With one of the most improved defenses in college football, Georgia enters the 2014-2015 season as legitimate SEC East Division Title contenders and could find itself playing in the SEC Title game in December.
The loss of star quarterback Aaron Murray, who offensive coordinator Mike Bobo called the best quarterback in the history of the program, is certainly a significant loss to the Bulldog’s offense. Murray broke nearly every career SEC passing record and became just the fourth quarterback in NCAA history to compile four seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards.
However, backup quarterback Hutson Mason returns and should produce solid numbers this season. Mason threw for 968 yards (60.9%) and led Georgia to a 20-point come-from-behind victory over Georgia Tech last season. He also became the second quarterback in NCAA history to throw a touchdown on his first career snap.
The strength of Georgia’s offense is in its backfield with one of the most prolific running back combinations in college football. Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley were the most productive freshman duo in school history and combined for 25 touchdowns in 2012. After an injury-riddled 2013-2014 campaign, both Marshall and Gurley are once again healthy and make up one of the nation’s best running back units.
Georgia also returns its top two receivers from last season – Michael Bennett and Chris Conley – both of whom missed a lot of action last year due to injuries. With both Bennett and Conley healthy, the Bulldogs’ boast the SEC’s best wide receiving units. The biggest question mark surrounding Georgia is its offensive line, which only returns 54 career starts. The loss of three multi-year starters certainly hurts this unit, but we still expect decent production from this group due to the running backs behind them.
New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt coached the last three National Championship teams (Alabama & Florida State) and welcomes back eight starters to what can only be described as one of the most improved defenses in college football. The defensive line returns five of its top six players from last season, including Ray Drew, while the linebacking corp. is the best in the country behind Jordan Jenkins and Ramik Wilson.
Georgia’s secondary is also vastly improved as nine different defensive backs started last season, including four true freshman! Six of those nine players return in 2014, including Damian Swann and Corey Moore. Finally, Georgia’s entire special teams unit returns this season, and we expect significant improvement from this group. In fact, a Top 20 finish is very feasible for this unit.
We would not be surprised if Georgia is favored in eleven of its 12 regular season games this season, and our handicapping experts believe head coach Mark Richt has a squad capable of reaching the SEC Title game.