Georgia Bulldogs Football: 10 Players Who Make UGA Good Enough to Beat LSU
As the weeks have gone by this season, the general consensus has been that the SEC West overwhelmingly overpowers the SEC East.
All signs point to that being a safe claim, and the fact that Georgia has not played an elite team from the Western Division doesn't help their case.
Well, if it needed a case. The truth is, Georgia doesn't need a case. Everything it needs to accomplish to declare it's back on top of the college football world is in on the table.
On Saturday, Georgia will face off against undoubtedly the best team in the nation in the LSU Tigers. LSU is coming off a complete shellacking of the Arkansas Razorbacks and will no doubt be an overwhelming favorite to win the SEC championship game and the BCS national championship.
Georgia is outside of the national title race, but it can exceed the season's expectations by beating the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
Because of Georgia's soft schedule, pundits aren't giving it a shot against the Bayou Bengals. But, what analysts are failing to notice is the fact Georgia's personnel is full of elite players who have hit their prime.
On paper, this team looks more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the big boys.
Here are 10 players who make Georgia a serious threat to the integrity of the BCS.
Cornerback, Brandon Boykin (No. 2): One of the most fundamentally sound players on the team, as well as a great team leader. Also, Boykin is yet to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season--something he has done 4 times during his successful career.
Cornerback, Branden Smith (No. 1): Smith could be a major offensive weapon against LSU, if used correctly. He hasn't been as much of a defensive playmaker, but his tackling has vastly improved.
Center, Ben Jones (No. 61): Jones is considered one of the nation's best centers. His attitude is spread throughout the locker room.
Receiver, Michael Bennett (No. 82): The redshirt freshman has become one of the most reliable targets Aaron Murray has at his disposal.
Tight end, Aron White (No. 81): White, a senior, might be the best tight end in the SEC not named Orson Charles. He's been an awesome contributor to the Dawgs offense for a few years, despite being a backup.
Tailback, Isaiah Crowell (No. 1)
Regular Season Statistics: 172 carries, 832 yards, 5 touchdowns
True freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell is the wild card in this bunch. Crowell has dealt with disciplinary issues, as well as multiple nagging injuries during his first season in Athens.
He managed to play in 10 games this year, with seven starting nods despite being the youngest in the backfield.
Head coach Mark Richt held Crowell out of the game against Georgia Tech this past Saturday so that he could nurse an ankle injury he suffered the week before against Kentucky.
Hopefully, Crowell will have used that rest time to physically and mentally prepare himself for a huge stage. He has shown signs of immaturity throughout the year, but there's no doubt he's the most talented offensive weapon at Georgia's disposal.
Crowell benefits from having outstanding speed and acceleration, and he's actually proven to be very tough.
If Crowell can keep focused, fundamentally sound and injury free on Saturday, he should provide enough of a spark to re-energize Georgia's rushing attack.
Nose Tackle, John Jenkins (No. 6)
Regular Season Statistics: 25 tackles, 13 solo, 6 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks
At 6'3", 351 lbs., junior college transfer John Jenkins is the dominant defensive tackle that Georgia lacked last season. His presence, along with the play of emerging redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers, has significantly bolstered Georgia's defense.
The Dawgs have the third-ranked defense in the SEC behind Alabama and LSU. Their run defense has been remarkable, and they also have recorded 32 sacks on the season.
Jenkins' ability to plug holes and draw double teams has no doubt been the difference.
If the Tigers think they are going to be able to run with ease, they're kidding themselves. Jenkins, Geathers and the big bodies of Abry Jones and DeAngelo Tyson (pending an injury) should make for a physical war of attrition.
Safety, Shawn Williams (No. 36)
Regular Season Statistics: 60 tackles, 37 solo, 4 tackles for a loss, 3 interceptions
Georgia fans barely knew who Shawn Williams was when the season began. Georgia expected to be led by Jakar Hamilton, a former junior college transfer who was considered one of the best JUCO prospects in the country.
But, Hamilton left the team before the season, and Williams fought off the presence of the durable Sanders Commings to nail down a starting job.
We can all be glad he did. The junior is third in the team in tackles, and the highlight of his career so far was a stellar diving interception against Georgia Tech.
The 6'1", 200 lb-safety has the body of a linebacker, as well as considerably good speed. His hard-hitting mentality has rubbed off on the rest of the Georgia defense.
Alabama and LSU may be best known for the players they have in their secondary, but anyone who is overlooking Georgia's defensive backs might be surprised at just how big and athletic they are.
Middle Linebacker, Michael Gilliard (No. 35)
Regular Season Statistics: 63 tackles, 33 solo, 7 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception
Another player that has seemingly come out of nowhere is junior linebacker Michael Gilliard. Gilliard has been a solid special teams player for Georgia in the past few seasons, but nobody expected him to become an impact player.
Due to injuries to starters Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree, Gilliard was thrust into action during the heart of the season. He impressed coaches enough to take the starting position from Robinson—a junior linebacker who had been the quarterback of the defense despite being the less talented of the bunch.
Gilliard flies to the football and splits blocks on run downs like no one else can. Don't let his 220 lb-frame fool you (into thinking he's the second coming of Rennie Curran. Same jersey number, helmet and playing style).
Expect Gilliard to stand out for the rest of his career in Athens.
Middle Linebacker, Alec Ogletree (No. 9)
Regular Season Statistics: 33 tackles, 24 solo, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 1 sack (6 games played)
Alec Ogletree entered the season tabbed to become Georgia's next great linebacker, but a broken foot suffered in the season opener against Boise State erased, or at least delayed, his rise to fame.
He's quietly returned to Georgia's starting lineup, but there's no doubt he will be a force to be reckoned with on Saturday.
According to Georgia coaches, "Tree" has unmatched athleticism. Many describe him in the same way Rennie Curran was described as: He seemingly has a ball magnet attached to the crown of his helmet.
Ogletree also has experience at safety, where he was originally recruited to play, so his understanding of passing schemes makes him an all-around defensive weapon. Expect the rising star to have a breakout-type of performance in the either the SEC title game or the team's bowl game.
Outside Linebacker, Jarvis Jones (No. 29)
Regular Season Statistics: 66 tackles, 39 solo, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks
Jarvis Jones transferred back to his home state of Georgia to play for the Bulldogs after spending the first few years of his college tenure in Los Angeles, playing for the USC Trojans.
Dawg fans could not be more thankful that a 5-star linebacker like Jones decided to play at home.
Once just another name lost in the shuffle, Jones has emerged into arguably the nations' best defensive player. He leads one of the country's best defenses in tackles and also is second in the nation in sacks.
Jones' might be the best defensive player or the best player in general, on the field on Saturday. That's something many might overlook.
The best news: Jones has also assured Georgia fans he will return to school next season.
Safety, Bacarri Rambo (No. 18)
Regular Season Statistics: 47 tackles, 27 solo, 7 interceptions
Bacarri Rambo has taken an interesting path to stardom. The playmaking safety wasn't actually one of Georgia's most-prized recruits when he came to Athens.
His name, being one of the most unique and appropriate in sports, became a heralded one before he actually became a big time player.
Rambo's game-saving hit against Auburn in 2009 left him knocked out and motionless on the Sanford Stadium turf. The students chanted his name, "Rambo! Rambo!" with great enthusiasm, and everyone's favorite player was born.
Since that point, Rambo became one of the more popular players on campus. His number, 18, was one of the numbers sold on jerseys in the bookstore. But, many thought what was seemingly a premature knighting got to Rambo's head.
Rambo showed immaturity on the field on multiple occasions and was held out of the season opener against Boise State for disciplinary reasons.
However, he redeemed himself and is now considered a lock for first team All-SEC. Rambo is second in the nation with seven interceptions and is considered to be a snub for the finalist standings for the Jim Thorpe award.
He could definitely be a favorite to win the Thorpe next season, if he returns to Athens.
Tight End, Orson Charles (No. 7)
Regular Season Statistics: 40 receptions, 530 yards, 5 touchdowns
Junior tight end Orson Charles is considered by many to be the best tight end prospect in the country. He's somewhat of a tweener, a mix between tight end and wide receiver, but there's no doubt he's one talented fellow.
Charles had arguably his best game of the year against Georgia Tech this past Saturday, and his play-making ability does not go unnoticed.
One of the details that makes Charles such a dangerous weapon is the fact he played high school football with his current quarterback, Aaron Murray. Murray and Charles won a state title in Florida and Plant High School, and obviously, developed quite a chemistry.
In a big game like the one that will be played in the Georgia Dome against the Tigers, the relationship between Murray and Charles could be vital to the success of the Georgia offense.
Receiver, Malcolm Mitchell (No. 26)
Regular Season Statistics: 34 receptions, 582 yards, 4 touchdowns
Despite playing in only nine games this season, true freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell ranks third in Georgia's receiving department in receptions.
The talented youngster from Valdosta High School was recruited as an athlete and considered as a defensive back, but Aaron Murray actually cemented Mitchell's place on offense before camp even opened in the summer.
Mitchell's athleticism has erased any question on whether or not Georgia would be able to throw the ball without A.J. Green, who left a year early to join the ranks of the NFL.
Aaron Murray has not missed a step without Green. In fact, Murray has been a more productive passer this season.
Georgia's receiving corps is arguably the deepest position on the team. Not only has Mitchell been fantastic, making big time plays in big moments, but his fellow freshman teammates Michael Bennett and Chris Conley have been equally impressive.
Mitchell brings a big frame, long arms and legs, outstanding speed and surprising maturity to one of the most youthful positions on the offense. He has been so good that former 5-star recruit, Marlon Brown, has been removed from the starting lineup.
Mitchell might be just as much of a threat as LSU's Reuben Randle. That's saying a lot.
Quarterback. Aaron Murray (No. 11)
Regular Season Statistics: 202 completions, 331 attempts, 61% completion rate, 2,698 yards, 32 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Aaron Murray has all but cemented his place as the best quarterback in the SEC. With a great quarterback and a top-notch defense, why doesn't Georgia get consideration to win on Saturday?
The redshirt sophomore has been outstanding all season, recently having to single-handedly lead the offense to victory because of the absence of healthy tailbacks.
Murray brings great toughness to the mentality of the team (he has rushed for 228 yards this year and often makes plays with his feet on third down).
He has had issues with missing wide open throws, but overall, Murray is proving more and more to be a winner.
We will find out just how for real he is when the Dawgs take on the talented secondary of LSU, including the likes of Tyrann Matheiu and Morris Claiborne.
The bottom line is Georgia has the better quarterback in this game. That has to stand for something.
The SEC Championship will be played at 4 p.m. ET and shown on CBS