Isaiah Crowell Dismissed: Are the Georgia Bulldogs Still SEC Contenders in 2012?
If you have yet to hear the news, sophomore running back Isaiah Crowell recently landed himself in some serious hot water. He was arrested on felony weapons charges, dismissed from the Georgia football team and now faces up to 10 years in prison if he is found guilty.
While football is the last thing that is on Crowell's mind at the moment, the show must go on for this Bulldogs team. And truthfully, losing a talented back—someone who rushed for 850 yards and scored six touchdowns as a freshman last season—is a huge blow heading into 2012.
Fans in Athens can't believe the news, and most now think the 2012 season is over before it has even begun. I had predicted that this Georgia team would win the SEC this season, but with the speedy Crowell no longer on the roster, things may have changed drastically.
Or have they?
Can the Bulldogs still reach the SEC championship game this year and give teams such as LSU, Alabama and Arkansas a run for their money? The answer is yes, and here's why.
Offense will still be effective
While Crowell was expected to take a huge step in 2012, let's not pretend like he was the only weapon on this Georgia offense.
The Bulldogs still have arguably the best quarterback in the SEC in Aaron Murray, who threw for over 3,100 yards and 35 touchdowns while playing behind an atrocious offensive line that allowed him to be sacked 32 times. He had six games last year of throwing for at least three touchdowns and is more than capable of leading this offense once again.
Besides experienced wide receivers such as Tavarres King and Marlon Brown to throw the ball to, Georgia also has a solid backfield despite losing Crowell.
Ken Malcome did a solid job at the end of the season, averaging a little over four yards a touch in limited action. Georgia also landed the top overall running back in the 2012 class in Keith Marshall, who is very similar to Crowell with his playmaking abilities.
Can Georgia still compete in the SEC without Isaiah Crowell?
There is no question Crowell will be missed on the offensive end, but this is an offense that averaged 32 points per contest. It will find ways to put the ball in the end zone without him.
Last time I checked, this is an SEC team we are talking about—and in this conference, it is the defense that wins games and has been the main reason six straight teams from this conference have won a national championship.
Georgia returns nine starters from a defense that was ranked fifth in the country in yards allowed. It were also second in the SEC with 35 sacks, third in the country in opponents' third-down percentage and tied with South Carolina with 32 forced turnovers, which was the most in the conference.
Alabama and LSU's defenses were given all of the credit last year, but the Bulldogs weren't far off when looking at the numbers. This unit alone will keep this team in every single game this season.
There is no question Georgia still has the talent to compete for an SEC title this season. With or without Crowell in the backfield, the Bulldogs should still at least make it to Atlanta just off the weak schedule.
Taking a trip to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks is surely going to be difficult, but can you find any other game on the schedule that worries you? Seriously? Alabama, LSU and Arkansas are all missing on this schedule. Georgia Tech and Tennessee have to travel to Athens. Florida is of course being played on a neutral field and has severe question marks on the offensive side of the ball.
Traveling to Missouri will be an early test, but the Tigers don't have nearly the amount of talent the Bulldogs have on either side of the ball. Georgia also has to take a trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the Bulldogs destroyed Auburn last season 45-7 and have won five of the last six meetings.
The truth is, Georgia is still in good shape to make it to the SEC championship game, which at least gives it a 50 percent chance to win this conference for the first time since 2005.
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