Pete Fiutak’s Pre-Spring Rankings piece is useful for getting some idea of the losses each of the seven programs in Georgia’s division have suffered. He also links within this piece to his schedule analysis for each team.
The main takeaway is that everybody’s losing key parts. There doesn’t appear to be a team similar to last year’s Kentucky squad that patiently built up senior depth over time on its way to a ten-win season. You would think that would favor the teams that have recruited well. (More on that in just a sec.)
Some quick non-Georgia thoughts: Vandy’s gonna Vandy; Kentucky isn’t going to bounce back from losing its two best players; Tennessee looks like it’s going to be weak along both lines of scrimmage; if Mizzou’s secondary improves, Fiutak may have underrated them; “The Gamecocks are an interesting blend of loaded and concerning.”; it’s hard to see how Felipe Franks takes the next step behind what looks to be a weak offensive line.
As far as scheduling goes, Missouri wins the cross-divisional games contest, facing Ole Miss and Arkansas. That appears to be a particularly big deal this season, because several East squads have brutal West meetings in store (I’m looking at you, Gamecocks).
Non-conference scheduling isn’t exactly scintillating, but at least South Carolina and Florida are playing two P5 schools like the Dawgs are.
About that recruiting well, thing, well…
Last Wednesday’s afternoon release of the 247Sports’ final Top247 recruit rankings provided the latest glimpse of where premier prep football players plan to compete in college. This list compiles the elite talents of a 2019 class destined to impact championship chases and, eventually, NFL drafts in the years ahead.
Georgia is among the country’s best-represented programs with 13 signees making the cut…
Recruiting classes won’t be complete for another two weeks but the vast majority of scholarship slots have been filled by most teams. That includes Georgia, which carries 22 signees and one verbal commitment in a class ranked No. 2 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings.
With more than half of those athletes landing in the Top247, it’s clear the Bulldogs are recruiting at a top-tier level. Georgia (20) is second only to Alabama (27) in composite blue-chip prospects (4- or 5-star) in the 2019 cycle.
Here’s how the rest of the SEC East stacks up in comparison with Georgia’s 13 Top247 recruits in 2019:
- Florida 6
- Kentucky 0
- Missouri 0
- South Carolina 4
- Tennessee 8
- Vanderbilt 0
That, of course, follows in the wake of Smart’s previous dominant recruiting classes. Just to give you an idea of how dominant, here’s a note about Florida: “In its first cycle under Dan Mullen, Florida is knocking on the door of its first top 10 class in five years.” Georgia, of course, hasn’t finished outside the top 10 with any of Smart’s recruiting classes and is in the top three since 2017.
I know we’ll hear some buzz as we get closer to the season starter about how Florida is gaining on Georgia — actually, we already have heard some of that — but on paper, at least, it’s hard to see where that’s coming from. That’s not to say it’s inconceivable the Gators supplant the Dawgs this season, but it’ll take some unusual developments that can’t be seen from here at the moment.
As far as any other team in the East representing a legitimate threat, count me as someone who thinks Missouri has a certain dark horse potential, presuming Kelly Bryant can come in and keep things going offensively. What do you guys see from here?
UPDATE: One more thing to factor into the equation is Bill Connelly’s returning production numbers. Tennessee is second in his rankings, which is no surprise, but considering how far the Vols have to go, not such a big deal.
Florida, however, is.
Here are 2018’s top 10 teams, according to the revamped version of S&P+, re-ranked in order of 2019 returning production:
- LSU (76 percent, 15th)
- Florida (74 percent, 26th)
- Clemson (64 percent, 53rd)
- Oklahoma (64 percent, 57th)
- Ohio State (63 percent, 62nd)
- Alabama (63 percent, 63rd)
- Michigan (63 percent, 68th)
- Georgia (62 percent, 69th)
- Auburn (60 percent, 84th)
- Mississippi State (57 percent, 92nd)
It’s safe to say Alabama will begin second in the preseason polls, and sportsbooks are listing Georgia in the top four. But there could be legitimate reason for putting four SEC teams near the top, including LSU, which overachieved last year’s returning production, and Florida. The Tigers and Gators went a combined 21-6 in 2018 and ranked fifth and ninth, respectively, in the revamped S&P+. And now they’re both going to be projected to improve by a decent amount.
In fact, if we were to use returning production as the only S&P+ projection factor — eschewing recruiting and recent history — here’s how the projected top five would take shape. Again, this would be based on nothing more than last year’s S&P+ ratings and this year’s returning production, not the complete formula:
- Alabama (+36.7 adjusted points per game)
- Georgia (+33.2)
- Clemson (+30.2)
- LSU (+28.9)
- Florida (+27.1)
Remember, Dan Mullen made a good living on returning talent at Mississippi State. If Florida is in better shape than I initially expected in that regard, the Gators could be formidable.