The preseason AP Poll was released this week and, as expected, the Georgia Bulldogs sit at the No. 13 spot. Most of the polls have Georgia in that neighborhood, ahead of their cross state rival Georgia Tech, and right behind their opening day opponent, the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Many feel that despite all the talent that Georgia has, the loss of Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno will be too much to replace. The Dawgs may have a decent year winning eight or nine games, but nothing more should be expected.
If I may quote Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."
I believe that all that talent will come together this year, minus the "superstar" type player, and give Florida and the rest of the SEC a run for their money. By doing so, when the season ends Georgia will be right back in the top ten and playing in a major bowl game.
So for those of you who don't believe, or who think I'm off my rocker...here you have the Top five reasons that I feel that way.
In no particular order, here you go...
1. Head coach Mark Richt
Most agree that Mark Richt is a great head coach. Yes, he has his faults, just like any other head coach. But as a Dawg fan I would not trade him for any other head coach.
Many have made this point, but it is worth repeating. Richt seems to do his best work when the Dawgs are flying under the radar. His record at an opponent's home field is an incredible 30-4. Most of the time you are not expected to win when you go on the road. At least to that degree. Several challenging road games are on the schedule this season, and that winning tradition under Coach Richt will help guide the Dawgs through those tough games.
Coach Richt was not happy with the way things played out last year. The Alabama and Florida games in particular left a bad taste in the mouth of all the Dawg Nation. This year there is a challenge ahead for coach Richt. Many doubt just as they did in 2005.
I for one believe he is up to that task.
2. The Opener
The Dawgs open on the road this season against the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. The Cowboys will swagger in with a lot of confidence and a lot of talent when they take the field on Sept. 5. They will believe, as Arizona State did last season, that they are up to the challenge. They will put up a respectable fight in the first half. But in the end the Dawgs will prevail leaving OSU in their wake.
Yes I know, I sound pretty confident.
But as a Dawg fan we have seen this before. OSU in 2007. Arizona State in 2008. Boise State in 2005 (many picked the Broncos to upset the Dawgs in Athens). But when you play in the "toughest conference in the nation," according to college football expert Phil Steele, you know what good competition is.
So, get ready OSU...the Dawgs are coming to town.
3. The Defense
The Dawgs recorded only 24 sacks last season. Compared to 42 in 2007, that is a significant drop.
Injuries played a big part in the lack of pass rush the Dawgs generated, and with several key players returning that should change. Jeff Owens presence in the middle of the Defensive line, next to Geno Atkins should give the Dawgs confidence to bring on the rush. Roderick Battle has looked great in camp, and Marcus Washington has also moved to the line and into the mix.
Turnovers, or the lack thereof, hurt the Dawgs as well last year. The Dawgs are working hard to emphasize the need for turnovers. If they can be successful, and Coach Willie Martinez can keep his players focused on "tackling" and not just "hitting" things should turn around. Rennie Curran, Darryl Gamble and Reshad Jones will need to lead by example.
All of that, to say this. The defense needs to step it up this year, and I believe they will.
4. Joe Cox and Richard Samuel
So, Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are now in the NFL. Good luck guys, wish you had stayed around in Athens, but you didn't. Time to move on.
Joe Cox steps into the number one spot at quarterback. You remember Joe Cox? Highly recruited out of Charlotte, NC. He was 31-0 as a starter in High School.
Despite the "loud talker" in my section giving Coach Richt and earful (see Five Things I hate about College Football), Joe never took the starting job away from Matt Stafford. But this is 2009, and now Joe Cox gets his chance.
DJ Shockley got his chance in 2005, and led the Dawgs to an SEC Championship. Can Joe do the same? Florida will have more to say about that than Joe Cox will, but I do believe that Joe will have a great senior season. He has many weapons to throw to, and several very capable running backs to give the ball to.
One of those being sophomore Richard Samuel. News out of Athens this week is that Samuel is now a "solid No. 1 at tailback" according to Coach Richt. I believe that when November rolls around and the Dawgs are hitting the home stretch of the schedule, Richard Samuel will be leading the way.
Samuel is a tough physical runner. He is strong and fast. He doesn't mind the physical contact and will be able to handle blocking duties.
At this point I don't think we can say all of that about Carlton Thomas and Caleb King. They will all contribute, but when all is said and done, Richard Samuel will be the man.
So long Matt and Knowshon. Let's go get 'em Joe and Richard!
5. The Home Schedule
I have not always been happy with the crowd at Sanford Stadium. I have noticed that sometimes the majority of the crowd seems to "check out" at the wrong time.
Many blame it on alumni, who sit in their seats with their hands folded, and watch quietly. Others think it has more to do with the open end of the stadium, saying "it's just not as loud as other places."
Whatever the reason may be, this year needs to be different. We, and by we, I mean all of the fans and the players, need to have a "this is our house mentality."
What happened last season against Alabama should not happen at home. What happened in 2007 against South Carolina can never happen again. In 2006 it was Tennessee, and in 2005 it was Auburn.
A home loss can be devastating.
This year at home the Dawgs will host South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Auburn and Kentucky. I only mention Tennessee Tech because they are on the schedule. Georgia must win all six of these games. No ifs ands or buts.
Take care of business at home, period.
Fans, bring the noise. Take it to a level we have never heard.
Players and coaches, we don't need black jerseys, we need preparation, discipline and giving it all you got for four quarters.
I could go on. I have a list of about seven or eight other reasons...AJ Green, Orson Charles, UGA VII, Marlon Brown to name a few, but I won't. Just know that the talent is in place and the time is right.
The AP poll says No. 13...last year's AP said No. 1.
Let's make this year's poll as wrong as last year's poll...