If there’s one thing for optimists about Georgia’s 2011 season to hang their hats on, it’s the schedule. It’s about as beautifully structured as Mark Richt could hope for: no Alabama, Arkansas or LSU from the SEC West, a bye week before the Florida game, New Mexico State inserted between the Florida and Auburn games and no game in the stadium of an opponent with a winning record in 2010.
Overall, John Pennington rates it as the eighth-easiest schedule of any team in the SEC. But it’s not just the easy parts that are attractive. Georgia opens with two ranked opponents, but will not leave the state to play either. Given the attention that the opener against Boise State will generate, if the Dawgs can get off to a good start in the first two games (boys, hang on to those jerseys!), they will find themselves highly ranked.
It’s hardly worth saying that this is no guarantee of success. But it’s why I understand cocknfire’s reasoning here:
… I will say this much: If you were to combine the likelihood of an SEC East team going undefeated or having just one loss and having the schedule that would put it in the national championship game, I think Georgia is the best choice. I just have a difficult time seeing anyone in the east go undefeated or once-defeated this year.
And here’s something you can think about and chuckle over: during the SEC’s current fabulous run of BCS title game winners, it hasn’t been the preseason front-runner that’s had the greatest success. In fact, during the last five years, the highest ranked team in the conference has only won the big game once.
… Coming off a 3-5 SEC slate in 2009 (8-5 overall), Auburn was preseason No. 22 and ranked fifth among SEC teams in the poll. So while Alabama will likely be the highest-ranked SEC team in the preseason AP Poll, don’t ignore teams with similar resumes to this season’s Auburn, entering 2011.
That’s a spot LSU could find itself in entering 2011. The Tigers, as Chris Low noted, were 5-2 against ranked teams in 2010.
We’re talking about Florida, which finished 8-5 overall, 4-4 in SEC and won the Outback Bowl just as Auburn did to end the 2009 season.
There’s also Georgia, which was 3-5 in the SEC, but could have the top quarterback in the SEC next season in Aaron Murray.