SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128
|Georgia Bulldogs (SEC #1; East #1)|
|AP #9 USA #9||Strength:#5 Success:#13 Overall:#5|
|Record: 10-3||Bowl: Beat Louisville 37-14 (Belk)
|Picks: AP #9 | USA #9 | Lindy's #10 | Athlon #10 | Steele #7 | ESPN #6
|Record: 10-2||Bowl odds: 99.9% Playoff odds: 27%|
Does it count as a surprise pick to put Georgia #2 ? It sure seems like no one else really considers the Bulldogs a threat to break into the College Football Playoff this year, but it makes sense to pick someone from the SEC East, who emerges from the rubble after the West teams have killed each other off.
7 ret. starters
|2014 Scoring Offense: #8 (raw) #5 (adjusted for opposition)|
|2015 Projected Scoring Offense: #5 (adjusted)
Georgia has a new offensive coordinator, and when there are changes in key positions like coordinator or coach, we try to estimate what effect that will have on game tempo, and run/pass split. Interestingly, someone else already did that for Georgia so we just used his numbers; long story short, more passing, slightly faster tempo. Our own conclusion is that the Bulldog offense remains just as potent despite quarterback concerns.
|2014 Passing Rank: #91 (raw) #78 (adjusted)||2014 Sacks Allowed (raw): #21|
|2015 Projected Passing Rank: #58 (adjusted)
||2015 Sacks Allowed (proj.): #19|
Hutson Mason (2,168 yards, 21 TDs, 4 int) didn't have to be a star in the Georgia offense; his role was to be moderately productive while avoiding turnovers and handing the ball off. In other words, a game manager. To replace him, that's all they need, and it looks like they've settled on Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert (1,632 yards, 10 TDs, 11 int). His numbers don't exactly fit the Mason mold—including a 59% completion rate to Mason's 68%—but they'll take what they can get. The team's top two receivers are gone including Chris Conley (657 yards), leaving tight end Jeb Blazevich (269) the leading returnee. Justin Scott-Wesley (311 yards in '13) was coming back but has considered quitting football instead. None of this sounds terribly promising, but remember that production was low last year and they should be throwing it more often, and protection should be very good.
|Rushing||2014 Rushing Rank: #12 (raw) #9 (adjusted)||2015 Projected Rushing Rank: #6 (adj.)
Nick Chubb (1,594 yards, 14 TDs) led the team as a freshman due to Todd Gurley (911 yards, 9 TDs) being suspended then injured. Chubb won't be alone now that Gurley's gone; two other backs (combined 640 yards) are back and Keith Marshall (759 yards in '12) is back. The offensive line returns starters Kolton Houston, John Theus, Greg Pyke, and Brandon Kublanow. Even if they pass the ball a bit more the run is going to be the team's offensive machine.
|2014 Adjusted Stats:||Rush Defense: #37 Pass Defense per-game: #12 Per-attempt: #6|
6 ret. starters
|'14 Scoring Defense: #16 (raw) #13 (adjusted)||'14 sacks: #61||'14 picks: #21|
|'15 Projected Scoring Defense: #18 (adjusted)
||'15 sacks: #33||'15 picks: #41|
The problem with Georgia's defense is the line, where all three starters are gone. To help matters there linebacker Jordan Jenkins (5 sacks) will sometimes play defensive end, but he'll also play any of the linebacker positions joining Leonard Floyd (6 sacks). The corps loses top tacklers Amarlo Herrera (115 tackles) and Ramik Wilson (110 tackles) but adds UAB transfer Jake Ganus (6 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss). The secondary is in great shape with essentially all four starters returning. So while the defense should be better than ever against the pass, there is weakness up front. Overall the defense might be a bit weaker.
- Kicking Game: Kicker Marshall Morgan (16 of 21 FG) is back along with punter Collin Barber (39.3 average).
- Return Game: Isaiah McKenzie averaged 12.1 yards per punt return and 28.1 per kickoff, with 3 touchdown returns; he's back. Departing RB Todd Gurley also had a kickoff touchdown return.
- Turnovers projection: Georgia's turnover situation doesn't look good. They had more luck than can be expected on fumbles; Greyson Lambert is much more interception-prone than Hutson Mason was; and the defense doesn't look poised to match last year's 16 picks.
Coaching Hot Seat Ranking: #67 (MILD)
Georgia fans continue to be lukewarm, on-balance, toward Mark Richt, even after reaching double-digits in the win column nine times out of 14. There is the sentiment that they should be even better, or just once have won a national title. It might be true that he doesn't get as much out of talent as he should; or, it just might be that he hasn't had that one great season just due to plain luck.
Recruiting 2015 Recruiting Rank: #3 2014 Recruiting Rank: #11
As mentioned, recruiting is a double-edged sword for Richt these days. If he doesn't do well people will ask why the hell isn't a school like Georgia recruiting well? And if he does recruit well—like this year, and last year, and the year before that—people wonder why the Bulldogs haven't won a national title. This year's top recruits are defensive tackle Trent Thompson and wide receiver Terry Godwin.
Georgia was a very unpredictable, even schizophrenic team last year. Their first game, beating Clemson 45-21, was fantastic offensively, as the Tigers allowed just one other opponent over 20 points. They followed that with a pedestrian 38-35 loss to South Carolina. Beating Troy 66-0 was another offensive marvel. Two average wins followed (Tennessee by 3, Vandy 44-17). Beating Missouri 34-0 was clearly off the charts defensively, just as scoring 45 on Arkansas was offensively. Naturally the Bulldogs followed with the ugly 38-20 loss to Florida. In game 9 they score 63 on Kentucky; in game 10 they held Auburn to 7 points. But two games later, they lost to Georgia Tech 30-24 in overtime. Against Louisville the "good" Georgia came out to play and won, 37-14.
Last year's prediction: Last year we projected a 10-2 season while favoring the Bulldogs in every game. We had them #7, and considering they finished #9 in the polls that was about right. No one was very far off in predicting Georgia's season, since they have the talent to be in the top ten but usually don't enter into the national title picture.
Georgia 2015 schedule & forecast
Straight up: 12-0 Cume: 10-2 Undefeated: 11%
Remarkably, this is the third straight year in which we favor the Bulldogs in every game. That's not the same thing as saying "we favor them to win every game" because we don't—we expect them to go 10-2, based on the odds we show for each game above.
But yes, we favor them in each game. But even though they are our #2 team, that doesn't mean that there aren't some very close games. The month of September should be a cakewalk for the Bulldogs, as they feast on ULM, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and finally the easiest game of all, Southern University.
But come October they're thrown into the fire. They host Alabama which we see as a tough home win. Then they face Tennessee, whom we think is on par with the Tide this year, and that game is in Knoxville. It's basically a tossup as we see it. And given the chance for a letdown after the big Bama game—win or lose—the Tennessee game looks like a classic 'trap'.
They certainly can't overlook Missouri, rival Florida, or Kentucky. They should beat all of those teams, but if they are undefeated they'll get each team's best shot and if they get cocky at all it's over. They end with Auburn and Georgia Tech on the road, both tough propositions, split up be Georgia Southern at home. In some ways the Georgia Southern game is a good thing, as they can prepare for two weeks for the triple-option prior to facing Georgia Tech.
If Georgia wins the SEC East, they'll face someone like Alabama in the conference championship game. It doesn't really matter—every team from the West is great this year. That fact, and the several tough games in their own conference, keep Georgia's Playoff hopes muted even as our #2 team in the nation. To get there you need to be consistent, and if this year's team is like last year's it's going to be tough. Still, there is going to be an SEC representative, and our pick for that, one way or another, is Georgia. The fact that the SEC championship is played in Atlanta doesn't exactly hurt.
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SportsRatings 2015 College Football Pre-season Top 128