The chips are in place, for now. The talent is there. The coaching is, well, very under-appreciated. And the schedule is much more favorable than last year.
We have just finished our preview for the 2014 Georgia Bulldogs, which you can see here, and I’m here to say that there is no reason the Dawgs shouldn’t be competing for an SEC and national title this year.
Since Mark Richt arrived at Georgia, he has put out some great teams, but a bad break here or there has kept them out of the national title hunt. There was the drop by Terrence Edwards against a very mediocre and poorly coached Florida team in 2002 that might have cost them the game, 20-13, and turned out to be Georgia’s only loss. Then they had two heartbreaking losses during their 2005 SEC championship run, one due to an injury to quarterback D.J. Shockley. Georgia could have been in the picture in 2007 had they not blown an early season game to South Carolina or had Tennessee not lucked out and won the east due to the best draw from the west you could ask for that year. And finally, we all remember 2012 and the SEC championship game against Alabama and then last year when the injury bug bit.
But this year should be different. It doesn’t matter that Aaron Murray is gone. Replacing him is fifth-year senior Hutson Mason, who didn’t look too bad when he was in last year, including his final two starts. The guys was once the Georgia High School Football Player of the Year and has enough experience to step in and take over. And with the return of Todd Gurley at running back and senior receivers Michael Bennett and Chris Conley, along with three offensive linemen, Mason has enough experience and talent around him to have a breakout season and surpass anything Murray did.
With the entire defense basically returning as well, as long as the injury bug doesn’t bite, Georgia won’t be short on talent.
The schedule, while still an SEC schedule, is also much more hospitable this year. Sure, they have to go to South Carolina and Missouri and play Auburn at home. But outside of that, they get Clemson and Vanderbilt at home, two teams they lost to on the road last year that should be much worse this year. They’ve got Auburn at home this year and should’ve beaten them on the road last year, and the other team they draw from the west is, wait for it, Arkansas.
The talent and schedule should be enough to make Georgia as much a favorite as anybody to win it all, but this year they are more of a dark horse than the past three years, which could work out in their favor.
Richt deserves credit for restoring Georgia to a national power in the 2000s after some on and off years during the 1990s, but he has been unable to get that elusive national title in 13 years there. With a 126-45 record and two SEC titles, breaking through and getting that national championship will be enough to cement his legacy among the SEC’s great coaches. The talk of firing him is ridiculous because he has had lots of success and is proof that stability works. Now, it’s time to finally reach that next, and final level.