College Football Picks Top Ten Countdown- #7 Georgia
Georgia was expected to do big things last year. In the end, the Bulldogs finished with a highly disappointing 8-5 record. They lost by a field goal to Clemson in the season opener before turning things around for a while. The loss at Vanderbilt was a real crusher. Late in the season, Aaron Murray got hurt and that slowed down the offense. All year long in 2013, the Georgia Bulldogs defense was torched by the top offenses in the SEC.
In fairness to the Bulldogs, they lost some very close games last year. Georgia was at the center of heartbreak when Auburn threw their tip pass Hail Mary last year to beat the Bulldogs in crushing fashion. The loss to Clemson in the season opener was anybody’s game. Then their bowl loss to Nebraska was very tough, and it came with Georgia short-handed on both sides of the ball.
Georgia returns six starters on offense and eight on defense. The Bulldogs have slightly lower expectations this year, but this team is one that I believe will make plenty of noise. To say that Georgia was bitten by the injury bug in 2013 is a massive understatement. Can they stay away from it this year?
2014 Georgia Offense Preview
As much as Aaron Murray’s injury hurt last year’s team, the fact that Hutson Mason got extended playing time was a big plus for this year’s team. Mason isn’t going to be as effective as Murray, but I’m convinced he’ll do a nice job for the Bulldogs. Mason is a senior who has gotten a lot of practice reps, and he completed 61 percent of his passes last year. Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, and Michael Bennett are senior leaders at the wide receiver spots. Mitchell was hurt in the season opener last year, and he is the team’s best overall receiver. He needs to stay healthy for the passing game to reach its full potential.
The running game shouldn’t be an issue at all for Georgia. With Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the backfield, there isn’t a team in the nation that has two more dynamic runners than these guys. Both of them were hurt much of last season, and that definitely held the team back in a big way. Gurley is a top five running back in the country when healthy, and Marshall is one of the best backups you’ll ever find.
If there is a question mark among the Georgia Bulldogs offense it is along their offensive line. This was one of the best offensive fronts in the SEC the past couple years, but they have far less experience going into this year.
2014 Georgia Defense Preview
The Georgia Bulldogs defense may have taken their lumps last year, but I expect them to be much improved this season. Georgia’s group of linebackers are excellent, and they’ll lead the way for this unit. Ramik Wilson might be the best middle linebacker in the nation, and Jordan Jenkins is a terrific outside backer. Amarlo Herrera is the other starter, and he was the team’s fifth-leading tackler a year ago.
The defensive line was extremely inexperienced last year, but that changes this season as five of the top six from last year return. Ray Drew should make a lot of noise from the defensive end spot. The secondary was a major problem spot last year for Georgia. Georgia ranked 60th in the nation against the pass, which is very unusual for Mark Richt coached teams. Nine defensive backs started last year including four true freshmen. Clearly, it was an area where injuries slowed the team down in a big way. Depth is much better here this year, though the team is counting heavily on sophomore Tray Matthews at the free safety spot.
College Football Betting Odds from BetOnline
2014 Georgia Odds to win National Title: +2,200
Odds to win SEC: +800
Odds to win SEC East: +200
Georgia to make 4 team playoff (Yes): +250
Georgia Season Win Total: 9.5
Georgia’s toughest games of the year came early on. They host Clemson in the season opener, and then must travel to South Carolina on September 13. The rest of the schedule is relatively easy considering it is an SEC schedule. Expectations are lower and I think this team could fly under the radar enough to provide good value this year. I like Georgia at +200 to win the SEC East, and I really like the value on them to win the SEC at +800. Look for Georgia to hit double digits in wins this year.
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