Head Coach Mark Richt is now officially the "Dean" of the SEC coaches. He enters his ninth season as head coach in 2009 with a record of 82-22 at the school. That is an average of 10-2 per year with a 6-2 bowl record to go along with it.
For the second time in his coaching career he starts the season with a new quarterback. Just like in 2005, the quarterback is a fifth-year senior that has the respect and love of his teammates.
This time, however, he also has to replace his running back. Thankfully the cupboard is full of talented backs that can get the job done. The offensive line is healthy, experienced, and ready to pave the way for whoever totes the ball.
The front seven on defense will be solid with a set of defense backs that will be young, but led by senior Prince Miller. They will surely set the tone for the offense with an attack style of play that will get the offense back on the field for scoring opportunities.
Lets take a look at the Dawgs' 2009 schedule and see what they will have to do to make it back to Atlanta for a possible SEC Championship game.
Sept. 5 - @ Oklahoma State
After finishing the 2008 season with a 9-4 record and No. 13 ranking in the polls, the Cowboys return in 2009 ranked around the top 10 with an offense that is fully loaded.
Last season they rushed for over 3,000 yards, passed for over 3,000 yards, and their entire offense backfield returns except for TE Brandon Pettigrew. QB Zac Robinson, RB Kendall Hunter, and WR Dez Bryant will look to avenge the 35-14 loss to the Dawgs in 2007 between the hedges.
Sept. 12 - South Carolina
After another disappointing 7-6 finish, the 'Ol Ball coach will look to get the offense on track with QB Stephen Garcia. The Gamecocks will be replacing a ton of players on both offense and defense. Losing TE Jared Cook is a major blow for the offense as he was their No. 1 option in the passing game.
Losing three starters out of the defensive backfield will be a daunting task to replace. Will this be Spurrier's final season wearing the Gamecock visor? The Dawgs won in Columbia 14-7 in 2008.
Sept. 19 - @ Arkansas
Bobby Petrino looks to improve on a 5-7 first year in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks return 17 out of there 22 starters, but quarterback will be the biggest question mark. Will it be Michigan transfer Ryan Mallet or will it be red-shirt freshman Tyler Wilson?
Petrino has yet to show the offensive firepower he was known for at Louisville and it will be another year before he is able to do so. The Dawgs won in Athens 23-20 back in 2005.
Sept. 26 - Arizona State
Rudy Carpenter is gone and in steps senior Danny Sullivan. After a disappointing 5-7 2008 campaign, Sullivan will look to get the ball to possibly the best receiving trio in the Pac-10.
The defense will be the strength of the Sun Devils once again as they have a ton of speed and will certainly pressure opposing quarterbacks. The Devils will look to avenge the 27-10 loss the Dawgs handed them in Tempe last season.
Oct. 3 - LSU
After expecting a National Title run in 2008, the Tigers fell flat on their faces going 8-5. The biggest improvement for the Tigers will be the quarterback position. Jarrett Lee is no longer the starter, so the Tigers will not have to worry about the seven pick-sixes he threw last season.
Sophomore Jordan Jefferson looked impressive over the final two games last year.
The Tigers return RB Charles Scott and WR Brandan LeFell which will help the young QB make plays. The defense only returns six starters, but with D-Coordinator John Chavis and the recruiting of Les Miles, the defense will just reload. The Tigers were embarrassed in Death Valley last season by the Dawgs 52-38.
Oct. 10 - @ Tennessee
Every team in the SEC East has circled this game on the calendar because of new coach Lane Kiffin and his mouth. Kiffin has basically called out every coach in the SEC in his short time as coach of the Vols and now it is time for him to back it up.
With a huge question mark at the quarterback position, little Kiffin better hope big Kiffin (his dad and D-Coordinator, Monte) gets the defense playing stellar football if they expect to finish at .500. Coach Richt is 5-3 against the Vols including 3-1 in Knoxville. Georgia defeated Tennessee last year in Athens 26-14.
Oct. 17 - @ Vanderbilt
The question now becomes "Has Vandy finally arrived?" Head coach Bobby Johnson led the 'Dores to their first winning season since 1982 and even won their bowl game. Can the 'Dores repeat their success in 2009?
Even though they return 18 starters, they will play 12 straight weeks with no bye. In the SEC that will be an almost impossible task to accomplish. Dawgs won in Athens 24-14 in 2008.
Oct. 24 - Bye
Oct. 31 - Florida "The Cocktail Party" in Jacksonville
Last year the Gators avenged the 42-30 Dawgs win in 2007 with a 49-10 victory in 2008 on their way to a second national title in three years. The Gators return senior Tim Tebow at quarterback and all 11 starter on defense. They look like they will be tough to stop in 2009, but there is one bright spot for the Dawgs.
The Gators will have to play @ LSU, home to Arkansas, and @ Miss. State in the three weeks heading into this game, while the Dawgs will have their off week to rest and an extra week to prepare for Tebow and Urban's spread offense.
Nov. 7 - Tennessee Tech
The Dawgs will rest after what is sure to be a tough game in the "Cocktail Party" win or lose. Looks like coach Richt is taking tips from Spurrier when he was the Gator coach by having a bye week before the "Cocktail Party" and a playing a cupcake afterwards.
Nov. 14 - Auburn
Auburn will look to improve on a season that cost the former "Dean", Tommy Tuberville, his job. The Tigers brought in Gene Chizik to turn things around. The first thing Chizik did was hire spread offense guru Gus Malzahn to run his famous offense.
The problem is finding the right quarterback to run it effectively. Last year the Dawgs won in Auburn 17-13.
Nov. 21 - Kentucky
Coach Rich Brooks has the Kentucky faithful ecstatic about 2009 after winning their third straight bowl game. They return the exciting Randall Cobb who will play receiver this year instead of quarterback.
The defense will be good this year, so the only question will be who will get the ball to Cobb on the outside. Georgia won a barn burner 42-38 on a Stafford to Green touchdown with 1:54 left to play.
Nov. 28 - @ Georgia Tech
The critics said that Paul Johnson's triple option attack would never work at Georgia Tech. Did he ever prove them wrong. Johnson is sure to have even more success with all of his play makers returning. With another year of experience running the triple option, the Yellow Jackets are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC.
The Dawgs looked good for the first half against Tech leading 28-12, but then the option kicked in and the Jackets rolled to 45-42 victory in Athens. It was the first victory in eight seasons for the Jackets in this series.
I can see the Dawgs winning eight games with the toss up games being Oklahoma State, LSU, Florida, and Georgia Tech. With the ball bouncing their way in some of these games they could easily continue with Richt's average of 10 wins. Who knows, maybe they will be able to accomplish what the 2005 team was able to: an SEC championship.
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