc

January 7th, 2014
9:40 pm

what happened to the JUNKYARD DAWGS! SEC has no defense any more,figure out how to stop the 2 min. offense all auburn does and you can win

BigWally

January 7th, 2014
9:40 pm

Any one who doesn’t think Richt is the greatest coach in the world is an insignificant bug not worth living on this planet.

{that was my Gutrake inpersonation}

bwaaaaaaaahhhhhhhaaaaaahhaaaaa.

mtdawg

January 7th, 2014
9:44 pm

State of Alabama almost had 5 NC in 6 yrs. State of Ga. has more division 1 recruits than all but 3 states in the country and Alabama is not one of them . You would think UGA would be in the mix almost every year?

LHardingDawg

January 7th, 2014
9:54 pm

This has to be the dumbest collection of Georgia haters yet. Led by the dumbest of them all 35!

Snoop Dawg

January 7th, 2014
9:58 pm

There is no way that next year will be as good or better than 2013 with a new quarterback replaing the all-time SEC record holder in almost every category.

Our coaching is dead last of any team in he SEC.

I see a losing season next year; no bowl for UGA. Not even the toilet bowl…

BigWally

January 7th, 2014
10:06 pm

Yep, I’m afraid Mason will be the 2nd coming of Joe Cox. I already miss Murray. I think he bailed out our coaching staff on several occassions.

TitleTownFan

January 7th, 2014
10:14 pm

Bill, look at the comments on this and every AJC blog about UGA. It’s overwhelmingly an indictment of the coaching staff at UGA. When will you (the media) and your readers (the fans) quit talking amongst yourselves and take your complaints and demands to the University? This is unacceptable. How can this coaching staff and AD be allowed to remain intact? It’s mind-boggling to all outsiders. The truth is that the coaching staff is responsible for the lack of recruiting the best Ga players and the lack of performance on the field. UGA has so many good players and prospects that there is no excuse for not being a perennial national contender.

Someone has really got to go to the University and demand better. The problem? An AD who is an accountant more concerned with the profitability of the program than the performance of its teams. McGarity will not do his job, demand more from the coaches, and spend the money necessary to support the programs and elevate them to elite status. Can anyone argue with this? If so, please enlighten me.

DawginColorado

January 7th, 2014
10:35 pm

TitleTown – why would a Georgia Bulldog fan of any stripe listen to a Bama fan about Mark Richt?

The reason he does do what you are asking is because of the obvious. These are trolls. They hate the Georgia Bulldogs and want to instigate division. Mr.King is smart enough to realize this I’m sure.

BigWally

January 7th, 2014
10:36 pm

I think it’s gotten to the point that that AD is afraid of a backlash from the media (ESPN), if they fire Richt. If they were to ever fire Richt, you would have Lou Holtz, Herbstreet, Reece Davis, Mark May and every other talking head bashing UGA for firing a man who ran a clean program and won on average 9 games a year or so. They of course will leave out the important things such as his inability to keep up with Bama, LSU, Florida, Auburn in regards to playing for the National Championships. Or his failure to coach to the level of his recruits.

DawginColorado

January 7th, 2014
10:37 pm

The few dozen people that post here and elsewhere on these blogs are mostly the same people with different nicknames.