Georgia Bulldogs Football: Power Ranking Each Defense Bulldogs Will Face in 2012

David BoutinContributor IIIAugust 30, 2012

Georgia Bulldogs Football: Power Ranking Each Defense Bulldogs Will Face in 2012

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    The Georgia Bulldogs come into the 2012 season favored to win the SEC East for the second straight season.

    The Bulldogs return a stout defense from 2011, but for the 'Dawgs to make a return trip to Atlanta, they're certainly going to be tested by some pretty good defenses along the way.

    Here is a power ranking of every defense the Bulldogs will face in 2012.

    *All statistics regarding returning starters courtesy PhilSteele.com.

12. Florida Atlantic

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    Returning Starters: 8

    Florida Atlantic ranked 103rd in the nation in scoring defense last season.

    They do return eight starters, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference for a team that gave up nearly 35 points per game in the Sun Belt Conference.

11. Buffalo Bulls

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    Returning Starters: 7

    While Buffalo doesn't look quite as bad as Florida Atlantic, it does play in the Mid-Atlantic Conference and did give up over 29 points per game in 2011.

    Making matters worse, the Bulls will be without arguably their best defensive player when they face the Bulldogs. Khalil Mack will be serving a one-game suspension when the Bulls travel to Athens in Week 1.

10. Ole Miss Rebels

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    Returning Starters: 7

    Ole Miss ranked at the bottom of the SEC in nearly every defensive category in 2011. There’s not much reason to be optimistic about anything changing in 2012.

    The Rebels defense is going to have some long afternoons again this season.

9. Georgia Southern Eagles

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    Georgia Southern competes in the Football Championship Subdivision, so this one was a little bit harder to gauge.

    But based on the fact that the Eagles gave up 45 points to Alabama last season, whereas Ole Miss gave up 52, rank Georgia Southern one higher than the Rebels.

8. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Returning Starters: 6

    Kentucky’s defense only returns six starters from last season and lost star linebacker Danny Trevathan to the NFL.

    Don’t expect much out of this defensive unit this season, but they may play with a little fire in the belly, as head coach Joker Phillips’ job may just be on the line.

7. Missouri Tigers

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    Returning Starters: 6

    Entering their first year in the SEC, expect the Tigers to struggle up front against the big, talented offensive fronts in the SEC.  

    The defensive front is arguably the most important unit when it comes to winning in the SEC, and the Tigers' line is woefully undersized with the exception of tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richardson, however, missed most of the spring due to an offseason shoulder surgery. The Tigers will need him at 100 percent, but only time will tell if he's there.

    There are also question marks at safety for Mizzou, with the Tigers having neither depth nor much experience at that position.

6. Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Returning Starters: 7

    Vanderbilt comes into the 2012 season with a lot of holes to fill. The Commodores lost their two best defensive players, cornerback Casey Hayward and linebacker Chris Marve.

    The ‘Dores also lost seniors Tim Fugger, who led the team with seven sacks, and Sean Richardson, who was second on the team with 63 tackles, behind only the aforementioned Marve.

    Vanderbilt returns playmakers Rob Lohr, Barron Dixon, Kenny Ladler, Walker May and Trey Wilson, but look for the Commodores to take a step back defensively compared to last season.

5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Returning Starters: 7

    Georgia Tech has experience in the secondary with cornerbacks Louis Young and Rod Sweeting and safety Fred Holton.

    Linebackers Jeremiah Attaochu and Brandon Watts should also bring some pressure in the backfield on pass rushes.

    Still, the Yellow Jackets gave up 26.1 points per game in 2011.

    Defensive coordinator Al Groh needs to continue to improve the defense in his third year at Tech for the Yellow Jacket defense to complement Paul Johnson’s offense.

4. Auburn Tigers

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    Returning Starters: 9

    Returning most of its starters from a season ago should help Auburn with experience on defense.

    Highlighting the returning players are end Corey Lemonier and cornerback Chris Davis, the defensive MVP from the Chic-Fil-A Bowl.

    However, there are some questions about how they will transition under first-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

    Georgia fans are certainly familiar with VanGorder, who led a stout UGA defense from 2001-2004 before departing for the NFL.

    Now back in the SEC, there’s no doubt VanGorder will be an asset to the Auburn defense in the future, but his impact this season remains to be seen.

3. Tennessee Volunteers

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    Returning Starters: 8

    The Volunteers return eight starters on defense, whose strength looks to be the secondary.

    Senior Prentiss Waggner returns for his final season in Knoxville. Bulldog fans should remember Waggner well, as he racked up 10 tackles against Georgia last season.  

    Cornerback Justin Coleman and safety Brian Randolph are both sophomores, but both have starting experience and should only get better as the season wears on.

    Tennessee does need to shore up its run defense, which ranked eighth in the SEC in 2011, surrendering nearly 163 yards per game.

2. South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Returning Starters: 8

    South Carolina lost two elite defensive players from last season, end Melvin Ingram and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

    But don’t cry too much for the Gamecocks, as they’ll just reload.

    With Devin Taylor and sophomore Jadeveon Clowney bookending the line, the ‘Cocks have the best tandem at end that UGA will face all season.

    South Carolina starts three seniors at linebacker, so there will be no lack of experience there, and they have plenty of depth.

    The only concern for this defense is in the secondary, especially with the recent injury to cornerback Akeem Auguste, which will keep him sidelined for at least the first few weeks of the season.

    However, senior safety D.J. Swearinger will be a presence in the secondary. The Gamecocks should weather their early schedule and will likely have Auguste back before their first real test when UGA comes calling October 6.

1. Florida Gators

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    Returning Starters: 10

    Florida returns nearly its entire defense, which was ranked eighth nationally in total defense in 2011. Don’t look for the Gators to slow down any in 2012, as they are loaded in every position on defense.

    The line will be anchored by Sharrif Floyd, a monster tackle coming in at 6’3” and 303 pounds.

    The linebacker corps is deep and features one of the best in the nation in Michael Bostic. Racking up 94 tackles in 2011, Bostic has added size and strength and will be even better in 2012 for the Gators.

    Florida is also extremely deep in the secondary. Cornerback Marcus Roberson returns and will start opposite Louicheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins.  And with junior Matt Elam and senior Josh Evans at safety, the Gator secondary looks awfully scary.