2014 Record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 SEC (beat Louisville in Belk Bowl)
1 Burning Question: Can Georgia win the SEC with Old Man Football?
In 2012, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said Georgia played “old man football.” Georgia went on to beat Missouri and proclaimed its style of play “grown man football.” No matter what style it is called, the offense has been very good for Georgia over the last several years.
Since 2011, Georgia has annually placed in the top four in the SEC in total offense, and in the top five in scoring offense. At the end of 2013, four-year starter Aaron Murray gave way to fifth-year senior Hutson Mason at quarterback. Mason had his ups and downs, but at the end of the day, the Dawgs led the league in scoring. Now it’s time for a new QB, and the man that has led the Georgia offense (Mike Bobo) is now the head coach at Colorado State.
Brian Schottenheimer brings an NFL background to the Georgia offense. He won’t try to reinvent the wheel at Georgia, but he will bring his own flavor to the Dawgs’ style of play. Schottenheimer must choose between strong-armed Brice Ramsey, the versatile Faton Bauta, and the experienced Greyson Lambert as his new signal caller. The odds are that Ramsey will win the job, but it probably won’t be decided until week two of the season.
With a new quarterback, Georgia will rely on running the football and on its newfound success on defense. Last year Georgia lost Todd Gurley, but Nick Chubb stepped up and promptly became one of the best running backs in the country. Chubb returns and he will be the man, but he has a strong supporting cast behind him. Fellow rising sophomore Sony Michel is a star in the making. Injuries slowed him down in 2014, but he showed that he can be the lightning to Chubb’s thunder. Georgia also has a returning Keith Marshall, a bruiser in Brendan Douglas, and an up-and-comer in A.J. Turman. With an embarrassing amount of talent in the backfield, Georgia will run first and ask questions later.
When Georgia does need to pass, it has a star receiver in Malcolm Mitchell. Beyond Mitchell there are a lot of question marks, but they are talented question marks. One player to watch is triple-threat Isaiah McKenzie. He caught only six passes last season, but he took three kick returns back for touchdowns. He also gained 11 yards per rush. If Georgia can figure out how to use him consistently in the offense, opposing defensive coordinators will lose sleep.
The Georgia fan base had a love-hate relationship with former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Even though it wasn’t a lovefest, Bobo provided Georgia with great consistency at the QB position. Schottenheimer comes to Georgia at an interesting time: This is the first real QB battle Georgia has had since Matthew Stafford was a freshman. Georgia is extremely talented on offense, but the Dawgs are also nervous with the changing of the guard at offensive coordinator and QB.
One area that will help calm the nerves of the Georgia fan base is the defense. In one year under Jeremy Pruitt, the Dawgs went from tenth to fifth in scoring defense. Pruitt has brought confidence and discipline back to the Georgia defense. Pruitt took a defense that was a liability and has made it a strength. There are a couple of issues to figure out, namely stopping the run up the middle, but Georgia is on an upward trajectory on defense.
Georgia will win games this year because the Dawgs will be able to run the football. They will also win games because their defense will be very good.
Georgia has fallen down in spots in the last several years. Can the combination of Schottenheimer and Pruitt take Mark Richt and Georgia to heights they haven’t been under Richt? Georgia has the talent to make it to the College Football Playoff if, and it’s a big if, the pieces all come together.
2 Key Stats to Pay Attention to
14 — This is the increase in turnovers the Georgia defense created from 2013 to 2014. In 2013 the Georgia defense turned opponents over just 15 times (13th in the SEC). Under Jeremy Pruitt, the Bulldogs finished third in the league with 29 turnovers (16 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries).
21 — This is the number of rushing plays that gained 30 yards or more for the Bulldogs last season. Georgia leaned on the run a lot in 2014. Despite knowing that a running play was coming, defenses still couldn’t stop it. Georgia had 21 runs of 30 yards or more, and the second closest team in the SEC had only 12 (Auburn and Ole Miss tied).
3 Key Games That Will Make or Break the Season
Full 2015 Schedule
9/5 — ULM
9/12 — at Vanderbilt
9/19 — South Carolina
9/26 — Southern
10/3 — Alabama
10/10 — at Tennessee
10/17 — Missouri
10/24– Open Date
10/31 — Florida (in Jacksonville)
11/7 — Kentucky
11/14 — at Auburn
11/21 — vs Georgia Southern
11/28 — at Georgia Tech
Saturday, September 19, vs, South Carolina
Record in the Last 5 Meetings: 1-4
Last Year’s Result: L, 35-38
Why it matters: Georgia has a South Carolina problem. After winning 7 of 8 from 2002 to 2009, Georgia has lost 4 of 5 to the Gamecocks. The last time Steve Spurrier and his crew came to Athens, Georgia came away with a win. Last year was a different story, as South Carolina won a close game. That loss was a big blemish on Georgia’s 2014 record. This year, Georgia has high aspirations and the Gamecocks are Georgia’s first test. The Dawgs need to make a statement in this game.
Saturday, October 3, vs. Alabama
Record in Last 5 Meetings: 3-2
Last Year’s Result: Did not play
Why it matters: The last time the Tide strolled into Athens several years ago, they ran roughshod over the Dawgs. The last time the Tide played the Dawgs, the game (the 2012 SEC Championship Game) was an instant classic the Dawgs lost. This is a huge game for the SEC and for college football in general, and a win by the Dawgs would send them near the top of the polls (if they can handle their business before they get to the Bama game).
Saturday, October 31 vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)
Record in Last 5 Meetings: 3-2
Last Year’s Result: L, 20-38
Why it matters: The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party… on Halloween? Please and thank you. Like South Carolina, Florida is another team that gives Georgia fits. Georgia had won three straight, but last year the Dawgs lost a game they had no business losing.
4 Key Players
Nick Chubb, RB – After playing sparingly in the first five games, Chubb finished second in the league in rushing. He also finished first in the league in yards per carry and tied for first in rushing TDs. Chubb will get more rest down the stretch because of the depth of the Georgia backfield, and it will help him be a better leader for Georgia in 2015.
Sony Michel, RB – As a true freshman, Michel totaled 410 yards rushing in eight games with five rushing TDs. He can also line up in the slot and presents mismatches for opposing defenses. Michel complements Chubb very well. If he can stay healthy, he will make Georgia’s running game even more potent than it was in 2014.
Lorenzo Carter, LB – Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are the veteran leaders of Georgia’s linebacking crew. Lorenzo Carter is the future, and that future will be 2015. As a true freshman, Carter’s athletic ability showed fans just what he is capable of doing. Now that he’s been in the system for a year, Carter will be the break-out star of the Georgia defense.
Quincy Mauger, S – Georgia’s secondary was in shambles before last season. Players like Mauger, Aaron Davis and Dominick Sanders all stepped up to the plate and helped Georgia’s defense improve greatly over 2014. Mauger has a nose for the ball and is a player that seems to be all over the field. With Damian Swann graduating, Mauger will now take the helm of the Georgia secondary.
5 Bold Predictions
5. Georgia will lose to somebody it shouldn’t.
In 2014 it was Florida. In 2013 it was Vanderbilt. Georgia has had some slip-ups that have cost the Dawgs a chance at something bigger. This year the schedule is laid out pretty well for an SEC East title run. That being said, games at Tennessee, against Missouri, and Florida represent possible slip-ups for the Dawgs.
4. Georgia will field a top ten defense in terms of total defense and points allowed.
In one year, Jeremy Pruitt took Georgia from 79th in scoring defense to 16th. He took his side of the ball from 45th to 17th in total defense. Can you imagine what he can do in year two with his system fully implemented, and a defensive backfield that isn’t stuck together with duck tape?
3. Nick Chubb will be in New York for the Heisman ceremony.
As a true freshman, Chubb started the season buried on Georgia’s depth chart. Then, Georgia’s running back corps starting dwindling. Chubb took over and never looked back. Despite carrying the ball just 31 times in the first five games, Chubb finished the season with over 1,500 yards. Chubb will have more support this year in terms of running back mates, but the passing game will be more of a question mark.
2. Georgia will beat Alabama in October.
Georgia has come up short in its last two attempts against Alabama. With Jeremy Pruitt on board, Georgia has more of an “Alabama” attitude running through its program. Expect this to be a hard-fought game, but expect Georgia to come out on top. The real question might be: If these two teams meet again in the SEC Championship Game, who wins that one?
1. Georgia will win the SEC East.
Missouri should not be underestimated again (after winning two SEC East titles), and Tennessee is rising quickly. We also shouldn’t forget about South Carolina and Florida. All four of those teams have a lot of talent. They have enough talent to win the SEC East. When looking at the most complete team out of that bunch, Georgia is the team that will come out on top. There are questions behind center and up the middle on defense, but Georgia will win the SEC East. At the end of the season, the bigger question for these Dawgs will be if they can win the SEC Championship Game.