I picked up my Steele’s 2016 College Football Preview Saturday night and spent much of yesterday with my nose buried in it. From 2012-5, Steele was pretty high on Georgia’s chances. Not so much this season, though. The Dawgs sit at 29th in his composite power rankings, although he ranks them 23rd after factoring in scheduling.
It’s pretty easy to sum up his qualms about the team. Although there’s talent and coaching pedigree, Georgia is lacking in experience and Steele puts some emphasis on the learning curve Smart and his program have to track first.
Here are some bullet points to help you see the picture Steele paints:
- All-American teams. Steele picks four teams. Georgia has two players, Nick Chubb and Greg Pyke, both third teamers.
- All-SEC teams. Again, four teams of 29 each. Georgia places a total of nine on them. Pyke is the only first teamer, as Chubb makes second team. Two newcomers, Eason and Catalina, make his fourth team.
- Top individual units. Georgia makes seven of his eight lists of the top 45-50 at each position group. The whiff is at special teams, which is understandable. Best showings are at running back (4th) and offensive line (7th). Georgia barely makes the cut at two others, though — defensive line (45 out of 46) and quarterback (48 out of 50). (To add insult to injury, Steele ranks Georgia Tech at 27th in quarterbacks.)
- Conference unit rankings. Georgia doesn’t place first in any category.
Put it all together and you’ve got a team that is “a legitimate contender in the SEC East”. That’s a considerable notch down from labeling Alabama, LSU and Tennessee national title contenders.
But Steele also sees Georgia as one of his Surprise Teams, noting that the Ole Miss game may be the only one Georgia enters as an underdog this season. He then goes on to say,
In the last 3 years Georgia has been favored in 36 of their 39 games but have a disappointing record of 28-11 in that span. Sometimes a coaching change (Richt was there 15 years) can bring a different attitude and maybe take care of business in that favorites role.
There are a couple of statistical trouble spots he notes.
First, over the last 14 years, teams with three or more net close wins in a season have an almost 80% chance of having a weaker or the same win total the following season. Georgia had a net of four close wins in 2015.
Second, over the last nine years, Steele found no school losing more than 34 or more starts from a team that finished with 10 or more wins improved its record the following season.
All in all, there’s enough uncertainty about Georgia’s 2016 chances to reinforce my ambiguity about the season. I do think the schedule is weak enough for nine wins; it’s that tenth one that makes me feel at times like I’m reaching. We’ll see soon enough.