Obstacles That Can Prevent Georgia from Winning the SEC East

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJuly 22, 2015

Georgia QB Brice Ramsey
Georgia QB Brice RamseyScott Cunningham/Getty Images

In a vote that came as a shock to nobody, Georgia was picked to win the SEC East by the assembled members of the media at SEC media days earlier this month.

The Bulldogs have been in the mix in late November in each of the last four seasons, have an abundance of talent, a superstar in running back Nick Chubb and arguably have the best outside linebackers in the country.

There are plenty of roster holes, though.

Wide receiver is a big concern behind veteran Malcolm Mitchell, there are no returning starters along the defensive line and the quarterback position is still very much up in the air heading into fall camp.

What could prevent Georgia from matching expectations and playing in the Georgia Dome in early December for a shot at the SEC title?

Trouble in the Trenches

Georgia DL Sterling Bailey
Georgia DL Sterling BaileyNelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get this out of the way right out of the gate—the defensive line prospects head coach Mark Richt lured to Athens in the most recent recruiting class is amazing. Guys like Trent Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter are awesome and will be stars, but are they really going to shine bright just a few months removed from prom against grown men on opposing offensive lines?

I'm not so sure.

Linebacker Jordan Jenkins complimented the way the newcomers have fit in with the experienced guys at SEC media days earlier this month.

"The young guys who are there now are eager to learn," he said. "They always ask for help and are coming in to get extra film time."

That's great, and it's certainly a step in the right direction. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to translate to the fall, though.

Georgia DL Josh Dawson
Georgia DL Josh DawsonScott Cunningham/Getty Images

There are veterans at the top of the depth chart now as well, including tackles Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach, and end Josh Dawson. Can the combination of veteran rotational experience and youthful exuberance be the right combination for the Bulldogs? 

Color me skeptical. If it doesn't work out, and Georgia's defense struggles in the trenches, it could be what prevents the Bulldogs from taking the East.

Passing Game Doesn't Evolve

The combination of an unsettled quarterback situation and a wide receiving corps that's incredibly inexperienced should terrify Georgia fans.

Sure, Brice Ramsey is talented, Greyson Lambert has plenty of experience and Faton Bauta has the dual-threat ability that can bring a new dimension to the Georgia offense. But all of them are still wild cards, and one has to step to the forefront in August.

This isn't like last year's offseason, when redshirt senior Hutson Mason was the unquestioned starter despite being a career backup and getting a two spot-starts for Aaron Murray in 2013. He had intimate knowledge of former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo's system, a bona fide stud receiver in Chris Conley and uninterrupted first-team snaps for the entire offseason.

Georgia QB Greyson Lambert
Georgia QB Greyson LambertSteve Helber/Associated Press

These quarterbacks have none of those things working in their favor. 

They have a potential star in Malcolm Mitchell who absolutely has to stay healthy, a solid slot option in Isaiah McKenzie who's relatively inexperienced and a bunch of unknowns outside. Couple that with a new offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheiemer, who installs his offense with NFL speed, and a three-man quarterback battle that includes a newcomer in Lambert who just got to campus in mid-July, and Georgia is almost guaranteed to go into the opener against Louisiana-Monroe with a ton of offensive questions.

Georgia isn't going to contend for the SEC East title playing "Nick Chubb left, Nick Chubb right" all season long, and the passing game is going to have to step up at key times to take some pressure off of the superstar tailback.

The Schedule Jumps Up and Bites the Bulldogs

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtGrant Halverson/Getty Images

Of all of the teams in the SEC East, Georgia got perhaps the worst draw of any team.

The Bulldogs draw Alabama out of the SEC West in addition to the traditional cross-division rivalry with Auburn. Those two teams were picked to finish first and second in the SEC West by the members of the media at media days, respectively, with the Tigers pegged as the overall conference champion.

On top of that, the Bulldogs have to travel to Knoxville to play Tennessee—which was picked second in the SEC East—the week after facing the Crimson Tide in Athens. SEC teams are 10-13 the week after playing Nick Saban's squad over the last four years, with three of those wins coming against out-of-conference competition.

Georgia will have to buck the trend on Rocky Top in what could turn out to be the de facto SEC East title game.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on Sirius 93, XM 208.

Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee. 


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