More and more folks are thinking warm thoughts about the Georgia Bulldogs, and some of those folks work for ESPN. (Which makes their thinking significant, given that ESPN runs the part of college football Mike Slive doesn’t.) Citing cases:
• Bruce Feldman of ESPN Insider lists Georgia as his No. 8 best-value choice to win the BCS title. (Link requires registration.) Not the SEC East, not even the SEC — the BCS.
By “value,” he means getting long odds in Las Vegas on a team that has a legitimate shot. Feldman notes that Georgia opened at 40-1 to take the BCS but is down to 25-1 already. Feldman’s rationale for including UGA:
If the Dawgs were still at 40-1, they’d probably be a spot or two higher on this list. I’m on record as picking them to win the SEC East. I expect QB Aaron Murray to emerge as a star and for Isaiah Crowell, the nation’s top-rated RB recruit, and a healthy Caleb King to boost one of the SEC’s worst running games. They have talent on the defense, and it’s Year 2 in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.
• Esteemed former colleague Mark Schlabach, also of the worldwide leader, has Georgia rated 17th in his post-spring Top 25. That’s up one spot from his post-Signing Day ranking, but the bigger news lies elsewhere. Schlabach now places the Bulldogs ahead of South Carolina, which he drops from 15th to 19th.
See, Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia has been suspended again. Which leads us to …
• KC Joyner, also an ESPN Insider, puts Garcia’s presumed replacement Connor Shaw atop his list of shaky spring game performers. (Link requires registration.) I’m not sure how much weight should be placed on any spring game, but Joyner studied film and graded Shaw poorly.
All of which reinforces a notion that has been stirring these past couple of months: The team that finished 2010 by losing to Central Florida will enter 2011 as a team with buzz attached to it. Part of this has to do with the Dream Team. Part has to do with Georgia’s schedule: No Alabama, no LSU, no Arkansas — plus South Carolina and Mississippi State and Auburn at home. A bit of it has to do with Garcia and the Gamecocks.
Add it up, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the Bulldogs considered the favorite to win the East by the team SEC Media Days arrive. And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see them actually go out and do it.
By Mark Bradley