Everyone in Dawg Nation is clamoring for a national title, but once again, in 2012 it will not happen. In the 10th anniversary of the 2002 13-1 season, I anticipate a repeat course of history.
Georgia is primed for a run in 2012. Possibly more so in 2013 if Aaron Murray sticks around and benefits from redshirt sophomore Faton Bauta running around Tim Tebow style in the backfield ala Florida in 2006 behind Chris Leak. But there is one key ingredient that will change in future seasons that is especially in Georgia's favor in 2012.
While some key recruits, like Keith Marshall, will will likely be riding pine until 2013, the one factor that UGA benefits from greatly in 2012 is not a personnel issue—it's scheduling.
There is not a single team on Georgia's 2012 calendar that they cannot beat. Georgia returns 9 starters on defense and 10 starters on offense from a team that went 10-4 with a similar schedule in 2011 and with one of the nations stingiest defenses that held LSU to no first downs in the SEC Championship Game last year. The team will likely be favored heading into every matchup and will likely be the favored preseason SEC East Champ.
For the first time in a while, Georgia will be able to start the season off with a cupcake in Buffalo to try to work the kinks out, and will not be forced to play South Carolina at the beginning of the season. When the Dawgs head to Columbia, where they traditionally play tight close games, they get to do so toward the middle of the season, a time when Georgia starts to shine and the wheels are usually about to start falling off for the Gamecocks. Additionally, we still don't know if Marcus Lattimore will be able to return to his Heisman contender form.
Georgia gets Tennessee and Vanderbilt at home. Strangely enough, anticipate the latter and not the former to be a brawl with the Dawgs facing a tough running game from Vandy and Jordan Rodgers under center. Georgia will also get Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech at home.
Away from the Hedges, besides South Carolina, Georgia will be the first SEC team to meet the newly added University of Missouri Tigers. Mizzou will not be a pushover. Out of the two new members, they will be the tougher test, especially far away from home will there will be a very small Georgia contingent.
Georgia will also head to Kentucky, whom I'm told fields a football team, as well as a trip down to The Plains to meet Auburn. I would have anticipated a better performance from Auburn than their 2011 showing, however the overhaul at both the offensive and defensive coordinator positions and the transfer of Michael Dyer puts them a year away from being any sort of significant threat in the SEC once again. Though I would anticipate Coach Brian Van Gorder to turn the defense around sooner than the offense than I expect the offense to find its legs.
Florida, the bane of existence of Dawg Nation for 20 years, is in a critical position. The team is on the precipice of falling into mediocrity for some time to come if a few bounces go in the favor of the rest of the SEC.
Up until this off-season Florida State has destroyed Florida on the recruiting front for several years now, South Florida is sniping some of their recruits and Miami is rebounding a little bit as well. Florida finally had a good recruiting year in 2012, but will it be too little too late? The better the other major Florida schools are, the better it is for the rest of the SEC when it comes to facing the Gators.
If the Gators have another 7-6 season, you can expect this uptick to dissipate in 2013. If the Dawgs can win their first back-to-back since the '88 and '89 seasons, then this series, which has very much been a pendulum affair, may start to swing back to Georgia's favor. Florida will have a great defense in 2012, but their offense will once again flounder and be totally confused against a Georgia defense that will be flying all over the field this coming season.
While many will expect Florida to be Georgia's 2012 test, I foresee the Dawgs winning this game soundly. The test will rather come in the second week of the season facing Missouri and their stud QB James Franklin. While Franklin will be coming off shoulder surgery, he should be ready to go, and Georgia's secondary needs to be ready and awake early in foreign territory.
Don't be misled by my prognostication, certainly Georgia has to be ready for every game. Not only Missouri, but South Carolina and Florida will be significant threats, and Auburn and Georgia Tech are always going to bring their best when it comes to facing the Dawgs. There could also be a couple of surprises along the way like Vandy or a surging Tennessee.
The point is that Georgia will likely be a preseason top ten team, will be favored in every game of the regular season, and every one of these games is winnable for this squad, in this schedule, with the talent and experience that this team has.
Finally, Georgia once again does not have to play arguably the three best teams in the SEC, all of whom will also likely be preseason top ten: Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana State.
Because of this, the Georgia Bulldogs will roll into the Georgia Dome 12-0 in 2012. But this is where Bulldog Nation's dreams of our first BCS era national title will once again end.
Where raw talent and an extremely favorable schedule will project Georgia to a repeat SEC East title in 2012, the Bulldogs will run into a well-tested and ready Alabama Crimson Tide squad that will supersede the ability of Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to build and call a creative game plan that suits the skill set of his players.
Georgia's talent will simply overwhelm most teams on this kind and gentle schedule all season, to the point that the players will be able to outperform their weakest link, Coach Bobo. But the game plan, or lack of it rather, will be too much to overcome with the experience of the Alabama squad that Georgia will likely face, not to mention the intelligence in game planning that is Saban v. Bobo.
Preferably, Georgia fans would like to see a game-planning chess match between Saban and Richt, but Richt's creativity was apparently packed up in D.J. Shockley's bags and left Athens after the 2005 season, allowing Bobo to take the reigns and run his new offense[sic], the high-powered draw play-only offense.
Fortunately, I expect Georgia to play and win the Sugar Bowl and finish with an exceptional 13-1 season, mirroring their 2002 effort.
Unfortunately, I suspect that the 12-0 regular season run will secure Bobo at the helm of the offense for future seasons, putting the chances of further national title runs during the 2013-2015 seasons, when Georgia's recent influx of top tier talent peaks, at serious risk.
Until Mark Richt takes running the offense as seriously as he has decided to take running the defense, there will be no additional crystal trophies in Athens.
UPDATE: Baccari Rambo, Sanders Commings, Alec Ogletree, and Branden Smith have now cost us the Mizzou game. James Franklin could be one of the most prolific passers in 2012 and he now has T.J. Moe running routes without having to worry about Georgia's two starting cornerbacks or one of college footballs best safeties because of their buffoonery. That prognostication lasted all of a week.
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