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Georgia is coming off their most disappointing season in recent memory. In fact, the program who was once a top ten fixture under Coach Mark Richt has been an uninspiring 14-12 over the last two seasons.
Things, however, are looking up in Athens. The question is, are they looking up enough for their first return back to the SEC Championship game since 2005?
Why they might
The Bulldogs return the top quarterback in the SEC, Aaron Murray. Going into last fall, the only offensive question mark was supposed to be the quarterback position. 3,000 yards and 28 total touchdowns later, Murray has become their least questionable player.
The Bulldogs have a new strength and conditioning coach, and the results could mean a special season for the Bulldog faithful. Their defensive line, for example, averages over 25-pounds more per position than they did last season.
With a defense primed to join the SEC elite again and the top special teams in the nation, this UGA team should have their bite back. Many people are curious how the “Dream Team” will contribute this season.
However, there are four players (Jarvis Jones, Richard Samuel, Michael Bennett and Ken Malcolme) who redshirted last season for various reasons and could be difference makers this season.
Why they might not
The running game. It doesn't seem like that long ago when UGA had two potential Heisman winners on the offensive side of the ball: Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.
The Dawgs have that elite-level quarterback behind center once again. However, the running game seems to have departed with Moreno when he headed to the NFL.
This running game might not get better this season. Former Bulldog, and leading rusher, Washaun Ealey is no longer at the school. This leaves former five-star running back Caleb King as the starter on the most recent depth chart.
King has played well at times and has averaged over 5 yards per carry each of the last two seasons. However, he has battled one injury after another since his senior year of high school.
Great things are expected of their newest five-star running back, Isaiah Crowell. His arrival on campus is one of the most anticipated in recent memory, but do you want to put your running game in the hands of a freshman?
Moreover, Mark Richt's offense calls for much more than running the football at the tailback position. Blocking is one of the key responsibilities and has led him to redshirt other freshman running backs like Knowshon Moreno.
Team chemistry and attitude. One of the hardest things to accomplish for a football program is to change the mindset of the players after a period of losing.
As great as Aaron Murray was last season, he was still 6-7 as a starter. Many of these players, like Murray, were winners in high school but have not felt that way in over two years.
Mark Richt, despite the recent and ridiculous criticisms of his coaching, is a great football coach. However, he has never been in a situation like this. His teams won early and won often when he arrived in Athens.
UGA played in three SEC Championship games in his first five seasons. Things have now changed and the team is losing games that they should win. Will he be able to turn it around?
It will start with the team's mindset. Can he get these Dawgs to believe that they can win again? Call it swagger or call it confidence, but the Dawgs need it again.