How the USA Today Preseason Poll Alters Georgia's BCS Path

Brian JonesContributor IAugust 5, 2012

How the USA Today Preseason Poll Alters Georgia's BCS Path

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    The USA Today Sports Coaches' Poll was released earlier this week, and the Bulldogs come in at No. 6.

    That's not a surprise because of the plethora of returning starters they have and the fact they were 10-4 last season. The Bulldogs are one of seven SEC teams ranked in the poll, five of them are in the top 10.

    So with the new poll released, this only means the start of the season is getting closer. The Bulldogs know that if they are able to reach their goals during fall camp, they have a chance to do something special.

    But there will be some challenges on the way that could derail the Bulldogs from their ultimate goal, and that's playing in a BCS game.

    Here’s how the coaches' poll alters the Bulldogs' BCS path.

South Carolina

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    Everyone knows the South Carolina game will be huge. But with both teams ranked in the top 10, it’s not only a SEC East elimination game, the losing team will not reach a BCS bowl.

    The Gamecocks have had the Bulldogs' number the last few years, and they're a team that's like the Bulldogs in terms of having key returning starters.

    It will be interesting how Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore bounces back after an ACL injury, which kept him out the majority of last season.

    It will also be interesting to see if Aaron Murray can finally get a win against South Carolina, which is something he has not done yet.

Florida

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    The Florida Gators did not have a great 2011 season, but they should be better in 2012 because they have a total of 18 starters returning. That’s also the reason the Gators are ranked No. 25 in the coaches' poll.

    Georgia normally doesn’t play well in Jacksonville, but if Jarvis Jones has a monster game like he had last year (four sacks), the Bulldogs should have no issues defeating Florida for the second consecutive year.

    Florida is a dark horse to win the SEC East and would love to spoil the Bulldogs' chances of returning to the Georgia Dome for the second consecutive year. So, it’s safe to say both teams have October 27 circled on their calendar.

Auburn

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    The Auburn-Georgia game is always intense. Auburn leads the season series by a slim margin, but the Bulldogs have won the last five of six meetings.

    The Tigers have seven returning starters on offense and nine on defense. So, the fans are hoping for a much-improved team from last year.

    Georgia is better than the Tigers in terms of talent, but like Florida, Auburn is looking for redemption. And with this game being played at Jordan-Hare, the Bulldogs will have a tough challenge of taking down their cross-division rivals.

Missouri

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    This is a very interesting early-season contest.

    Missouri is not the same caliber team as Boise State or South Carolina, but the Tigers do present the Bulldogs an early challenge for many reasons.

    The main reason, however, is the fact that this will be the first SEC game for the Tigers and emotions will be running high. They would love nothing than to knock off a top-10 team early in the season to set the tone the rest of the way.

    This is a game where the suspensions for the Bulldogs will play a factor. Bacarri Rambo, Sanders Commings, Alec Ogletree and Chase Vasser will not likely play in this game. So, it’s vital for the reserves to play well in the opener to give them a boost of confidence.

Strength of Schedule

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    Speaking of the opening game, the Bulldogs will open the season against Buffalo, who is a not-so-strong, non-conference opponent. In fact, the Bulldogs non-conference opponents include the Bulls, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.

    If the Bulldogs do get in a situation where they win the SEC, but there are two more teams that have the same resume and are fighting for a BCS national championship spot, they may come up short because of the strength of schedule.

    Out of the four non-conference opponents, Georgia Southern may be the best, but they're a FCS school. Georgia Tech should be the most formidable, but the talent at Tech compared to UGA is like night and day.