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

HotDawg

January 23rd, 2014
7:38 pm

I prefer the optimists….pessimists are such a downer.
Nobody here knows a damn thing until they actually play the games.
I’ve always said to the self-proclaimed know-it-all’s….if you’re so smart, put everything you’ve got in Vegas. They’re so smart, they have nothing.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
7:38 pm

If you call protecting a man professionally a lie…then so be it.

Bulldawg35

January 23rd, 2014
7:40 pm

Colorado

Who encouraged him??? It certainly wasn’t Richt.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
7:40 pm

encouraged

LOL

Again; did Richt say anything about Grantham being pressured to leave during his press conference?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
7:42 pm

HotDawg

Ive predict for several years on here UGA will lose 2 or more games every year and I have been right

Why dont you go to Vegas; its really not that hard of a prediction

The past results speak for themselves

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
7:43 pm

gtcaryd

January 23rd, 2014
8:00 pm

Mobiledawg @ 11:41, One of the best posts ive seen in a while. Very truthful.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:14 pm

It’s just as fun to be a Bulldawg now as it ever has been… the problem is in the way we handle it.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:16 pm

HotDawg – don’t give up being an optimist just because somebody says your team will lose 2 games every year. That still beats the hell out of what most teams have to face.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:20 pm

But somebody who is so certain of something shouldn’t just sit on it… Flat Tire, you need to clean up in Vegas on that. I mean if you are that certain then you need to cash in on it.

I would if I were as certain as you seem to be.

dawgfan

January 23rd, 2014
8:20 pm

It’s not a hard prediction at all if you’ve paid any attention whatsoever to Georgia football the past 13 years, particularly the last 8. Actually, if you go off the past 5 years we’ll probably go something like 9-4 or thereabouts.

I’m not pessimistic. I just don’t live in fairy tale land.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:20 pm

Otherwise it’s all just a bunch of hot air.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:21 pm

There’s nothing wrong with being an optimist

but there comes a time when the same ole same ole causes reality to sink in

there is reason to have some optimism for our defense now

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:21 pm

Yeah you do, you just don’t realize that the cynical, negative part of that land is where you live.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:24 pm

its pretty certain

dawgfan

January 23rd, 2014
8:25 pm

I will be very cynical and negative as long as Mark Richt remains our coach. Guilty as charged.

I’m tired of watching our rivals win titles while we talk about “next year.” I don’t see alot of positives there.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:28 pm

there’s nothing cynical or negative in the land I live

Thats why I dont live in Delusionalville Ga

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:33 pm

A comment from Richt

“I’ve coached offensive football a long time,” Richt said last week. “I don’t want to make anybody mad at Florida State, but we didn’t have dominating offensive lines, but we had some great skill people that were able to make some great plays. If you have a bunch of linemen that know what to do, and can stay coordinated and get their hat on the right guy, and fight like mad, you can neutralize a defender for long enough for a great skill guy to get on by, or get the ball off, whatever it might be.

“I mean I’d rather have five guys that are in sync, that are a little above average, than three of them that are superstars and two guys that can’t play. You’re not gonna get it done. Because all it takes is one guy to blow it, and you’ve got a negative-yardage play. It can be very frustrating.”

But hey the kool-aiders blame Stafford Cox and Murray for turnovers, sacks, and losses

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:37 pm

You are right, there is nothing wrong with it. I think the outlook I gave was fairly balanced. I do not think that Mark Richt will “cause” the team to lose 2 games every year, however. Next year is a toss up because it really hinges on how well the defense rounds into shape.

Truthfully, we may have to guard against some false excitement in the Clemson game. Their offense will not be as potent because of the loss of Boyd, Watkins and Bryant. So we will have to not get too hyped over the “stats”. They are likely to be better no matter what.

What I am looking for is simple fundamental football. Tackling, assignments, and consistency.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:39 pm

Small things like, if the other team makes a good play, does the defense maintain their composure. That made my head hurt this year. The defense would be playing well and the other team would make a good play ( they do happen even with good defense) and they just folded. It was almost a guarantee that if the other team got a couple of first downs then they were going to score a TD. And that was probably about 60% of why we gave up so many points.

gtcaryd

January 23rd, 2014
8:41 pm

Dawgin Colorado is NCDawg !! Good Grief.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:44 pm

If I see guys tackling and guys being where they are supposed to be virtually the entire game, then I’ll know it is happening and it is time to be more than just a little excited.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:47 pm

Losing 3 on the O-line; a new QB; a whole new Defensive staff; and a question mark for the special teams

Next year doesnt look too promising except the schedule

The upsides for me will be a team that actually looks enthusiastic to play football;
beating FL 4 years in a row;
a defense and special teams that actually shows improvement;
and if we have 3 losses start playing Ramsey Bauta etc to prepare for 2015

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:48 pm

oops… and an O-line that looks better

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:50 pm

gtcaryd

Is Johnson getting an extension from the Tech fanbase

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:51 pm

If the O-line looks better and the defense is improved then the wins will come don’t you think?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
8:53 pm

Yea the wins will come

Now when have you seen that?

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:56 pm

Now excited isn’t “we’re gonna win it all”. Excited is “this is what I’ve been waiting for”.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:58 pm

2007. The defense was shoddy the first 4 or 5 games and then it started clicking and that last half of the year was pretty damned good football.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
8:59 pm

That was the last time our defense looked “great”. It was good in 2011 but not like that.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
9:01 pm

2011 saved Grantham’s rump. If the defense had performed in 2011 like it did in 2012 then he would have been gone. That hiccup (fluke?) kept him around these past 2 years.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
9:06 pm

2007 Inconsistency
2012 Inconsistency

Results….Excuses and 0 appearances in the National Title

2011 Defense was good against the lousy teams played that year; yea they were really awesome against the 4 teams we lost to that season

I really enjoyed the SEC championship game and the Boise St game that year

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
9:10 pm

Too bad. Many of us bought into it. Me included, at least as far as I take things like that. I thought 2012 would be an extension of 2011. LOL.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
9:12 pm

What saved him was the first half of the SEC CG. You have to admit it. Zero first downs. Then LSU found the chink that Bama used a year later.

gtcaryd

January 23rd, 2014
9:14 pm

No Flat, unless CPJ can turn things up some there will be new blood in 2016.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
9:14 pm

We’ll see what happens come August 30 in Athens. Until then we are just guessing.

gtcaryd

January 23rd, 2014
9:15 pm

I appreciate your interest though.

DawginColorado

January 23rd, 2014
9:15 pm

G Day should be interesting though.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
9:19 pm

How do you buy into inconsistency every year

If this was January 2006 then ok I could see buying in

this is 2014 and yet again……

poor O-line play
lousy defense
lack of discipline in turnovers and penalties
poor special teams
losing to more ranked teams and teams you shouldnt lose to like Vandy

but I am optimistic about the future of the defense; though the defense optimism just fell into our lap thanks to Grantham moving on and not a decision from the head coach

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
9:23 pm

gtcaryd

I dont see things turning around for Tech

You realize had the Auburn debacle not occurred our coaching staff still would have never taught our players to knock the ball down during Techs last play and Tech might have won and Johnson would have gotten a statue for the victory

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
9:26 pm

” Then LSU found the chink that Bama used a year later.”

Nah I think everybody realizes now that UGA plays only for about 1 qtr sometimes 2qtrs and then goes into cruise control;

LADawg

January 23rd, 2014
9:51 pm

I’m excited about the coaching changes on defense. With an easy schedule and talent that at least a half dozen coaching staffs in the SEC would take to the playoffs, this will be a good year for the Dawgs which means a trip to the Capital One Bowl.

Richt’s history, only three BCS bowls in 13 years, does not give any indication that he is capable of gettng through a season with one or fewer losses.

The Dawgs are the Dawgs, we need to love them win or lose but to expect greatness is delusional.

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
10:03 pm

“but to expect greatness is delusional.”

and thats a shame;

especially when UGA has put more players in the NFL in 13 years than any other school in the SEC and yet Aub LSU AL and FL have played for 2 national titles during this time

Maree

January 23rd, 2014
10:17 pm

I’ve never been a fan of UGA or its players, but I love Food Network, and Herschel Walker is doing a pretty good job on this season’s Celebrity Cook-Off.

Boykin

January 23rd, 2014
10:24 pm

Bottom line is Dawgs are doing good for its fans!

LADawg

January 23rd, 2014
10:27 pm

Flat Tire, so true.

Over the past five years the state of Georgia has produce 6.8% of the BCS recruits; behind only Texas, Florida, and California. The top three have to split the talent with multiple top flight programs. UGA has no real in-state competion in recruiting.

By comparison, Alabama and Louisianna are tied with 2.6% of BCS recruits and, as you said, their schools have played for multiple NCs while the Dawgs have had to settle for multiple second and third tier bowls during the same period.

T. Barilla

January 23rd, 2014
10:30 pm

Why does UGA avoid the best SEC teams like Alabama so much?

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
10:34 pm

T. Barilla

so why does Alabama avoid scheduling UGA so much?

why dont you educate yourself on scheduling

Flat Tire doesnt live in Delusionalville Ga.

January 23rd, 2014
10:37 pm

I didnt realize a team that hasnt won a national title in 34 years has such power over the SEC that they tell Alabama LSU FL Auburn and everyone else in the SEC conference who they will and will not play

Anymore laughable questions tonight?

LADawg

January 23rd, 2014
10:55 pm

Bama is the only SEC team that sets their own schedule. Most years, east plays west on a rotating schedule except for traditional rivalries. With the addition of Mizzu and A&M last year, the SEC had to do some creative scheduling, thus UGA went to Auburn for consecutive years and Bama got off weeks before their toughest games, A&M and LSU.

There was no way the gods in the SEC office could have predicted Auburns rise, but they still scheduled Chattanooga for Bama the week before Auburn; as close to an off week as possible while still playing a game.

The plan was for Saint Nick to three-peat. It took a 109 yard touchdown to spoil the plan.