NCAA Football 2011: Georgia Bulldogs and the 10 Most Improved Teams in 2011

Joey HnathCorrespondent IJanuary 25, 2011

NCAA Football 2011: Georgia Bulldogs and the 10 Most Improved Teams in 2011

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    ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The 2010 college football season saw powerhouses such as USC, Texas and Georgia struggle for much of the season.

    On the other hand, upstart programs at Stanford and TCU were competing for a shot at the national title.

    With all of the twists and turns the 2010 college football soap opera provided, some normalcy should return in the 2011 season.

    Traditional programs, though, can’t be kept down for long.  Through great recruiting, player development, and coaching changes, these teams will bounce back and rejoin the nation’s elite.

    Take Nebraska for example.

    The Bill Callahan-era was a dark time for the Cornhuskers.  But with the hiring of Bo Pelini, great recruiting and a return to traditional Nebraska football, they are back among the nation’s elite.

    Here are 10 teams that will be drastically better in 2011.

10. Tennessee Volunteers

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers watches on against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Im
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Vols would have ended 2010 with a five-game winning streak if not for strange ending to their bowl game against North Carolina.

    Add to that a bogus last play against LSU, and Tennessee could have easily won eight games in 2010.

    There is no way they have luck that bad two years in a row.  Plus, coach Derek Dooley has this program going in the right direction after the Lane Kiffin debacle.

9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  Head coach Greg Schiano of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights leads his team on the field to play against the South Florida Bulls at Rutgers Stadium on November 12, 2009 in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The 2010 season was a disappointing season for Rutgers, finishing last in the Big East.

    Don't expect the Scarlet Knights to finish in the Big East basement again.

    With a great head coach in Greg Schiano and a solid recruiting class coming in, Rutgers will go bowling once again in 2011.

8. Florida Gators

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 1:  Quarterback John Brantley #12 of the Florida Gators sets to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions January 1, 2010 in the 25th Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Will Muschamp will pick up right where Urban Meyer left off and will maintain the winning culture in Gainesville.

    After enduring a three-game losing streak for the first time in 11 years, the Gators are primed to be back in the national title hunt next season.

    With John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jeff Demps all returning, the Gators offense will be a force in 2011.

7. Florida State Seminoles

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach JimboFisher of the Florida State Seminoles is doused with water in the final seconds of their 26-17 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2010 in Atlan
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Seminoles culminated a good 2010 season with a victory of South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

    As good as 2010 was for Florida State, 2011 will be even better.

    Jimbo Fisher is returning the Seminoles to the prominence they experienced in the '90s under Bobby Bowden.

    The recruiting class already has four five-star recruits, and the Seminoles should be the preseason ACC favorites with eight returning starters on both offense and defense.

6. USC Trojans

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    PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans drops back to pass against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at the Rose Bowl on December 4, 2010 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    After a sub-par year in 2010, the Trojans will look to rebound in 2011.

    Led by Matt Barkley, the Trojans may install a spread offense under second-year coach Lane Kiffin.

    The defense will be much improved also, and despite the postseason ban, the Trojans could win 10 games in the new Pac-12.

5. Louisville Cardinals

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 04: Charlie Strong the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the game against the  Kentucky Wildcats at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 4, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Louisville excelled under first-year coach Charlie Strong, winning the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

    The Cardinals also have the top recruiting class in the Big East.  Combine that with a solid core returning, and the Cardinals are a legitimate threat to take the Big East in 2011.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Running back Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a touchdown against the Miami Hurricanes during the Hyundai Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    After a rocky start, Brian Kelly and the Irish righted the ship, capping off a solid first season with a win over Miami in the Sun Bowl.

    With Dayne Crist returning to health and Cierre Wood continuing to improve, the Fighting Irish should be able to take the next step in 2011 in trying to return to national prominence.

3. Michigan Wolverines

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 11, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. Michigan defeated Notre Dame 28-24. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Gett
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    With the Rich Rodriquez experiment finally over in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines look to pick up the pieces of the last three years.

    The hiring of "Michigan Man" Brady Hoke was a great hire for the Maize and Blue, as was luring Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison away and hiring him to the same position.

    Hoke and Mattison will be able to improve a defensive that gave up 448 yards per game in the regular season.

    And with Denard Robinson still the quarterback, the offense will be as electric as ever.

2. Texas Longhorns

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    AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 25:  University of Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert #8 rushes during the first half against Texas A&M at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2010 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    The Garret Gilbert-era has not gone according to plan.  After losing to Alabama in the National Championship Game two years ago, the Longhorns went 5-7 in 2010 and finished last in the Big 12 South.

    With all of the talent at Texas, it's hard to imagine the Longhorns being miserable two years in a row, even if Gilbert doesn't progress as he should.

    And with the nation's top recruiting class, there will be some fresh talent for Texas to put out on the field.

1. Georgia Bulldogs

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30:  Georgia Bulldogs mascot UGA VIII watches the action during the game against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Georgia Bulldogs will be the most improved team in 2011.

    For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs were a disappointment, going 6-7 and losing to UCF in the Liberty Bowl.

    Freshman All-American quarterback Aaron Murray returns to lead the Bulldogs next season, and the defense returns eight of its starters.

    The loss of A.J. Green will obviously hurt. But if Tavarres King, Orson Charles and even Marlon Brown can all step up, the offense will not miss a beat.

    The Bulldogs will win 10 games in 2011 and capture the SEC East crown.