Georgia Football: What Are Realistic Expectations in 2014?
The college football season has come to an end, and that means it’s now time to take an early look at the 2014 season.
When it comes to the Georgia Bulldogs in 2014, college football expert Mark Schlabach has them ranked No. 11 in his 2014 preseason poll. He said that despite the disappointment of the 2013 season, a lot of the injured players will return, as well as 10 starters on defense.
So if the Bulldogs do stay healthy and the defense does improve, how good can they really be in 2014?
Here are some realistic expectations for the Bulldogs for this upcoming season.
Hutson Mason Will Have a Big Year
Schlabach also mentioned that Mason played pretty well in the two starts he made in place of Aaron Murray. And with a full offseason to work with the returning skill players like Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, Mason should have a big season.
If things go according to plan, Mason should throw for 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. In the limited time he saw last year (four total games, two starts), he threw for 968 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mason has been in the system for the last four years, so even though he will have a lot to work on during the offseason, he should have no issues making plays when the Bulldogs kickoff the 2014 season.
Todd Gurley Will Have a Hiesman-Like Season
Another reason Mason should have a big year is he will have a healthy Todd Gurley by his side.
Gurley only rushed for 989 yards, but he did not play in three games due to an ankle injury he suffered against LSU.
Also, he emerged as one of the Bulldogs' top receivers, catching 37 passes for 441 yards and six touchdowns, so Gurley had over 1,400 yards from scrimmage.
With his ankle fully healed this upcoming season, there is no reason why Gurley can’t rush for over 1,300 yards and also have 500 receiving yards.
He also should have around 20 total touchdowns, which should put him in the running for the Heisman if the Bulldogs win consistently.
The Defense Will Be Improved
The defense was a huge weakness for the Bulldogs as they gave up nearly 30 points per game last year.
However, with 10 starters returning, one would have to think they will be better in 2014.
How much better remains to be seen, but odds are they won’t be 11th in scoring defense and 10th in passing defense, which was really the reason the defense underperformed.
But the young secondary players like Shaq Wiggins, Brendan Langley, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews will be improved. And when you add linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera in the mix, the defense will not have the same issues they suffered in 2013.
The Bulldogs Will Win the SEC East
Winning the SEC is always a difficult task, especially when you have to face a team like Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M to get to that goal.
But the Bulldogs can win the SEC East if they can stay healthy.
South Carolina and Missouri will be tough opponents, but they are not unstoppable. Georgia can match up with each team offensively and the defense just can’t give up the big play.
In fact, had the Bulldogs been more disciplined on defense last year, they would have been in the mix to win the SEC East.
Since 2011, the Bulldogs have won or been in the mix to win the SEC East title. It should not change in 2014.
Can the Expectations Be Met?
So the question is can the Bulldogs meet these expectations?
It might be difficult, but they can be met if they have progressed from last season.
Talent has never been an issue for the Bulldogs, it has just been a matter of everyone putting it together. Last year was a prime example of that but they also had a bunch of young players getting action in key positions.
With the group being a year older, they should take a huge step forward. But if they want to reach the SEC mountain and have a chance to play in the College Football Playoff they need to not only exceed expectations, they have to be on a level that Florida State and Auburn were on this past season, which is why both teams were in the BCS National title game.