We're previewing the upcoming season with help from SBNation. Today, MaconDawg from Dawg Sports talks Georgia.
Georgia looks to put a complete season together in 2012 after dropping the first two and the last two games of the 2011 season, including a triple-overtime heartbreaker to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl. The Bulldogs have a favorable home schedule, and head coach Mark Richt has a stellar career record Between The Hedges (56-13). Staunch road matchups with South Carolina (Oct. 6) and Auburn (Nov. 10) will test Georgia, and a marquee meeting with rival Florida is set for October 27 in Jacksonville.
2011 Record: 10-4
2011 Bowl: Outback Bowl, Loss vs. Michigan State, 33-30 (3OT)
2012 Bowl Projections:
Orlando Bowl History:
1984 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Florida State, 17-17
1993 Florida Citrus Bowl vs. Ohio State, 21-14
2004 Capital One Bowl vs. Purdue, 34-27
2009 Capital One Bowl vs. Michigan State, 24-12
Q&A with MaconDawg from Dawg Sports
Describe the 2011 season in two words.
2 words: up, down. Georgia fans were led on a white-knuckle ride last year, dropping the first two games of the season, ripping off ten wins in a row to get to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game, then dropping that one and the 2011 Outback Bowl to Michigan State. In the end, the Bulldogs finished with a respectable ten win campaign, and return a veteran team primed to make a run at an SEC title. But it sure wasn't easy.
Will new starters along the o-line hinder Aaron Murray’s chances of setting a new UGA career touchdown record?
The interesting thing about Georgia's front five is that they're more experienced than they're getting credit for. While the unit lost three starters from 2011, true freshman right tackle John Theus is the only member of the expected starting five without significant playing time under his belt. Left tackle Kenarious Gates has started since he was a true freshman.
Guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee started at times due to injuries in 2011, and Burnette ultimately earned a spot outright. Center David "Boss" Andrews played as a true freshman behind current Texans center Ben Jones in 2011, and while he doesn't have ideal size, is strong and plays with excellent leverage. Georgia also has a compliment of experienced reserves like Austin and Hunter Long, and Watts Dantzler, all of whom saw time on the field in 2011. Finally, perhaps the Bulldogs best lineman is Kolton Houston, who due to a wrongheaded and draconian NCAA ruling on a substance he was given following shoulder surgery in 2010, is still ineligible to take the field. If Houston is cleared to suit up, he'll almost certainly vault into the starting lineup.
Bottom line, Aaron Murray has expressed confidence in Georgia's big uglies, and I agree with him.
What’s the biggest area of improvement for the veteran Georgia D in 2012?
The Georgia defense doesn't lose much from a unit which ranked among the top ten in the country in 2011. But as we saw in come-from-ahead losses to LSU in the SEC Championship Game and Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, the D has to do a better job finishing games. Admittedly, in both season ending losses the offense didn't give then a lot of help. And a lot of the problem could also be traced to a lack of depth which should be better in 2012. But football games are won and lost in the 4th quarter, and the Dawg D was really hot and cold during important 4th quarters last season.
On paper, what looks like the toughest game this season?
Georgia may very well be favored in every regular season game during 2012. But one game seems to have Bulldog fans' attention right now: the September 8th road trip to Missouri. The Tigers will be playing their first SEC contest at home, under the lights, and likely in front of a national television audience. Coach Gary Pinkel's wide open offense sets up as a big test for a Georgia secondary that will likely be without at least one suspended starter, 2011 All-America selection Bacarri Rambo. If the 'Dawgs get past that early test, they could build serious momentum headed into the heart of the SEC schedule.
Best case/worst case scenario for the postseason.
There's no better place to be than the Capital One Bowl right? Actually, Georgia fans will likely be disappointed without a return trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game. That would likely entail a matchup with either Alabama or LSU, either of whom would be a favorite over Georgia. But if recent history is any guide, a win in that one would lead to a chance to play for all the marbles in Miami.
However, no team in the SEC is ever more than a couple of bad bounces and an unfortunately timed injury here and there from disaster. If things go poorly, I could envision Georgia at 8-4 in the Liberty or Music City Bowl. Given the number of returning starters and generally favorable schedule 2012 presents, that would be a real disappointment.