2011 NCAA Football Odds: Georgia Bulldogs Preview
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
by Aengus Moorehead
Vs SEC East: 3-2
Vs Top 25: 0-4
Head coach Mark Richt enters the 2011 season on perhaps the SEC’s hottest seat. After starting his tenure at Georgia to such (deserved) fanfare, the team’s recent decline has fans groaning for improvement. The frustration is only heightened by Georgia’s ability to produce loads of early round draft picks but its inability to win consistently against rival Florida or, for that matter, to win the SEC (something Georgia hasn’t done since 2005). The Georgia Bulldogs may have reached rock bottom last year by losing to the worst Urban Meyer Florida team of his tenure and then losing to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. Georgia enters 2011 with perhaps the league’s best signal caller and a defense that should be much more comfortable in its second season in a 3-4 alignment. How much Georgia progresses in 2011 will go a long way toward determining just how much longer Richt remains in Athens.
Georgia returns just five starters on offense, but the five that return occupy vital positions for the team’s success. Quarterback Aaron Murray started as a redshirt freshman and after taking his lumps early, developed into perhaps the SEC’s best returning quarterback. Along with Murray, Georgia returns three starters along the offensive line that, like Murray, played as young guys and - after taking a beating in September - were solid by year’s end. Murray’s security blanket, tight end Orson Charles, also returns. Charles is a wide receiver trapped in a much bigger man’s body. He’s a mismatch against smaller defensive backs and slower linebackers. With A.J. Green now departed to the NFL, Charles should see increased action in the passing game.
The Georgia offense still faces two critical questions. The first is: Who will step up and at least try to replace the production that Green gave UGA at wide receiver? A cast of players return including Tacarres King and Rantavious Wooten, both of whom saw a great deal of playing time when Green was out serving his suspension. None of the receivers on the roster now strike fear into defensive coordinators like Green did. The second question is: Who will carry the ball? Wayshuan Ealey was finally removed from the team and now the tailback position falls to senior Caleb King and true freshman Isaiah Crowell. The inexperienced Crowell is as highly rated a prospect as Richt has ever signed. Richt will need Crowell to have as much of an impact as freshman Marcus Lattimore did for South Carolina last year. That’s a lot to ask of a freshman tailback, but Georgia finds itself that desperate.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is hoping that his defense makes the proverbial second-year jump in his 3-4 defensive alignment. If the defense does show improvement, it will have to do so with a much younger cast. Up front, Georgia returns ends Arby Jones and Deangelo Tyson and nose tackle Kwame Geathers. Linebacker, however, is an entirely different story - only Christian Robinson returns. Georgia may find itself with no choice but to lean on the “Dream Team” of recruits that were signed back in February. Ray Drew is an enormous and athletic player (6-5, 243 pounds) and could play outside linebacker or defensive end for Grantham’s defense. Freshmen Sterling Bailey, Chris Mayes, and Ramik Wilson could all be forced into early duty in the Bulldogs front seven. JUCO defensive tackle Jonathan Jenkins is the perfect 3-4 defense nose tackle (6-6, 340) and should also push for immediate playing time.
In the secondary, the Bulldogs return Brandon Boykin and Sanders Commings, but need others to step up. Branden Smith is as fast as any receiver but has yet to distinguish himself at corne. Bacarri Rambo is back at strong safety but is coming off an intricate offseason knee surgery. If there are lingering issues up front that keep them from getting pressure on quarterbacks, there’s no Champ Bailey type of shutdown corner for the Dawgs to rely on. That could mean more struggles against the better passing offenses on the schedule. The relative lack of depth could once again mean talented freshmen like Damien Swann and Corey Moore see the field as freshmen.
The good news for Georgia fans is that if either the offense or defense struggle in 2011, the Georgia Bulldogs return the nation’s best pair of special teams specialists in punter Drew Butler and kicker Blair Walsh. It’s often difficult to measure the impact of having reliable punters and kickers, but it’s easy to tell when a team lacks them.
The schedule does Georgia no favors early. The Bulldogs open with senior-laden Boise State in the Georgia Dome, hoping for a repeat of the last time they opened the season against the Broncos when they dominated them in Athens. This meeting promises to be more competitive. The next week brings defending SEC East Division champ South Carolina to Athens. An 0-2 start would put enormous heat on Richt, but a 1-1 start leaves all of Georgia’s goals within reach. The Georgia Bulldogs avoid LSU and Alabama from the West and face only Tennessee on the road along with Florida in Jacksonville. The schedule sets up nicely for Richt to have a bounce back year and contend for the SEC East in 2011.
Georgia Bulldogs 2011 - 2012 Schedules
|09/03/2011||vs Boise State|
|09/10/2011||vs South Carolina|
|09/17/2011||vs Coastal Carolina|
|10/01/2011||vs Mississippi State|
|11/05/2011||vs New Mexico State|
|11/26/2011||at Georgia Tech|
- No 23 - Georgia Bulldogs 2010 Preview
- NCAA Football Predictions and Odds: Georgia Bulldogs at Missouri Tigers
- Outback Bowl Prediction: Michigan State Spartans vs Georgia Bulldogs
- NCAA Pick: LSU Tigers vs Georgia Bulldogs in SEC Championship Game
- NCAA Football Odds: No 5 Boise State Broncos vs No 19 Georgia Bulldogs