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

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
11:09 am

Funny how Lex calls out complainers an whiners

yet just this morning posts a whiny excuse……..

“”Only an idiot doesn’t take into consideration all the injuries in 2013″”

Yes lets blame injuries on losing to Vanderbilt and Nebraska

DawginLex

January 8th, 2014
11:09 am

I’m gonna do us all a favor and leave here

You both have been owned by me

you have nothing to say to me that I want to read anyway because neither one of you has a fully functioning brain

Matt

January 8th, 2014
11:10 am

Swann should be called out. He was the only defender with any real experience from last year and he played terribly this year.

DawginLex

January 8th, 2014
11:10 am

We beat LSU and SC before the injuries

Or did you not watch those games?

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
11:11 am

Lex

Okay a kool aid drinker is somebody like you….who proclaims UGA will finish 11-1 next year after going 8-5 with no coaching changes what’s so ever! Thinking UGA can win a title with Grantham is beyond delusional mr Kool Aid!

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
11:11 am

Definition of a kool-aid drinker….

One who thinks Underachieving is the pinnacle of success

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
11:12 am

owned by who?

Matt

January 8th, 2014
11:12 am

WE’ve average 9.5 wins a year since from Shokley’s senior season till now. Donnan averaged 8 wins a year. Remind me again why we don’t think we can do better?

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
11:13 am

Dawg in lex

We only beat those 2 teams because they were at home! If they were on the road we would of lost! Real championship contenders can win on the road and we can’t! When is the last time we beat a favored team on the road??????

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
11:13 am

We beat Clemson too right

We really showed North Texas and Tennessee didnt we

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
11:14 am

LSU was a championship caliber team this year

big win that was

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
11:22 am

UGA will never win the mnc with this coaching staff! It’s already been proven kool aid drinkers!!

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

January 8th, 2014
11:22 am

Oh, preseason rankings. Whatever would people on the internet complain about if we didn’t have you?

As my daddy always said, “Opinions are like @$$holes: everybody’s got one.” So here’s mine! My opinion, that is. Not the other … anyway!

I can’t say I’m not disappointed with this season, but I can’t say that we were completely horrible (or even bad), either. We had some great wins (LSU, Carolina), some crap losses (Vandy) some near-misses (Tennessee) and some heartbreakers (Auburn), but our record could have been much worse than 8-5. So for all the adversity faced this year (mainly in terms of key injuries), I won’t complain too much about the results.

Next year, however, I do expect big things. I won’t go so far as to expect a championship (you never know what’ll happen in a season, after all), but I definitely think we’re poised to do very well. We’ve got depth, experience, a manageable schedule and the weight of an underwhelming season driving the team to improve.

At the very least, the rest of the SEC East is losing so much that I think we improve simply by losing less than everyone else.

One area that needs pretty drastic improvement is special teams: outside of Marshall Morgan, they’ve been pretty frikkin’ terrible. The worst I’ve seen in a long, long time, and we used to be really good at special teams! I dunno what has to happen, but something big needs to happen here, or else I fear that it’ll cost us some ballgames.

Still, I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy, so I think we’ll get it fixed (but here’s a tip … take Reggie Davis off punt returns: he sucks at it).

Can’t wait until we tee it up again! Go Dawgs!

JB

January 8th, 2014
11:28 am

Sam. Nice post. All we have is hope. Yes, what you say is true. The returning players and the Schedule tell us things SHOULD be better. We shall see. It’s why they play the games. The trend is not in out favor though, based on the last 5 years….speaking of, there was a report out yesterday I posted about that took all the pre season ranking the last last five years and ran stats on actual results.
Dawgs were the 3rd most overrated team in those 5 years out of 120. What does that tell us. It tells me that results don’t outweigh the hype.

James

January 8th, 2014
11:30 am

We were preseason top 10 this year as well. And with all the injuries, STILL Vegas had Dogs picked to win every game except Auwburn. Same old BS

Sick of whining dawgs

January 8th, 2014
11:40 am

Is is already the time of year when Dawgs start barking about another preseason NC; every year since 1981?

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
11:45 am

Sam

Do we have a road game on this schedule??? So no we don’t have a favourable schedule!

Flo- Ri- Duh

January 8th, 2014
11:51 am

When I start up the WHINERS Hall of Fame – Dawgpoop & BS35 (aka milk dud) will be there.

bdawg

January 8th, 2014
12:00 pm

I’m a dillusional dawg fan right now. Watched an uninspired team get their A– handed to them by an average Husker team. I’m tired of missed tackles, fundamental football mistakes and a team that takes on the demeanor of it’s head coach( and I like Coach Richt). We have seen a measurable drop in special teams play over the last two years and we have the athletic ability to turn every offensive special teams place into a scoring opportunity…not to mention the drop off in our punting game. Yes, I will agree we were young on defense but these kids just chose not to tackle. Tackling has been taught since these kids were in “rec” ball and those skills were drilled in middle and high school but it seems every tackle has to be a “kill” shot with no use of arms. The secondary certainly knew that one of the favorite plays for any team standing in the endzone is to take that shot down field…a great and safe offensive play that we scored on this year.
A lotta work to do in the off season because the competition will definitely coach their kids up.

I-DOG

January 8th, 2014
12:10 pm

Colorado Dawg:

Agree that injuries hurt the Dawgs this season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story on the 5 loss season and not being ranked at the end of it.

Georgia was reasonably healthy for the Nebraska game and lost to a team that isn’t very good. Consider that Mason had a month to prepare and that he will be the starter next year and that Bennett, Gurley, and Connelly all played and the defense was relatively healthy and this game didn’t inspire much confidence for next season where Nebraska would be about the average team talent wise that we play in 20104. Clemson, S. Carolina, Auburn, TN, and Florida should all be as good or better than the 2013 Cornhuskers. We couldn’t get it done against Nebraska because of poor defense and special teams and that wasn’t due to injuries.

What if TN and Florida start playing like they are capable of next season? Scary thought

Columbus Dawg

January 8th, 2014
12:12 pm

Grantham not only called out Swann, he stated that S&C needed to be evaluated. Look guys, don’t think for a minute that these coaches, including MARK RICHT don’t know that improvement on every level is expected. They are all so busy trying to close well for 2014’s class that not much will be heard in terms of what they plan to do about it, but we will hear it after signing day. Personally, I believe MUCH pressure is being brought by McGarity to fix the problems. If anyone would look objectively at the comparable games, they would see that the Dawgs played just about the same quality game against AU as FSU did, and better than Bama did against AU. Getting to where it needs to be is not as far out as many on these blogs think. All of the bobble head pundits are already giving the East to UGA. The West is probably going to be back between Bama and LSU, as Tre Mason will more than likely be in the draft. Auburn has no other difference makers to make up for that loss. Sure the two Columbia trips will be hard games, but very winnable. You would think that UGA has no better outlook than the Lizards for 2014.

Wish, Hope, but don't expect

January 8th, 2014
12:20 pm

Ok, I’ll try again, with brevity…
CTG defense ppg improved every year until this year. No surprise with the inexperience. Half a dozen
playmakers on offense staying healthy would’ve helped. That said, coaches have to fix special teams.
Mason has to step up and continue to improve. Players need to be disciplined, during the games and especially during the week AND offseason. We NEED to go into and through a whole season with no starters being suspended. I’m optimistic about 2014, but realistic, also. Breakdown in discipline costs us every year, this one will be no different, I imagine.

Gutrake

January 8th, 2014
12:37 pm

Well, well, well. How’s the nursery going on here? Graveyard of brain cells?

Better question is, how many times has “Kool-Aid” been used? I’ve been busy, so just thought I would drop in.

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
1:17 pm

I’m going to go ahead and make my 2014 predictions!!! I have FSU vs Oklahoma in the national championship game! Here is how I have the east…..

1. SC

2. Fla

3. Tennessee

4.mizzou

5 UGA

6. Kentucky

7. Vandy

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
1:18 pm

Gut rake

I’m glad you dropped in…..now leave….see ya!

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
1:21 pm

Bobby Petrino just signed with Louisville! Too bad we missed out on him!

Mike Franklin

January 8th, 2014
1:26 pm

The thing about college ball is that the team’s line-up changes each and every year. Just losing a few critical players to graduation or the league is enough to send any team into a tailspin. Cap that with a slew of injuries and a top 10 team could do well to even end with any bogus ranking at all.

Unfortunately, even with the playoff system just over the horizon, the sports media still owns the sport and who it will be in those playoff games. There’s no guarantee whatsoever that who gets to the top tomorrow, will be much different than those who did during the BCS era.

BigWally

January 8th, 2014
1:30 pm

Did you know that “Gutrake” is German for “one who has overdosed on Richt Kool-Aid”.

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
1:32 pm

Big wally

LoL!!!!!

BigWally

January 8th, 2014
1:33 pm

There’s a Super Bowl Party at Gutrake’s house. You’ll have to bring your own beverages though. They only serve KOOL AID. bwhaaaahhhaaahhh, and whooohoooohoooo for ya.

Johnnymac

January 8th, 2014
1:35 pm

I like our chances. We had sky high expectations following last year, lost every significant offensive starter for the season or significant stretches, had a defense full of frosh and sophomores playing against the eighth toughest schedule in the country. Even North Texas turned out to be a bowl team. I live in Oregon, so I don’t hear the sports radio or bar stool chatter, but unless Spurrier is going somewhere, or Saban or Mahlzahan (I am not spell checking Mahlzahn) who are we getting better than Richt. We play in the SEC. Unless you are Alabama, you should not expect to win the SEC every year. Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Florida, THE USC, can all say that with their facilities, boosters, tradition, etc… that they should be great year in and out, but that is never the case. I think we will win the SEC east and get bounced by whoever survives the west, be it LSU, Alabama or Auburn. I’d love a chance to get Auburn on a neutral field in a rematch. I also think that its past time that the SEC had one of those seasons where everyone beats everyone and proves the need for an 8-16 team playoff. Its the SEC. I think at this point we see what happens when you fire a proven coach. While I agree with most fans that it is high time we hire a Special Teams coach, unless Richt goes 8-5 four or five years straight, I ain’t pulling a Phil Fullmer. Tennessee still hasn’t recovered. I still haven’t recovered from Ray Goff.

BigWally

January 8th, 2014
1:43 pm

Johnnymac, we can’t live in fear as to what happened to Tennessee. If Auburn would have thought that way, they never would have fired Chizek after just one bad year and look what happened to them this year – with a head coach who only was a head coach 1 year (at Arky State).

LHardingDawg

January 8th, 2014
1:56 pm

BigWally – Dumbest poster of the day award.

Bulldog 34 – Second runner up.

Gut – Did not place.

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
1:59 pm

Crisco lard dawg

Who is bulldawg 34? Lmao!

BigWally

January 8th, 2014
2:00 pm

Add another one to the Kool-Aid club. That drink must be very addictive.

BigWally

January 8th, 2014
2:01 pm

I saw that 35. I thought he had demoted you or something.

Dog4Life

January 8th, 2014
2:06 pm

Oregon proves my point on needing some luck to win a NC. Talk about easy schedules, fair rankings, and media darling buzz–but last time i checked NO MNC. Look at Auburn their luck ran out–Fl Sts almost ran out playing a comparable talented team–Fisher made good adjustments at half–Malzhan didn’t as he didn’t against UGA or Bama–won off freak plays both times. Moreover, he still does not have a championship–and likely not to get one–he didn’t have Cam, he had marshall–big difference.

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
2:08 pm

Big wally

They’re just upset because we are speaking the truth about the state of our program! UGA is trending down and the Richt era is over! I’m just glad me and you….plus flat and dawg fan are not blinded by delusion and we want a change for the better! This staff has peaked…. They will not take us any further winning the east and then getting blowed out in the seccg!

Bulldawg35

January 8th, 2014
2:09 pm

My bad I left out the word than…

BigWally

January 8th, 2014
2:26 pm

Yep. I refuse to embrace our mediocrity. I refuse to accept our players partying til 4:00 in the morning before a noon kickoff for a bowl game. I refuse to accept how our young players don’t improve as the season goes on. I refuse to accept how our offensive line was suppose to be a dominating strength this year, but wasn’t. I refuse to accept an incompetent Def. Coordinator who is grossly overpaid for the results he produces. Unfortunately our AD seems willing to accept all of the above.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
2:34 pm

I see some people on here have welcomed back the Ray Goff years that we are now in

Pago Pago Dawg

January 8th, 2014
2:35 pm

Somebody told us UCF finished in Top Ten…UCF people….it’s coaching….

JB

January 8th, 2014
2:41 pm

Carolina finish’s 4th in final poll. Dawgs aren’t ranked . Nuff said

Gutrake

January 8th, 2014
2:41 pm

Man, you guys are clever! Got any “yo’ mama” jokes?

Seriously, you boys should be more inviting of the folks like me who make you look stupid. It revives the Bulldog Spirit!! If you are indeed fans, then that would be a good idea, right?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
2:46 pm

Johnny Mac

in case you didnt know

We are in our 3rd 5 loss season in 5 years

5 of the last 8 seasons have had 4 or more losses

6 of the last 8 seasons have had 3 or more losses

As for Fulmer; the only lesson to be learned from that is the importance of having good coordinators under you;

Fulmer went downhill after Cutcliff left;

kind of like Chizik when Malzone left;

kind of like UGA when Vangorder left

kind of like FSU when they lost some well known Asst

But hey Continuity is a good thing

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 8th, 2014
2:48 pm

Mr Guru

Let us know when you make someone look stupid; We are still waiting.

Gutrake

January 8th, 2014
2:48 pm

Between big wally, flat, 35 and dawgfan, you might find a couple of original ideas. Just don’t count on it…

Gutrake

January 8th, 2014
2:49 pm

Flat,

I’ve already buried you, once. Are you ‘flat tire zombie’, now?

Dawg8589

January 8th, 2014
2:52 pm

Gutrake

January 8th, 2014
2:52 pm

Flat,

Why do you have a period in your name, but no apostrophe?