My post yesterday in response to David Hale’s question about whether an 8-5 mark in 201o would be acceptable got me to thinking about what factors I’m basing my expectations for this season on. I’ve probably touched on most of them here over the past few months, but it’s worth trying to organize them into a list of pluses and minuses.
- Schedule. Georgia doesn’t play three non-conference BCS-level foes this season, it doesn’t play two of those on the road and it doesn’t open with one. The Dawgs drop LSU for Mississippi State. Alabama isn’t on the slate. Idaho State may be the worst team Georgia has ever played. Even with the early road game stretch, this is still a less difficult schedule than the team played through last season.
- Regression to the mean. Georgia won’t finish minus-16 in turnover margin this season.
- Special teams. I did a recent comparison between Georgia’s and Florida’s special teams, but neglected to mention that there’s a sizeable gap between those two schools and the rest of the conference.
- Health. I hesitate to bring this up for fear of the jinx factor, but Richt has said that this is the first time in Athens that he’s looking at having no serious injury issues going into fall practice. That’s huge.
- SEC East. It’s looking a little down this season, right?
- Returning starters on offense. Nobody in the conference returns more starters on that side of the ball than Georgia. That suggests good things may be in store for the running game.
- Established offensive identity. One of my complaints early last season was that Bobo wasn’t certain about what he wanted his offense to do. By the end of the season, he had a clue. The experience on offense should reinforce that this year. Having the best play maker in the conference can’t hurt, either.
- Aaron Murray. Hey, look, he’s talented, he’s been in the system for two spring practices now and he’s surrounded by a boat load of experienced talent. He’s also an unproven redshirt freshman quarterback who’s about to get thrown into the SEC wars for the first time. It’s a crapshoot, at least to start with.
- Change of defensive scheme. Some of this will (I hope) be ameliorated by better fundamentals than what we’ve seen for the past two seasons and by (again, I hope) a commitment to put the best players on the field, regardless of seniority. But if nothing else, there are going to be inherent personnel issues that Grantham will try to coach around. The thing is, Xs and Os can only take you so far.
- Lack of experienced depth at quarterback and outside linebacker. If you’re a little nervous today, imagine what things would be like if some combination of Murray, Houston and Washington went down for part or all of the season. Gulp.
- 3-17. My gut tells me that 6-2 will be good enough to win the East this year. Georgia has a leg up on Florida in that the Gators get both LSU and Alabama on the schedule (back-to-back, to boot!) and the Dawgs miss both. But I don’t see Georgia rolling up a two game lead in the East on Florida, which means that the winner of the WLOCP should be in the driver’s seat in the East. That, um, isn’t good if you’re a Georgia fan.
I haven’t weighed these factors against each other yet. (That’s what July is for.) But I will say at this early vantage point for me, the good outweighs the bad, mainly due to the first two positives I’ve listed.
So what do you guys think?