Two more preseason predictions up today about Georgia’s chances in ’08: College Football News likes the Dawgs to go 10-2, while Sunday Morning Quarterback sees Georgia finishing fifth best in the nation.
In both cases, they find much to admire, but in the end, it comes down to you-know-what.
From CFN –
One Bold Prediction
Not only will Georgia not win the national title and not only will it not win the SEC, it’ll have to battle to win the East. While the team will be among the three best in America, things won’t go as expected because of three things: schedule, schedule, schedule. It’s asking way too much for anyone to get through unscathed at South Carolina, at LSU and at Auburn while hosting Alabama and Tennessee. Of course, there’s the Florida showdown to deal with, too..
And from SMQ –
… I emphasize “survival” because my main argument against UGA in the penthouse is the unusually brutal nature of the road it faces: as we saw Friday, only one of the mythical champions of the BCS era (Miami in 2001) has faced more than four teams that wound up in the final AP poll in their championship season, and Georgia likely faces six teams projected for the poll going into the season (Arizona State, Alabama, Tenessee, LSU, Florida, and Auburn). That doesn’t even include games at South Carolina and Kentucky, and the finale against Georgia Tech, maybe the most mysterious team in the country going into the year. After the first week of September, other than Vanderbilt (knock on wood) and a couple of actual bye weeks, Georgia has no breaks; LSU, Florida and Auburn in a four-week span, all away from home, is particularly brutal, almost unfairly so, and I think almost precludes a run to the top barring the same kind of highly unlikely assistance LSU benefitted from last year. Consider, for comparison, that division mate Florida, even while getting Miami and Florida State outside of the league, only plays three teams in the preseason rankings, draws Ole Miss and Arkansas from the West instead of Auburn and Alabama, and gets LSU and South Carolina at home. Even if the Dawgs beat the Gators in the Cocktail Party and drag home another big win or two — and there are enough of them that two or three high profile victories should probably be taken for granted — that’s too many mines in the field, too long to be “on,” to stagger out on top in December.
OK, so there’s that.
Aside from the schedule focus, there are some interesting points made at both sites. I find myself in pretty fair agreement with Fiutak’s overall records for the SEC teams – although I think he’s slightly optimistic about Auburn’s chances and he’s got LSU and South Carolina losing to each other (if only that could happen in the Florida-Tennessee game). And while I don’t agree with SMQ’s assessment that Florida will finish #1 when the dust settles, he’s spot on with this:
… in fact, if there were any offensive issues last year, it was that the Gators couldn’t get their hands on the ball enough:
You cannot score if you do not have the ball, and in each of its losses, Florida suffered from at least a four-and-a-half to five-minute deficit in possession due mainly to the epic drives allowed by the defense.
It’s just that, again, looking back, those three SEC losses weren’t flukes. They came against teams that had a clue about how to play good defense from a scoring perspective – those were your top three in scoring defense in the SEC last season. On the plus side for Florida, Auburn drops off the schedule this year. On the down side, I have to think that most SEC coaches aren’t idiots and are likely to absorb some of the lessons that this data reinforces.
UPDATE: Fiutak’s rejiggered a few of his projections. He’s now got Auburn at 9-3 and LSU losing to South Carolina. Ole Miss picked up a mystery win in there somewhere, which would make every school in the West bowl eligible.