Why, Bill Connelly’s Georgia preview, of course. I mean, tell me this doesn’t sound familiar:
Georgia blew it last year. Badly.
Mark Richt’s Bulldogs spent most of the last two months playing at an absurdly high level. They crushed Missouri in Columbia, then bolted out to a huge lead and hit cruise control in Little Rock against Arkansas. They laughed at any sort of upset bid Kentucky thought it could make in Lexington, then made the most of a revenge attempt against Auburn. And in the Belk Bowl, they shoved Louisville around like a set of 11 rag dolls.
Combined with a season-opening pasting of Clemson, Georgia had the distinction of being one of the most frequently awesome teams in the country, despite losing surefire Heisman candidate Todd Gurley pretty early.
This frequently awesome team also got thumped by Florida, 38-20, thereby blowing the SEC East.
Hell, it might have been the most befuddling result of 2014. A team that allowed 443 combined rushing yards against Missouri, Louisville, Clemson, Tennessee and Arkansas, gave up 418 to Florida. Florida! A team that otherwise rushed for 167 per game!
If you keep nodding vigorously, it makes it harder to read the rest of his post.
The thing is, Bill keeps coming back to the same perspective most of us have about Georgia in 2015. The Dawgs should win the SEC East, but do you really want to bet the ranch on that happening? Even if most of the arguments against Georgia aren’t that strong when you look at them?
All of these are possible. But Georgia’s odds of winning a division title are as strong as almost anybody’s in the country. Let’s go ahead and walk through some rebuttals.
But Tennessee’s been recruiting so well for two years. So has Georgia. For more than two years. Tennessee peaked with a No. 4 ranking in this year’s 247Sports Composite. Georgia’s recruiting average over the last five years ranks sixth.
But Georgia has to play at Tennessee. True. Auburn, too. And Tennessee has to play at Alabama, Missouri, and Florida. In this year’s Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 (college-only version available for only $6 in PDF form), Georgia’s projected conference strength of schedule ranks 20th in the country; Tennessee’s ranks ninth.
But Missouri’s won back-to-back East titles. True. And the Tigers’ conference SOS ranks only 35th. But no one’s won an SEC division three times in a row in nearly 20 years (Florida, 1994-96), and the Tigers’ defensive line, such a strength in recent years, is rebuilding.
But the Dawgs choke every year. No, they really don’t.
- 2005: Won it
- 2006: Lost out to a better team, eventual national champion Florida
- 2007: Blew it with a dumb loss to South Carolina
- 2008: Lost out to a better team, eventual national champion Florida
- 2009-10: Weren’t good enough to blow anything
- 2011-12: Won it
- 2013: Lost out to a better team, Missouri
- 2014: Blew it with a dumb loss to Florida
Georgia has been the best team in the East five times in the last 10 seasons and has won the East three times. I realize that means they should have won five times, but I’ll take those odds.
And Bill doesn’t even mention there that Georgia’s done more than okay on the road in Auburn over the last decade. But you get his drift.
The bottom line is that Bill is a stats guy. And the stats shriek pretty loudly in Georgia’s favor.
I get that picking Georgia makes you nervous. And maybe it should. But even with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator, the Dawgs are the second-surest thing in the SEC behind Alabama. And considering they play in the weaker of the two divisions, maybe that makes them the surest, period.
The Football Outsiders Almanac 2015 projects the Dawgs fourth overall — ahead of Baylor, Auburn, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and other national favorites — and gives them a 77 percent chance of 6-2 or better in the SEC. For other teams in the East, those are 45 percent (Missouri), 14 percent (Tennessee), 12 percent (South Carolina), and 2 percent (Florida).
Tennessee, et al, might be capable of a run. Georgia simply is.
But Florida… but Florida.
Again, if you want to doubt the Dawgs because of this game, I can’t stop you. I have minimal explanation for it.
In the end, it’s not that Georgia isn’t without its share of flaws. It’s that Georgia is less flawed than any team in this season’s SEC East.
Georgia has enough legitimate questions to make you doubt. The quarterback situation has not sorted itself out yet, the new offensive coordinator isn’t the slam dunk that Pruitt appeared to be a year ago, and the run defense was downright bad at times last fall.
Still, the other East contenders have at least as many concerns and lower upside. Tennessee’s offensive line isn’t guaranteed to improve, and there are serious depth concerns throughout. Missouri is starting from scratch at receiver and on the defensive line. Florida barely has enough offensive linemen to fill a two-deep and has the same quarterback questions as the Dawgs, with fewer potential answers.
You have to go out farther on a limb to pick some other contender to take the East for the third season in a row. Which isn’t nearly the same thing as saying that can’t happen again.
… just because they blew it last year doesn’t mean they will do it each year. Remind yourself of that, even as visions of Kelvin Taylor running wild fill your head.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves if we tried.