Reasons Georgia should/won’t make the College Football Playoff

college football playoff logoBetween the disappointing ending to a once-promising season and the offseason juice provided by an exciting hire on the defensive side of the ball, you can’t blame fans of the Georgia Bulldogs for bouncing back and forth in a sort of manic depressive state so far this winter.

Optimism, pessimism — the Bulldog Nation has reasons for both. For example …

Three reasons Georgia should make the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff:

1. A complete season of a healthy Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley. Even with the loss of SEC record-meister Aaron Murray, the Dogs’ talent at the offensive skill positions is kind of mind-boggling. Despite all the injuries that kept many of them out for multiple games or the remainder of the season in 2013, Georgia had one of the most dangerous and prolific offenses in the country. If all those guys somehow manage to stay healthy in 2014, look out!

A healthy Todd Gurley makes Georgia hard to stop. (Associated Press)

A healthy Todd Gurley makes Georgia hard to stop. (Associated Press)

2. Mike Bobo and Jeremy Pruitt. Georgia’s offensive coordinator still had his off days in 2013, mainly as a result of the injury bug that plagued the team, but when Bobo has all his offensive weapons at his command there’s hardly a defense in the country that can stop the Dogs. Despite all the missed games by the stars mentioned above and an inconsistent offensive line (see below), the Bulldogs still racked up 36.7 points and 484.2 yards of offense per game this past season. What’s held Georgia back the past couple of years has been its defense under Todd Grantham, who might have thought he was the “backbone” of the program but managed to fall short of expectations with a team loaded with stellar NFL talent in 2012 and an inexperienced team that didn’t progress as much as hoped for in 2013. While I think some folks are slightly blinded by the national championship rings Pruitt has from his stints at Alabama and FSU and may be overestimating the likely instant impact the new defensive coordinator might have in Athens, prospects seem good for him getting more out of Georgia’s considerable but underperforming talent on that side of the ball.

3. The schedule. While the 2013 Dogs proved you can’t always judge a schedule by past performances — with Georgia triumphing over South Carolina and LSU, only to lose to unexpectedly tough Vandy and Missouri — there’s no denying that the 2014 slate of games could work in Georgia’s favor. Opening again with Clemson and South Carolina is still tough, though the Tigers don’t look to be as formidable as last season and Georgia has an open date before the Gamecocks, who will be replacing some key talent. Also, the Dogs have struggling Arkansas as their SEC West road trip, and while Auburn again should be a challenge (though finally that game will be back in Athens), Georgia doesn’t face Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M. The main downside is that the Dogs will be away from Athens for a long stretch in the middle of the season.

On the other hand, here are three reasons why Georgia might not make the playoff:

1. Suspensions. Because of UGA’s strict disciplinary policies, Mark Richt’s team is at a disadvantage compared with other SEC and major college programs. Already, the Dogs will be without a couple of starters for the opening game and Josh Harvey-Clemons will miss the first three games, again meaning the defense will have to be reshuffled, and there’s still a long offseason full of temptation ahead. As long as Georgia operates by different rules from opponents when it comes to marijuana use, there are going to be suspensions to deal with.

Does UGA even know what to do with offensive line talent like John Theus when it gets it? (University of Georgia)

Does UGA even know what to do with offensive line talent like John Theus when it gets it? (University of Georgia)

2. The offensive line. As I’ve noted before, inconsistent OLs have been a weak point of Richt teams ever since Jim Donnan’s players graduated, and the outlook for 2014 is mixed, with starters Kenarious Gates, Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee departing. Plus, as Bernie’s Dawg Blawg noted recently, Georgia’s recruiting in this area hasn’t exactly been impressive in recent years, with the emphasis seemingly more on skill players — unlike, say, Alabama, which has become Offensive Line U. A case also can be made that it’s not just recruiting; John Theus was a very highly touted recruit when he arrived in Athens, but his development has left much to be desired. With a rookie quarterback in 2014, it’s especially important for the Georgia OL to play up to expectations, which too often hasn’t been the case.

3. Special teams. This has been a long-standing problem for Richt, who has generally shown a Bobby Bowden-like disregard for this portion of the game. However, in recent years Georgia’s special teams have gotten worse, becoming known for catastrophic breakdowns that result in big breaks (and points) for the opponent. After a disappointing year of special teams play in 2012, Richt pledged to work toward improvement — and instead things got even worse. From high snaps and blocked punts to, especially, fumbled punts, the Dogs were disaster-prone. The only real superlative on special teams for Georgia in 2013 was placekicker Marshall Morgan. Otherwise Georgia was generally mediocre or poor, ranking last in the SEC in kickoff returns and punt returns (on those few occasions when the “punt safe” Dogs even attempted to return a punt). Again, Richt is promising to do something about the problem, but we’ve heard that before. …

So, there you have good reasons to look on the bright side or to grumble. What are your thoughts on Georgia’s chances of being one of the four teams that make the playoff in 2014?

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211 comments Add your comment

UGA Insider

January 23rd, 2014
2:39 pm

7576Dawg, UGA lost 4 games last year due to Special Teams errors. Not just horrible defense. What is being addressed about ST’s? Excactly. Nothing again from Mr. Passive CMR.

UGA is a very talented 8-5 team but our head coach does not pay attention to detail. He would rather do high dives.

Skint

January 23rd, 2014
2:50 pm

As long as we continue to play walk-ons on special teams, we will struggle there.

Flo-Ri-Duh

January 23rd, 2014
2:53 pm

BS35 (aka Milk Dud) – Gut is still with you!

Galliard isn’t going to Louisville…. not a chance.

old dog

January 23rd, 2014
2:53 pm

Bill,
I think o-line is a combination of things. They may not be getting coached up, as you mentioned, but likewise we have been dreadfully out-recruited as well. The talent on the o-line is not up-to-snuff for where we need to go. Yeah, we put up points last year but we had exceptional skill players who “hid” the o-lines weakness until many got injured. Then, the o-line could not step up enough. Remember, Nebraska had a less than stellar d by any standard, and they whooped-up on our o-line. We must go back to better recruiting up there, or we will not make it to the next level.

UGA Insider

January 23rd, 2014
2:54 pm

Great point Skint. We have to play walk-ons because we are low on kids who were originally given scholarships by UGA. I would say we only have about 65 as of now. The rest are walkons given a scholly to make the team look normal. It’s embarrassing.

PMR

January 23rd, 2014
2:58 pm

The same people who wanted to replace Murray with Mason are now saying he’s not good enough, lol. Some of you people wouldn’t know a football from a flying saucer.

It seems to me that we can never get all good people at the same time. One year we have a great offense and a bunch of talented freshmen in the secondary. Next year we have great skill people but no O line.

And as I watch the O line , I’m not so much concerned about the coaching as I am the ability of the players. I saw a lot of Watts Danzler and Brandon Kublanow in the bowl game and I wondered why. Were there people injured that weren’t mentioned? I don’t care if your Tom Landry you’re only as good of a coach as your players. It appears that there are several 4 star O Line recruits this year and I know the two incoming running backs are big league. IF they new O linemen are good and one of the QB’s after Mason is good enough, I think in 2 years UGA COULD be at or near the very top again.

But when someone as highly touted as Theus can’t even make the first string at the beginning of the year it’s not the coaching that’s at fault, its the player. You can’t MAKE 5 star O linemen come to Georgia and you can’t MAKE the ones that do put out championship effort. Just like you can’t MAKE JHC lay off the weed. You can however get rid of bad apples like UGA has done over recent years and deplete your numbers and listen to everyone here say how bad you are for not having any depth.

Flo-Ri-Duh

January 23rd, 2014
3:01 pm

skint – You aren’t prejudiced against private school kids are you? Dawgs need to get the best and where they come from is irrelevant.

DeShuan Watson said he was a better “fit” for Clemson’s offense…. translation – he prefers the spread which is what he is used to. That doesn’t mean he can’t play in UGA’s pro style offense. It means he doesn’t want to. Dawgs went after Ramsey who was also not a pro style QB but is willing to change. Saban spent a lot of time, personally, with Ramsey – trying to get him to flip to Bama. Saban told Ramsey he had the best arm he had seen in the 2013 class (including Watson). Dawgs got the best QB suited to their offensive scheme and he didn’t go to a private school.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
3:03 pm

Offensive disasters? When you have your top 4 WRs down and your 2 top backs and can still put 30 points a game on the board, there were very few “offensive disasters” 7576Dawg. The offense was understandably off in that stretch. The offense was remarkable in the face of that level of injury.

Bobo tried it both ways incidentally when they were hobbled. He had to feel around for a solution. In the Mizzou game he let Murray wing it and the timing issues led to a couple of devastating INTs. They opted for ball control the next week against Vandy and that didn’t work out either. He said this, I am just paraphrasing what he said.

The QB competition will be open in the spring and in the fall. mason expects it. He said he will have to earn the spot. You can’t judge him on 2 games. He did fairly well. The Nebraska game would have been better if his receivers had caught the ball a bit more often. We moved the ball all over the place but no less than 3 drives were killed by dropped passes. You can’t hang that solely on Mason.

The defense will be better. They will be much more fundamentally sound if nothing else. That will result in noticeable improvement right there. And the defense will get some takeaways which helps in 2 ways. It gets the defense off the field and provides a momentum shift. We had virtually none of that last year.

I am willing to bet that the ST’s will be improved simply because of the change in the coaching staff. The STs started to suck right along the time Grantham came along. Since the staff shares responsibilities that seems to point to 1 or more of the defensive staff not being competent at what they were asked to do. I bet Grantham shirked his portion. Jeremy Pruitt will not. So those will be improved.

The palyoff hinge on 2 things. If we get to the SEC CG and if we win the SEC CG. If we don’t get there there is no way in hell we make the playoffs. If we fall in the SEC CG then the chances are extremely dim. So the real question is can we win the SEC? And the answer is yes if the defense is much improved and the STs are not a lowlight. Otherwise you are looking at 3 or more losses.

No one can say for certain either way. The same factors effect the will or will not. How those factors pan out over the course of the season are the deciding factors. If you look at it as a scale of 1-10… then figure in the previously mentioned factors then this season could swing from a 6.1 to a 9.9 ( I don’t believe in 10s). +/- 2.9 points of swing in my book.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
3:06 pm

I’ll do some research on who got scholarships and I bet I will find that there are more than 65 or even 70 scholarship players on the roster.

Wow…who flung doo?

UGA alum, class of 1971 and 1973

January 23rd, 2014
3:08 pm

UGA will be a very incomplete football team, to be able to compete at the upper rung of the sec.
O Line is middle of the pack at best. Vandy and Mizzo, Clemson, SHOVED them around.

QB play at best will be middle of the road, with no proven or even experienced scone teamer.

Special Teams must improve, so for now, I withhold my opinion. History tells us what to expect.

D? We hope to see some major changes. The D backs are sloppy tacklers and they are small. We have no quality depth at Linebacker or SAFETY. The so called star in waiting SAFETY is a cancer of this team. The other kid at Safety is vastly over rated and a horrible cover d back. See AU game.

Intangibles? UGA is simply a ragged, incomplete ball club under CMR. In his mind, his MAIN goal in this job is to provide a foundation and direction to young people, as a Youth Minister.

There has to be a contingent of coaches on the UGA staff to drive hard, otherwise, we will continue to be 8-4, 8-5 and in minor bowls. This is the RECORD of the last few years.

I love my school but history is not on the side of SEC CG or PLAYOFF bound UGA.

wallydog

January 23rd, 2014
3:13 pm

I agree with pretty much all of Bill’s thoughts. I think the defense can’t get any worse, so with so many guys coming back, I think we’ll be better. I think Mason will get better, but I agree that the O line better do a great job to give him time to get better. I’m hoping Bobo will take a cue from the Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning and dial up some plays where the ball gets released quickly to save Mason, because if he goes down, we could be in BIG trouble. I’m also anxious to see how our new RBs Michel and Chubb will contribute. Remember how Gurley came in and made an immediate impact. One post here complaining about our O line said something like “When did our O line ever dominate an opponent?” Remember the South Carolina game? How we ran out the last 8 minutes of the clock? That was by far my favorite game of the year with the way we closed it out. It CAN be done! Hopefully, the injury bug won’t be any worse. I too am baffled by our horrible special teams play. I just could not believe in the last game of the season, we still don’t have a regular guy back there fielding punts. But… nothing I can do about it. I’m going to predict a 9-3 season. Probably won’t beat USC in Columbia… Spurrier just seems to have our number up there. Glad Connor Shaw is gone, but they are recruiting very well. Not sure if we’ll beat Florida. Barely beat them this year and they were horrible. That’s not happening two years in a row. And of course, you can count on at least 1 game that we’ll give away with turnovers/special teams screw ups. But hey, if we do better and make the playoff and win it all, I will be more than happy to eat my words and admit I didn’t think it would happen. Go Dawgs!

DeShaun

January 23rd, 2014
3:38 pm

Flo-Ri-Duh who’s this “Gut” and why is BS35 (aka Milk Dud ) afraid?

I’m happy here at Clemson and don’t have to play that SEC schedule. UGA jus had to many QB’s already on board and I’m a spread guy. Nothing against Georgia but they weren’t a good fit.

It’s all good and looking to the game against Spurrier most of all. Expect them to be down this year with the losses they had on their defensive front and their QB is gone. Dabo said Spurrier hinted that he may be close to retiring and we plan to send him out in style with a loss. Would love to see Spurrier throw that visor.

Some of you guys appear to be Dawg haters and I extend an invitation to go to our Clemson site.

Flo-Ri-Duh

January 23rd, 2014
3:42 pm

DeShaun Watson? Remember when we talked in Atlanta back in 2012 at the Marietta Diner? You know I wanted you to be a Dawg but happy for you bro…. go get some of Spurriers’ arse.

Skint

January 23rd, 2014
3:44 pm

Flo, nothing against private schools. My girls went to a private school. Trent Brown went to the same school, but was released. He’s now at Florida. Look at our current OL and some past underachievers. The Long bros.(no meaningful playing time), Pyke(no playing time) Lee,Houston,Cardiello(Buford is basically private), Andrews(gritty but undersized), Theus bros.(overrated and underperforming), Bynum(no chance). We missed on James, Carpenter, Warmack,the two kids at FSU, the kid at Stanford, and let Alabama, Tex A&M, And Tennessee sign the top JUCOs this year. We have a problem.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
3:45 pm

As I thought… if you take the 2013 roster and remove the players who were not recruited and signed and the seniors, we have 74 players who are legitimate scholarship players. No walk ons…just recruited a signed players.

How about an apology, UGA Insider? With a recruiting class of 21 players the roster will be more than full.

Why do you insist on continuing this charade? You are a troll… all you do is bad mouth the program and state things as fact that are easily debunked.

9 players difference isn’t just something to blow off. You’ve again proven that you don’t know squat.

Go and take a look at the recruited players of other teams we compete against and remove the walkons and seniors and they might have 2 or 3 more players than we do right now.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
3:49 pm

I just don’t get this. Why do you people insist that just because somebody hasn’t produced that they will “never” produce? People do improve. Players are supposed to be evolving. If you just write people off based on a year or 2 then you cut out lots of success stories.

old dog

January 23rd, 2014
3:53 pm

While everybody offers o-line opinions, here is a fact: We need to improve our recruiting of o-linemen. Other SEC schools are getting better o-linemen than us.

JB

January 23rd, 2014
4:04 pm

UGA Alum 71&73 summoned it up pretty well, but just like the floks at MSNBC who Obama is a great President and sing his praises everyday, the Dawgs have issues that keep them from being elite. f we are waiting on luck or an easy schedule or another team to do something so we can back in, we will be waiting awhile. The OL I watched against Nebraska was not mid tier ACC much less Mid tier SEC. No SURGE at all. Our DB’s are pretty bad. New coaching will help, but believe it or not, Tech is a pretty good coached team, they just don’t the the athletes or depth. We can hope all we want. And yes, The defense will be better next year. Special teams, who knows.

JB

January 23rd, 2014
4:05 pm

hum, summed it up LOL….

Jaxdawg34

January 23rd, 2014
4:17 pm

OK, I know I’m about get the kool aid label for what I’m about to post, but here goes.

I get that our OL if you go strickly on ht/wt comparrisons to other teams is small, but lets not forget, it was this SAME O-line that whipped SC into submission the last 8 mins? Isn’t this the same O-line that helped the offense average over 30pts a game? Before the posts start flying about Gurley making the line look good, Douglas and JJ Green both had pretty good rushing days behind the line.

I AGREE we should be getting in with more high profile guys, but our lines while smaller, tend to be more athletic and get down field, and who knows that may be by design. Get a smaller guy and build him up with muscle, vs getting an overweight guy that has to trim down and manage his weight. I don’t know because I’m not in the coaches heads, but to hear the way some of you talk, you’d think we never have a 100yd rusher or the QBs aren’t given time to throw.

It’s kind of like all the people who STILL complain about Bobo’s play calling when all the man has done is avg over 30pts a game the last 3yrs. I personally don’t care about looks as much as results.

Now you can complain all day about the defense from last year, and even special teams, but to complain about the offense when they battled through injury after injury and still did what they did statistically just looks silly.

Go Dawgs!

Bulldawg35

January 23rd, 2014
4:19 pm

Flo ri duh

Gut isn’t with me…..I’m just saying Colorado sounds an awful lot like gut.

PTCDAWG

January 23rd, 2014
4:38 pm

Hutson Mason will not be the starting QB past the Vandy game!

Mark Another One

January 23rd, 2014
4:55 pm

All the complaining about the OL and yet our offense with all its problems still seemed to score a lot of points. There were some busted plays by the line but over the course of the season, the offense did the job. The defense and special teams were the weak links.

That said, each year there is turn over and Friend has his work cut out replacing three senior starters on the OL. We saw some of that in the bowl game and it wasn’t at all pretty. Work needs to be done and part of it is being able to handle strong, fast SEC defensive ends and linebackers. Our tackle have their work ahead of them.

I have seen several posts that Richt needs to get more linemen, especially OL. I agree but I don’t want to see scholarships handed out to people we don’t expect to ever earn playing time. That just blocks a possible recruit for the following year. I am not saying don’t take a chance on a kid with a strong motor (David Pollack comes to mind) but don’t waste a scholarship on someone just to get to numbers.

As for the playoffs, I really see it as only the SEC Champion will make the playoffs. I love the Dawgs but I see the SEC West as stronger than the East, and if the winner isn’t too banged up by the regular season, I would think they would have the edge for the Championship. I think Alabama comes back next year.

dawgfan

January 23rd, 2014
5:39 pm

My prediction for 2014 is that we will lose 2 or more games.

I’ve got about a 12 out of 13 chance of being right. I’ll take those odds.

I-DOG

January 23rd, 2014
5:52 pm

Mobile Dawg:

I don’t think it is being Naïve to suspect that Grantham and Lakatos were actually told that they could leave on their own terms or face termination. In fact, if Richt had zero intentions on hiring a new defensive coordinator… then how did he do so approx. 30 hours? That seems awfully fast for a guy that is not known for his knee jerk reactions and is pretty methodical in everything he does. I doubt Richt picks out a new tie any faster than he hired Pruitt.

Has UGA EVER acted that quickly to fill a near $1,000,000 a year job? Perhaps we will never know what exactly happened, but I think it is more likely than not that these were essentially firings and not resignations given the timing of these events.

7576DAWG

January 23rd, 2014
5:58 pm

UGA Insider
I think Richt is going to let Pruitt and his Defensive staff handle Special Teams. We all know that Richt can’t handle Special Teams after that patronizing reply to the question last year put egg in Richt’s face. He sloughed it off last year as not being important or that our problem would take care of itself and it cost him 4 games. I don’t think he wants to embarrass himself again this year and try and come up with the answer. It is better for Richt and Georgia if he let’s Pruitt handle Special Teams.

7576DAWG

January 23rd, 2014
6:03 pm

Kublanow is a potential first round draft pick in my opinion , wait and see. This is one guy that Friend got right.

7576DAWG

January 23rd, 2014
6:06 pm

future first round

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
6:24 pm

STs did not cost us 4 games last season folks. If we had a semi decent defense then some of the rough spots our STs put us in would not have turned out so badly. Each of those gaffes seemed to result in TDs by the opposing team’s offense. If a couple of those had been merely FGs instead then 2 of those loses could have been avoided. The games were that close. We didn’t lose the Auburn or the Nebraska game because of STs. Our defense gave up long pass plays that if you remove those from the game… both are wins.

We lost @ Clemson because of a bobbled snap on a FG. We lost to Vandy because of a high snap. No other ST snafus cost us the game. Mizzou just outscored us. If our defense could have sustained their 3rd quarter performance then we win that game too.

Nebraska we could have still beaten if Lynch holds onto that pass. It is overly simplistic to say that the STs cost us 4 games…I just proved that wrong. Now, do they need to be better? Hell yeah they do. So does the defense. If the dfense had been as good as our offense we would have played for the SEC championship and probably the national championship. Bottom line. But they weren’t even close.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
6:27 pm

Uga Insider – I see you have no answer for me nuking your 65 scholarship player claim. That is cowardly. Stand up and declare yourself instead of skulking along pretending to be what you aren’t.

I dare you.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
6:29 pm

Bulldawg35 – I am not Gutrake. I posted concurrently on this board with him a few times as well. I am me and that is all I am. If you are that obsessed with seeing the dude behind other posters he really did a number on you. That is pretty sad.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
6:41 pm

Once again the Comedy hour continues

The kool-aiders are now claiming Grantham was fired

LOL

please explain why he got a pay raise at Louisville

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
6:53 pm

Another “ummmm” post… nothing really to say so I’ll just throw in a filler. Another person that just can’t say “I don’t think he was fired…and here is why.” No. Just can’t do that can you? You just have to throw a cheesy. meaningless filler insult and laugh about it.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:03 pm

Mack Brown wasn’t fired was he? No but he was given the opportunity to resign with some semblance of grace. Just you know, Saban doesn’t fire coaches. He just encourages them to find employment elsewhere. Look it up. If he wants a guy gone the guy is made to understand he has the opportunity to find employment elsewhere. And the usually do find a job elsewhere.

Nussmeier was given a hefty raise by Michigan. It is widely thought that Saban wanted him gone.

Not so funny any more is it?

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:04 pm

“Just you know” should be “just so you know”

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
7:07 pm

Ok Grantham was fired

So lets call Richt out for bold face lying to the public about what happened

Which is it????

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:22 pm

Well it ate that post.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:24 pm

I didn’t say he was fired.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:25 pm

I think he got off easy. He deserved to be fired

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:26 pm

He was instead given an opportunity to find another gig.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:28 pm

I can’t make a post of more than a few words…very frustrating.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:29 pm

I guess that the blog is “thinking” about letting my comment through.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:30 pm

I’ll try it a different way since it says it’s a duplicate post.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:32 pm

saved a buyout

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:33 pm

and saved Grantham the black eye of being fired.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:34 pm

wow…that was irritating.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
7:34 pm

So Richt told him you need to start looking for another gig

Again

Did Richt lie to the public about what happened and fired Grantham or did Grantham leave on his own because he found something better

which is it

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:34 pm

it seems it didn’t like the word r-e-p-u-t-a-t-i-o-n.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:35 pm

I just told you what I thought.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:36 pm

Grantham wasn’t fired, he was encouraged to find something else.