May 28, 2020

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University of Georgia Bulldogs Team Preview

Season Odds

SEC East: -215

SEC Championship: +250

National Title: +650

Projected Regular Season Win Total: 11, Over +120, Under -150

2018 Recap

The 2018 version of the Georgia Bulldogs finished their season 11-3 after being “snubbed” for the College Football Playoff in a hotly debated decision from the Committee. After being snubbed the Bulldogs didn’t really help prove their case as they lost to Texas in the Sugar Bowl 28-21. The SEC fans claimed apathy while the rest of the country pointed as evidence why Georgia wasn’t invited in the first place. The Bulldogs were 18th in the country in total offense and 13th in total defense, one of only three teams to place top 20 in both categories next to Clemson and Alabama (of course). With quarterbacks like Jake Fromm and Justin Fields on the team, it’s wild to think that the Bulldogs were over twice as likely to hand the ball off than to pass it, but that was the case. Georgia had two 1000 yard rushers in D’Andre Smith and Elijah Holyfield to pair with top pass catchers Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley. The defense was a smash unit that gave up less than 20 PPG. They were content with sharing tackles as no one had over 75 individually, but only forced 17 turnovers for the season which seemed a bit low. Either way, the end of last season left a sour taste in the mouth of many around the program and all will be content to put it behind them and get a strong start to the 2019 campaign.

2019 Outlook

Offense: One of the bigger differences heading into camp for the Bulldogs this year was the fact that there was no competition at quarterback. Justin Fields is gone to Ohio State and there’s no one that’s in the mix to challenge for the starting job, so Jake Fromm will be the guy. Over the course of last season he blossomed into a star and this season he has the 6th best odds to win the Heisman. He’s a pocket passer that has the tools to compete in a really stacked SEC East this year. His only knock is that he isn’t very mobile, but that shouldn’t matter since the Dawgs are returning four starters on the offensive line including 6-7 mauler Isaiah Wilson and the best tackle in the league, Andrew Thomas. Thomas is lined up to win all the offensive line awards this year and could be one of the top picks in next year’s draft.

The skill positions have a bit of an issue. Of the two 1000 yard rushers and top 5 receivers last year, only a single player returns. After the draft ravaged the pass catchers and potential top receiver Jeremiah Holloman was dismissed from the team, the Bulldogs will be looking far and wide for guys to play with lone returnee D’Andre Swift. Granted, not that far or wide considering the talent pool Georgia draws from, but you get the point. Swift led the team in rushing yards and total touchdowns with 13 last year and will be poised to up both totals this year. The junior will be one of the best players on the team and is a candidate to be a top running back in college football. Brian Herrian is a suitable backup whenever Swift needs to catch his breath. The wide receiver situation is a bit more complicated. There isn’t really an established receiver left on the roster but there’s a lot of promise that will get tested. Charlie Woerner is the closest thing to a sure thing at tight end and will be a great red zone target for Fromm to abuse. Demetrius Roberson will likely be the top target in terms of wide receivers with veteran Tyler Simmons close behind him. 5- star true freshman George Pickins along with Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock will also be in the mix due to the lack of depth. It isn’t the strongest group going into the season, but there’s a lot of potential given the raw talent and who’s throwing them the ball.

Defense: The Georgia defense has a knack for losing phenomenal talent to the NFL every year but they also have an aptitude for replacing it. Georgia has 5 5-star recruits coming in this year with 3 of them being defensive front 7 guys.The pass rush was lackluster at times last year so those additions should help a lot. The line doesn’t have any household names this year but they do have some big bodies that can compete.  Tyler Clark and Malik Herring will be on either end of the line this season, neither had exceptional years in 2018 but were also on limited minutes. Clark is poised to have a superb season. Nose tackle belongs to 6-6, 330 pound Jordan Davis. He will be a bear in the middle and can obliterate interior linemen.

The linebackers are really deep for Georgia this year. Monty Rice and Tae Crowder were 3rd and 5th on the team in tackles last year, respectively, while Walter Grant was on the back end of the rotation. Nolan Smith was the top recruit in the country for 2019 and is slated to step into the other starting MLB role next to Crowder. Nakobe Dean is another 5-star true freshman that will bolster the depth of this squad as he is already getting compared to Georgia legend Roquan Smith before even seeing a snap.

The secondary has a couple question marks but the returning guys are incredible. Tyson Campbell will try to fill the shoes of Deandre Baker this season and will play across the field from star pass defender Eric Stokes. J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte will roam the secondary with Reed maybe being the best overall player on defense. He was second on the team in tackles last year while LeCounte was first. The tandem intercepted 3 passes. It should be a fun year for those two. So the defense is deep but has yet to figure out who the star will be. With a roster like this, one is sure to emerge.

Keys to the Season

There are two keys for the Georgia offense, the first of which is health. Fromm and Swift cannot afford to be injured as there isn’t a safety net this year. Either one of them going down would neutralize the offense and cut the playbook in half. The other key is to find guys to replace last year’s yardage. With so many players leaving it will be vital for Kirby Smart’s offense to have multiple pass catchers present themselves as reliable targets for Fromm to pass to. The defense needs to get more pressure on the passer. The front seven lost touch with that aspect of the game at times last year and that won’t work this year even with the safety tandem in place. The corners don’t have the ability to put receivers on an island this year, so there needs to be an emphasis from the new DC to dial up the pressure.

Season Prediction

Georgia has the 6th most difficult schedule this year according to ESPN, but luckily they have a team ready for the challenge. They got lucky with the home/away matchups as they will see Notre Dame, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, and Texas A&M on their own field. The toughest away game will be at Rocky Top and the Vols are still one year away from being giant killers. Georgia has the poise and a chip on their shoulder along with a killer wave of recruits that should push them into the CFP. They won’t be able to take out Bama or Clemson once there, but at least they’ll get their shot.

Projected Regular Season Record: 12-0, 8-0