First off, I would like to say thanks to all the people on the B/R who have made my first few months here a great learning experience. Finally, I get to do some very in depth analysis on the best team in college football, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Before you read this you must know that I am an optimist so despite your beliefs on how the Dawgs will finish, I always believe that we are on the cusp of greatness.
Looking back on the past eight years, why shouldn't I believe it? I am truly ecstatic for the 2009 season. I hope you enjoy my article. Go Dawgs!
#17 Georgia Bulldogs
2008 Record: 10-3
Returning Starters: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
Offense: AJ Green, Sophomore Wide Receiver
Defense: Rennie Curran, Junior Linebacker
The offensive line finally has experience and will be one of the best in the nation. The defensive line and linebackers will be much improved.
A lot of unproven players are at skill positions. There is also a lack of depth in the secondary.
Senior quarterback Joe Cox is very familiar with the system. He has an accurate arm and is a player that the entire team can rally around.
Once the Dawgs decide on the one or two running backs that they will use, the running game should not change much. The running backs should be very productive.
Although the offensive line has no seniors, the Bulldogs will have the most veteran line in the SEC in terms of playing time.
With all the linemen healthy, it should be one of Georgia's primary strengths. It should allow Cox and the running backs to become comfortable in the backfield.
The Bulldogs have adequate depth at wide receiver. With AJ Green entering his sophomore season, Cox should have plenty of targets to throw to.
Do not expect Georgia's offense to put up the same numbers as last season, but do expect them to score enough point to win games.
Mark Richt stuck his neck out for defensive coordinator Willie Martinez and after holding Michigan State to twelve points in the Capitol One Bowl, there is hope for the defense.
The return of defensive tackle Jeff Owens makes not only defensive line, but the entire defense a much more formidable one. Owens maxes out at 535 and runs a 4.86 40 time. In other words, he is a monster.
Defensive ends Roderick Battle and Justin Houston, who is suspended for the first two games of the season, should create much better pass rush than the Dawgs had last year.
Linebackers Darryle Gamble, Akeem Dent, and Rennie Curran are veteran players who may be three of the best in the SEC.
Cornerback Prince Miller and safety Reshad Jones provide much needed leadership in the secondary. While Brandon Boykins, Sanders Commings, and Bryan Evans show a lot of promise, they will need Miller and Jones to teach them.
Any questions about the secondary will be answered on the season opener at Oklahoma State.
Special Teams Breakdown
Highly touted kicker Blair Walsh was less than impressive in his freshman year, especially on kickoffs. Let's pray that it was due to a lack of experience.
Sophomore punter Drew Butler will replace Brian Mimbs. Butler is extremely talented so there should not be much drop off at the position.
Although the Dawgs lost a lot of talent from last year, Georgia still has plenty of potential and a coach named Mark Richt.
I expect nothing less than 9-3 at the end of the regular season. The key for 2009 is for the team to get their swagger back and play with the same attitude and fire as the 2007 squad.
Schedule Analysis and Predictions
Georgia's schedule will be one of the toughest, if not, the toughest in the country. Out of conference games include at Oklahoma State, versus Arizona State, and at Georgia Tech. Can the Dawgs make it out alive?
September 5: #17 Georgia @ Oklahoma State
This has got to be one of the most anticipated games of the 2009 season. And it will be a great measure of where both teams are in terms of BCS contention.
The Cowboys return outstanding quarterback Zac Robinson, thrilling running back Kendall Hunter, and prolific receiver Dez Bryant on what should be one of the best offenses in the nation.
The Georgia defense must play like they did against Michigan State in order for the Bulldogs to have a chance.
However, in 2008, Oklahoma State had one of the worst defenses nationally and seemed to lose every game in which they played a quality opponent. For that reason, I'm going out on a limb and predicting that Georgia upsets OSU 31-28 proving that defense does win championships.
September 12: #14 Georgia vs South Carolina
The Gamecocks will again be a stumbling block in somebodies schedule but nothing more. Despite having much more talent than South Carolina, this game always seems to be a low-scoring defensive struggle for the Dawgs.
I expect this year to be no different. The last time Georgia played Carolina in Sanford Stadium they suffered an embarrassing loss that I'm sure many of us have not forgotten.
The Gamecock's offense was one of the worst in league last season, but it should be improved with experience at quarterback and the addition of freshman running back Jarvis Giles.
Their 13th-ranked defense from 2008 returns six starters. The Gamecocks were second in the league in passing defense, but with the return of only one starter in the secondary, depth becomes an issue.
This year's game will be just like every other year, except this time the Dawgs win it "between the hedges".
Georgia wins 17-10 on a 4th-quarter touchdown pass from Cox to Green.
September 19: #12 Georgia @ Arkansas
After starting off 2-0 and sitting on the cusp of a top-ten ranking, the Dawgs will need to make sure that they don't overlook Arkansas, which will be a much improved team next season.
Defense will be the biggest factor in this game. Although the Bulldog's defense will have already slowed down the big-play offense of Oklahoma State, they could potentially be facing another in Arkansas.
Projected starting quarterback Ryan Mallet has shown great arm strength and ability. The running game should be dangerous as well.
If Georgia can hold the Razorbacks under 24 points, they have a good shot at winning.
Arkansas' defense should be no different from the offense in that they should be much better after returning nine starters. I honestly think that this will be the best defense the Dawgs will have faced at this point.
Georgia is playing away from home, coming off two very difficult games, and Arkansas has a bye week before. However, the Dawgs are already battle-tested and are beginning to gel.
Georgia pulls off a close 24-21 victory on a Blair Walsh field goal late in the game.
September 26: #12 Georgia vs Arizona State
The Bulldogs will be very grateful for another home game in which they will play one of the easiest opponents on their gauntlet if a schedule.
The Sun Devils' offense was 100th in the nation in total offense last season and may be as bad, if not, worse this year.
Arizona State's talented quarterback Rudy Carpenter is gone and will be replaced by Danny Sullivan who has been less than impressive. The running game should be improved, but improvement from 113th in the country should not mean much. The Georgia defense should shut these guys down.
The defense is expected to be a strength for the Sun Devils. There is a lot of speed at most positions, but come on! The Dawg play in the SEC.
Arizona State won't be bringing anything Georgia hasn't already seen.
The Sept. 26 game in Athens will be the first blow out of Georgia's season. The Bulldogs play lights out and crush ASU 35-3.
October 3: #10 Georgia vs LSU
This game by far will be the hardest game that the Dawgs will play outside of Florida. If everything goes as predicted, both teams will be undefeated and "College Gameday" may be in Athens.
The LSU offense should be absolutely prolific next season now that the Tigers have found dual-threat quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson's supporting cast includes: running back Charlers Scott, wide receiver Brandon LaFell, and projected first-round draft pick Ciron Black.
I suspect most teams, including Georgia, will have a hard time containing LSU.
The Tiger's defense was downright pitiful last season, and this year's defense will need to be reconstructed by John Chavis. The Georgia offense should be the first quality offense LSU will face next year so we'll see how good the Tiger defense actually is.
Unfortunately, LSU will be too much for the Dawgs to handle as the Tigers hand Georgia their first loss in a shootout. Georgia falls 35-31 due to pure exhaustion from the first four games of the season.
October 10: #13 Georgia @ Tennessee
Although Lane Kiffin has kept his mouth shut in regards to the Bulldogs, I guarantee that Georgia, along with every other team in the SEC, is going to want to shut him and his Volunteers up.
Coming off a loss to LSU, the Bulldogs will need to get back on track and win this one.
The Volunteers had a horrible offense last season mostly due to inconsistent quarterback play by Jonathan Crompton and inadequate ability by the receiving corp.
There is really no way to predict how well the offense will perform under John Chaney's system, but I don't see anything miraculous happening in a year's time after having the 115th ranked offense in 2008.
The Vols return five starters from the nation's third-ranked defense, including SEC defensive player of the year Eric Berry. The secondary is extremely talented so the gameplan for the Dawgs should be to attack the inexperienced defensive line with the run.
I do expect Kiffin to eventually lead Tennessee back to prominence, but not this year. Dawgs win a defensive battle 14-6 as our starting running back has his "coming out party." Dawgs start the season with an impressive 5-1 mark.
October 17: #11 Georgia @ Vanderbilt
I think that the 2006 loss at home to Vandy forever forced Georgia never to overlook the Commodores. And after coming off of a bowl victory against Boston College, I guarantee Vanderbilt will have more than enough desire to upset a couple teams.
Vanderbilt finished 117th in total offense last season, however, their commitment to fundamentals led them to success. The offensive line should allow the running backs and quarterback Larry Smith yo become comfortable.
But it's still Vanderbilt. Don't expect too much.
Vandy returns 9 starters on defense this year. Vanderbilt's defense was the key to the Commodore's dream season, and it should again assist Vandy in their attempt to make a second consecutive bowl appearance.
As much as I respect Vanderbilt, the Commodores will be no match for the Bulldogs as Georgia takes it to the home team 42-13.
October 31: #8 Georgia vs Florida
I, along with ninety percent of the country, believe that the Gators will be virtually unstoppable in 2009. However, the Gators can get cocky, so an upset along the way is not out of the question.
Florida's offense should again be one of the best in the country. Tim Tebow is, well, Tim Tebow, running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are scary-good.
The biggest question is at wide receiver. The question isn't if someone will rise up as a playmaker but who.
Everyone has heard about the Gator defense returning all eleven starters from last season. Their defense was ninth in the nation. Need I say more?
Obviously, I can't pick the Dawgs to win against arguably the best Gator team in Florida's history. However, a bye week the week before makes the game much closer than last year's embarrassing defeat.
Gators secure the SEC East with a 35-24 victory over the Bulldogs.
November 7th: #11 Georgia vs Tennessee Tech
Tennessee Tech is easily the worst team the Dawgs play this season. The Eagles are bottom feeders in the FCS so they really don't stand a chance against the Bulldogs.
Georgia receives a nice "break" after a heart-breaking loss to Florida. Tennessee Tech goes down 52-14.
November 14: #11 Georgia vs Auburn
Both Auburn and Tennessee were the two biggest disappointments of the SEC in 2008.
The Tigers will be looking for improvement from new Head Coach Gene Chizik. The Bulldogs will be looking for their fourth win in a row against Auburn.
The Tiger offense was stagnant last season. Their defense gave them all the chances in the world, but the offense just couldn't produce.
If the offensive line can get over depth issues, senior running back Ben Tate should be even more dangerous. Watch for the Tigers to score more than 17 points per game next year.
The Auburn defense could be great next season, but once again, depth could present an issue after some injuries to key players in throughout the spring.
The Tigers could be a surprise to the fans and the rest of the SEC. Luckily, Auburn won't sneak up on the Dawgs late in the season because they will already know what Auburn is capable of.
Bulldogs make a streak out of the series and win it 28-17.
November 21: #9 Georgia vs Kentucky
After escaping Kentucky with a 42-38 win last season, the Bulldogs will need to remind Kentucky who they are.
Georgia will be hoping to secure a Top 10 spot entering the postseason.
Productivity in the offense will rely on the improvement of quarterback Mike Hartline. Wide receiver Randall Cobb is a home-run threat along with running back Alfonso Smith who has world class speed.
Georgia should not have a hard time containing Kentucky, but that is hard to say when the Wildcats gave the Georgia defense fits last season.
Despite only returning five starters on defense, the Wildcats should again be stout. Kentucky has created a reputation for having a respectable defense.
Unfortunately, the offenses have yet to help them out. Watch cornerback Trevard Lindley. He should have an outstanding senior season.
I expect this game to be a defensive battle, and maybe a little closer than predicted. Georgia wins 30-21 and heads into its showdown with Georgia Tech at 9-2.
November 28: #8 Georgia @ Georgia Tech
I cannot wait until this regular season finale, and it's been a seven long years since I could actually say that.
Although the loss last season stung (pun intended) it renewed the rivalry. The Bulldogs will head into this game looking for revenge while the Jackets will have a new sense of confidence.
Any questions about the ability of Paul Johnson's offense to work in the FBS were answered when Georgia Tech finished fourth in rushing offense last season.
However, Georgia Tech finished 116th in passing offense, making that the focus of the offseason. Look for running back Jonathan Dwyer to have a huge season.
The defense is set at linebacker and secondary, but the defensive line is a gigantic question. If those problems persist throughout the season, the best way to beat the Yellow Jackets will be with a taste of their own medicine, the run.
Georgia Tech will be many peoples' pick to win for the second year in a row. Unfortunately for them, history tells us otherwise. The Dawgs take back what is theirs and win a thriller 24-21. Go Dawgs!
Post Season Possibilities
The Bulldogs will finish the 2009 season in second place of the SEC East, a No. 7 ranking, and will watch as the Gators take down the winners of the SEC West.
The SEC Championship game will be the deciding factor for where the Dawgs will go in the postseason.
If the loser of the SEC championship game finishes 10-3, the Bulldogs could be looking at a bid to the Sugar Bowl while the Gators head to the National Title.
However, if the loser of the SEC finishes 11-2, they would most likely get the BCS bid while the Dawgs make a second consecutive trip to the Capitol One Bowl.
Regardless of the outcome of next season, it should be a great one. The team will again make us proud to say, "It's great to be a Georgia Bulldog!"