Friday, August 22, 2008

Georgia Starts Number 1, Can They Finish There?

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SEC East #1 Georgia Bulldogs

2007 Results and Off Season
In mid-October, not even the die hard Georgia fans would have honestly told you they would finish the season #2 in the country, but a win over Florida, followed by a win over Auburn, and a thumping of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl led the way to a number two final ranking. Georgia had another top ranked recruiting class, but did have its share of off season trouble that will results in some suspensions for the first two games. Georgia enters the season ranked #1 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
2007 Record: 11-2, 6-2
Ret. Starters: 16
Ret. Lettermen: 44
Off PPG 28.5 (6th) 175.6 (4th) 188.6 (6th) - SEC Play
Def PPG 21.4 (2nd) 131.3 (4th) 197.0 (5th) - SEC Play

Offense (7 RS 16 RL)
If you want to discuss Georgia's offense then you need to know the name Knowshon Moreno. After splitting carries with Thomas Brown in the first half of the season, the red shirt freshmen burst onto the national scene in the 42-30 win over Florida. and ended up with 5 consecutive 100 yards games. Joining Moreno will be Caleb King and Richard Samuel who were both highly recruited out of high school. FB Brannan Southerland may be out until mid season, but he should be paving holes by the time Georgia hosts Tennessee on Oct 11. Matt Stafford may be the number 1 QB taken in the draft next year if he decides to fore go his senior season. The junior has been good, but not great in his first two years. If UGA is going to win the national title, Stafford has to become the elite QB the NFL is projecting him to be. Outside of Mohamed Massaquoi, the receiving corps is young, but talented. This group has suffered from the drops the past few seasons, but did show improvement down the stretch in '07. Watch out for true freshmen AJ Green out of South Carolina. The o-line was thought to be a big problem heading into last year, but played surprisingly well considering the youth. A big loss this year will be C Fernando Velasco who was the glue for the young guys. LT became a big spot to fill when starter Trinton Sturdivant went down with a knee injury for the season. Sturdivant's name may not ring a bell, but I bet his dance moves do. Currently, Richt has four new starters on the o-line but says he might make changes. .

Defense (9 RS 25RL)
Georgia returns its top four tacklers from last year and six of the top seven. The leader of the defense is senior Dannell Ellerbe who had 93 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss last season. Joining him at linebacker is Renne Curran who despite his size adjusted very well to SEC play as a true freshmen last season finishing with 53 tackles. Marcus Washington will likely redshirt this season after suffering a shoulder injury in spring ball. Soph Akeem Dent steps in his place. Colt Brennan still has nightmares of Marcus Howard coming off the edge in the Sugar Bowl. However, SEC QBs can rest a little easier knowing Howard is gone to the NFL, but the Dawgs must replace the SEC's number 1 sack artist from last year. The d-line's strength is in the middle with DTs Jeff Owens and Geno Atkins. All of the backups from last season return so expect this unit to be strong once again. The secondary has three of four starters back. FS Reshad Jones steps in as a full time starter this year in what should be one of the top pass defenses in the SEC.

Special Teams
The biggest question mark outside of the o-line is the PK position where Brandon Coutu has moved onto the NFL. True freshmen Blair Walsh has shown a strong leg in practice and is expected to take the job. Mikey Henderson is gone at PR and the buzz around Athens is that Knowshon could be used as a PR this season. Asher Allen will figure heavily into KR.

Recruiting - Link

Schedule
It is brutal. Beano Cook said that Georgia should go to the Super Bowl if they go 12-0 through this schedule and I agree. Road trips to the top 2 in the SEC West (Aub & LSU); vFlorida, @Arizona St, @South Carolina, v Tennessee, vAlabama, vGa Tech. The four game stretch of @LSU, vFlorida, @Kentucky, @Auburn is the worst I have ever seen. I think Georgia will lose a game somewhere along the way.

Final Thoughts
The pieces seem to be coming together for Mark Richt. Georgia starts out ranked number 1 so one loss will not drop them down that far. They are as good or better than everyone they play, but I think they slip up somewhere along the way as no team could go through their schedule undefeated. The celebration last year in Jax set a new tone in the Georgia/Florida rivalry and the winner of that game I think will be playing in the BCS Championship.

Prediction
Likely Win: vGa So, vC.Mich, vVandy, vAlab, @Kent, vGa Tech
Likely Loss: None
11-1, 7-1

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