The Auburn Tigers started last season ranked in the bottom half of the AP Top 25, and the same can be said about the Georgia Bulldogs in 2011. Mark Richt and the Bulldogs have been heavily underrated heading into this season and are my dark horse candidate to win the SEC championship. Preseason SEC First Team quarterback Aaron Murray will lead the way for Georgia as the sophomore has a chance to emerge as one the nation’s top quarterbacks.
Murray had an excellent freshman campaign in 2010 wherein he threw for 3,049 yards, while tossing 24 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions. Those numbers are outstanding for a freshman playing in the most competitive conference in the country as the SEC consistently produces the fastest, most athletic defenses. Indeed, scouts are already rating Murray the best player of his draft class as he possesses an excellent arm and is extremely mobile. Look for Murray to do damage through the air and on the ground en route to a huge sophomore campaign.
The Bulldogs have the best quarterback in the SEC, but they still have some unresolved issues on offense. First, who will replace A.J. Green? Green was one of the best wide receivers to ever play in the SEC as he possessed great size, speed and hands. Tavarres King is the best candidate to become the number one target. While he doesn’t have the same skill set as Green, King is a sure-handed receiver who can make big plays at any time. King averaged 18.3 yards per catch and caught 3 touchdown passes last season, and this Georgia offense remains awfully dangerous if King continues to develop into a legitimate first-round NFL pick.
Georgia also has concerns at the running back position after Wayshuan Ealey and Caleb King left the team. True freshman Isaiah Crowell will now be the starter and he possesses the raw talent to become a star in the SEC. If the Bulldogs can establish a solid running game to compliment their lethal passing attack, they will be very difficult to stop on the offensive side of the ball.
The SEC is all about defense and Georgia has a fast, attacking defense led by Ray Drew, Sterling Baily, Chris Mayes, and Ramik Wilson, all of whom were highly-touted recruits. If they can mature quickly and play to their potential, this Georgia defense will be a force to be reckoned with. I also look for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to make significant improvements this season in the second year of his stifling 3-4 defensive scheme.
There is good news and bad news when it comes to Georgia’s schedule. We will go with the bad news first as Georgia has six preseason Top 25 teams on their schedule. The good news is that all six games are at home. If Georgia can knock off Boise State in the Georgia Dome and take care of South Carolina at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs could make a run for the SEC Title and, more importantly, have a chance to play for the National Championship.
Young and athletic are the first two adjectives that come to mind when describing this Georgia team as the Bulldogs have legitimate talent at each and every position. In addition, head coach Mark Richt has been on the hot seat over the last couple of seasons, and the fire grew even more intense following last year’s disappointing 6-7 record. However, Richt is an emotional guy who is on a mission this season, and that passion will rub off on his players throughout the 2011-2012 campaign.
There are so many similarities between this Georgia team and the Auburn team of last season as they both had question marks entering the season, but one thing they never lacked was talent. The Bulldogs will have a big year in 2011.
Written By: Jay Louis
Edited By: Jeff Keim