Tuesday, July 24, 2012

SEC East Preview and Preseason Countdown #6 Georgia

The Georgia Bulldogs have very high expectations going into this season. Though running back Isaiah Crowell has been kicked off the team, there are a lot of returning starters. Some fans are expecting another SEC East title as well as a BCS Title game appearance while other fans are weary of the high expectations. Mark Richt has led his Georgia Bulldogs to three Sugar Bowl appearances in 2002, 2005, and 2007 but has no other appearance in a BCS tied in bowl. Richt's teams tend to do better when the expectations are lowered for the Bulldogs but this season has a lot of promise for the Bulldogs.

The Georgia offense returns 6 offensive starters on a unit that was ranked 39th in total offense, 49th in rushing offense, and 48th in passing offense. Aaron Murray is one of the two best quarterbacks in the conference and has a 16-11 career record at Georgia. Last year, Murray threw for 3,149 yards on 238 of 403 throws, 35 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Murray also rushed for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns. With Isaiah Crowell dismissed from the team, Ken Malcome is in line to be the starting running back for Georgia this year. Malcome ran for 174 yards on 42 attepmts in 6 games last year for an average of 4.1 yards a carry. He did not score a touchdown last year but will see his workload increase significantly until true freshman Keith Marshall gets his college legs. The other running back who will be in the mix is Brandon Harton who rushed for 247 yards on 53 carries in 5 games last year for an average of 4.7 yards a carry and 1 touchdown. The receiving corps has three returning starters in Michael Bennet, Tavarres King, and Marlon Brown. King was the leading receiver for Georgia with 47 receptions for 705 yards and 8 touchdowns while Bennet had 32 receptions for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns. Brown had 15 receptions for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns. The offensive line returns 2 starters though Kenarious Gates is moving from guard to left tackle. Right guard Chris Burnette is the other returning starter on the offensive line. Sophomore David Andrews looks to be the starting center with junior Dallas Lee at left guard, and Kolton Houston at right tackle. This offense last year averaged 32 points a game last year and should be able to do the same if their running game stays somewhat consistent. This offense has potential to be on of the best in the SEC and the nation.

The Georgia defense returns 9 starters on a unit that ranked 5th in total defense, 11th in rushing defense, and 10th in passing defense. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham did a great job of turnign this defense around. The defensive line returns all three starters in defensive ends Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington and nose guard John Jenkins. Abry Jones had 48 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 4 sacks while Washington had 17 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks. Jenkins had 28 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 interception. This unit did a great job of applying pressure to the quarterback and winning the battle for the line of scrimmage. The linebacking corps returns three of the four starters with inside linebackers Michael Gilliard and Alec Ogletree and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Jarvis Jones was the second leading tackler on the team with 70 as well as registering a team leading 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Gilliard was the teams third leading tackler with 65 and registered 7 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 interception. Ogletree only played in 8 games last year due to a broken foot he suffered against Boise State but registered 52 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.The other outside linebacker will be Chase Vasser who registered 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss in 12 games last year. The secondary returns three of four starters as well with corner back Sanders Commings, strong safety Shawn Williams, and free safety Bacarri Rambo. Commings recorded 55 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 interception last year while Williams was the leading tackler for Georgia last year with 72 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and 4 interceptions. Rambo led the team in interceptions last year with 8 including 1 for a touchdown as well as recording 55 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. During the offseason, it was reported that Ogletree and Rambo failed a drug test and will miss two to four games to start the season. This defense should be a very strong unit again and should be one of the top five in the nation.

The schedule this year for the Georgia Bulldogs is very favorable. They open up the season hosting Buffalo before heading to Columbia, Missouri to play the Tigers. That game can go a long way in determining the SEC East. After playing Missouri, the Bulldogs return home to face Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee before heading to the other Columbia to play South Carolina. A bye week follows that monumental game before playing two away games in Kentucky and the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Ole Miss comes to Athens the next week before the Bulldogs head to Auburn. They then finish up the year playing back to back triple option teams in Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech at home. While the Bulldogs do have a rough start without Ogletree and Rambo, I think they finish the season 11-1 with their lone loss coming to South Carolina. They should win the East and if they can win the SEC Championship Game, they'll be in contention for the BCS Championship Game.

Be sure to check out my other SEC East Previews of South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, Missouri,  Kentucky, and Tennessee.

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