Georgia Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

Andrew HallCorrespondent IIIMay 26, 2014

Georgia Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

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    Georgia head coach Mark Richt
    Georgia head coach Mark RichtDave Tulis/Associated Press

    The college football season may still be three months away, but with offseason staples like national signing day and spring practice already past, fans can now shift their focus forward to the fall.

    For Georgia, the Bulldogs are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2013 season that was riddled by injuries, a porous defense and special teams mishaps.  Fortunately, the Dawgs will have plenty of opportunities to show that the offense is still potent—even without four-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray—and the defense will have an opportunity to prove itself under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

    Here are some early game-by-game predictions for the Dawgs' 2014 season.

August 30: Vs. Clemson

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    Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney
    Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Last year, Georgia lost by a heartbreaking three-point margin to Clemson.  Despite that narrow shortcoming, there's plenty of cause for optimism heading into the season-opening rematch.

    Turnovers and special teams errors plagued the Dawgs during their road loss to the Tigers in 2013, and yet the game was still a classic.  If Georgia can clean up mistakes in 2014, the outcome could be different.

    Furthermore, Clemson's high-powered offense will be looking to replace more weapons than Georgia's.  This will be the Tigers' first game without quarterback Tajh Boyd, but they'll also be looking to replace one of the best playmakers in all of college football in Sammy Watkins and their second-leading receiver, Martavis Bryant.  Additionally, the Tigers will be without their leading rusher, Roderick McDowell, who ran for 132 yards against Georgia last season.

    Defensively, both squads return a lot and will be hoping that veteran leadership yields better on-field results than last season. 


    Prediction: Georgia 38, Clemson 30 

September 13: At South Carolina

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    South Carolina's Steve Spurrier
    South Carolina's Steve SpurrierRAINIER EHRHARDT/Associated Press

    Georgia and South Carolina have developed one of the most bitter rivalries in all of college football.  Interestingly enough, the tension between the two programs has been fed equally by close, hard-fought battles (like the games of 2011 and 2013) and brutal blowouts (like Georgia's 2012 loss).

    Both teams will likely rely on strong running backs in 2014, with Mike Davis carrying the load for the Gamecocks and Todd Gurley leading a stable of capable Bulldogs.

    Ultimately, this game will be decided by the answers to three questions:

    1. Can Georgia overcome the hostility found on the road in Columbia?
    2. Can South Carolina replace a plethora of departed stars, including Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington?
    3. Which defense will make a play late in the game?

    With that in mind and no body of work for either team yet available for analysis, South Carolina gets the nod thanks to home field advantage.


    Prediction: South Carolina 31, Georgia 28

September 20: Vs. Troy

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    For the second consecutive season, Georgia's first two games come against a gauntlet of gridiron powers from the state of South Carolina.  For the second consecutive season, however, a very manageable opponent fills the third game of the schedule.

    Regardless of the outcome of Georgia's matchups with Clemson and South Carolina, victory can be expected against the Troy Trojans.  In fact, this game should be characterized by a healthy dose of playing time for backups.


    Prediction: Georgia 41, Troy 17

September 27: Vs. Tennessee

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    Butch Jones
    Butch JonesKyle Rivas/Getty Images

    Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers have a lot of momentum as a program and have reason to be excited about the 2014 season.  And Georgia has plenty of reasons to be leery of its 2014 game against the Vols.

    Despite lackluster overall records for the Vols, Tennessee has managed to play Georgia extremely close in each of the past two seasons.  Furthermore, injuries suffered against the Vols in 2013 proved to be a turning point of Georgia's season last year.

    Fortunately for the Dawgs, an overall talent advantage should make the difference in this game, as Tennessee is still a few years away from a complete recovery.


    Prediction: Georgia 35, Tennessee 27

October 4: Vs. Vanderbilt

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    New Vandy head coach Derek Mason
    New Vandy head coach Derek MasonMark Humphrey/Associated Press

    This game is one of the more intriguing on Georgia's schedule this year.  Former Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin gave the Dawgs all they trouble they could handle during his tenure in Nashville, and last year, the Commodores came away with a win in Nashville.

    But can new head coach Derek Mason continue that trend?  It's going to take coaching and motivation on par with that of Franklin to keep Vandy competitive with the conference's best teams.  This will be Georgia's first chance to see if Mason fits that lofty calling.


    Prediction: Georgia 38, Vanderbilt 21

October 11: At Missouri

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    Missouri QB Maty Mauk
    Missouri QB Maty MaukRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Missouri had one of the most surprising seasons in all of college football last season, and if it weren't for Auburn's equally unexpected rise to the top, Mizzou's season may have been the story of the year.

    This year, however, Missouri must deal with a notable exodus of talent.  Oft-injured James Franklin is gone and will be replaced by backup Maty Mauk in a full-time capacity.  Also departed is star running back Henry Josey.  Lastly, the offense will be without its two leading receivers from last season, as L'Damian Washington departed for the NFL and Dorial Green-Beckham was dismissed from the team.

    Mizzou's personnel losses were not limited to the offensive side of the ball, either.  Michael Sam, who was Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC last year, was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft.  Defensive end Kony Ealy was selected in the second round of the draft.  And E.J. Gaines, one of the best cover cornerbacks in the SEC last season, was selected in the sixth round.

    If Georgia's defense shows marked improvement by mid-season, this will be a Bulldogs victory.


    Prediction: Georgia 31, Missouri 24

October 18: At Arkansas

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    After winning three games to open their 2013 campaign, the Arkansas Razorbacks suffered nine consecutive losses to close out Bret Bielema's first season as head coach.

    Obviously, improvement should be expected out of Arkansas, and the Razorbacks are not likely to go winless in SEC play in 2014, but they shouldn't pose too strong of a threat to the Bulldogs.  

    To be sure, Arkansas will ride the legs of two capable running backs in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams on the offensive side of the ball.  But even that strength will run directly into the strong core of Georgia's defense in the front seven.


    Prediction: Georgia 38, Arkansas 17

November 1: Florida (at EverBank Field)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Normally, predicting four straight victories for the Dawgs over the Florida Gators would be ill-advised.  But an admittedly banged-up Florida team didn't exactly inspire confidence in 2013.

    The Gators missed bowl eligibility with a 4-8 effort and suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of FCS foe Georgia Southern late in the year.

    If Florida head coach Will Muschamp doesn't turn things around in 2014, he may be on his way out of Gainesville, and the pressure will be on the Gators as he looks for his first-ever win over Georgia.  That added pressure will ultimately play to Georgia's advantage.


    Prediction: Georgia 31, Florida 27

November 8: At Kentucky

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    Mark Stoops
    Mark StoopsGarry Jones/Associated Press

    Kentucky hasn't won an SEC game since 2011, and if the Wildcats are going to garner a conference victory this season, it won't come against the Bulldogs.

    The Wildcats have made waves in recruiting under new head coach Mark Stoops, but it will take time for that momentum to translate on the field.


    Prediction: Georgia 41, Kentucky 20

November 15: Vs. Auburn

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    Auburn QB Nick Marshall
    Auburn QB Nick MarshallJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

    Auburn lost some talent (Greg Robinson, Dee Ford, Tre Mason) from its 2013 run to the BCS National Championship Game, but the Tigers return a sizable contingent of more than capable personnel.  In that light, the Tigers open up 2014 as the team to beat in the Southeastern Conference.

    Fortunately, Georgia draws Gus Malzahn's squad late in the season when Hutson Mason should be in peak form at quarterback and Pruitt's defense should be in full stride.  Also, Georgia gets this annual rivalry game at home for the first time since 2011.

    That being said, until on-field results begin to say otherwise, Auburn holds the edge heading into this game.


    Prediction: Auburn 31, Georgia 26

November 22: Vs. Charleston Southern

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    Georgia RB Todd Gurley
    Georgia RB Todd GurleyStephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    The Bulldogs have Charleston Southern on their schedule as a late-season respite in what should be an easily winnable game.  In exchange, Georgia will pay its Big South Conference opposition $450,000 to make the trip to Sanford Stadium, according to Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Ultimately, both programs will get what they came fore.


    Prediction: Georgia 48, Charleston Southern 10

November 29: Vs. Georgia Tech

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    Georgia QB Hutson Mason led a come-from-behind bid against Tech last year.
    Georgia QB Hutson Mason led a come-from-behind bid against Tech last year.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    This rivalry, once dubbed "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate," has become increasingly innocuous as far as Georgia fans are concerned.  After all, Georgia has won 12 of the last 13 games in this series.

    The season has not yet begun, but barring an unexpected rise of Georgia Tech or plummet of Georgia's fortunes, it's hard to predict anything other than another Bulldog victory to close out the 2014 regular season.


    Prediction: Georgia 34, Georgia Tech 20