3 Biggest Reasons They Can:
-The Bulldogs suffered injuries up and down the offensive line; this season they reap the benefits of last season’s tragedy. Thanks in part to the constant peril of a season ago, upfront the Bulldogs enter 2009 returning ten linemen with significant starting experience. Even behind the hobbled line the Dawgs were able to rush for 148 yards per game; granted Moreno amassed the bulk of those yards. This line should make it easier for Caleb King and company to take a more “tailback by committee” approach to a successful running game and the 148 should improve significantly.
In the passing game the Bulldogs only gave up 17 sacks in 2008 but Stafford was under duress and hit hard in several games, most notably the Alabama drubbing. With more experience across the front, and a healthy Trinton Sturdivant back to protect the blindside expect Joe Cox to have ample time to find AJ Green and co.
-Last year, as the favorites, the Bulldogs limped through a schedule where they faced five ranked opponents, four of whom resided in the SEC. This year Richt’s squad avoids two of the top three out of the SEC West as only a home date with LSU graces the schedule. Although the non-conference schedule of Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech could prove devastating in the polls the Bulldogs only face two preseason ranked IN-CONFERENCE opponents.
Beating LSU in Athens is already on Richt’s list of achievements and following last years 52-38 romp in the Bayou the Dawgs should enter that game confident. The same cannot be said for the yearly trip down to Jacksonville for this years Halloween edition of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” However, Georgia has plenty of players who were critical in Richt’s 2007 field storming shocking of Florida, those players should be eager for redemption. With the cards falling into place the Dawgs have a schedule that’s navigable.
-While the injury bug bit the Red and Black often last season the preseason hype didn’t help their case much at all. They stumbled to a disappointing 10-3 finish punctuated by blow outs at the hands of Alabama and Florida. This season, much like Clemson, the Dawgs enter the season with zero hype. The spotlight is off of UGA and this team should out perform their meager expectations. The defense returns eight starters including two first team All-SEC performers in the front seven. Geno Atkins and Renny Curran anchor a defensive front that should return the Bulldogs to the run stuffing, sack happy units that have personified Georgia Defense this decade.
Opening up with Oklahoma State gives the defense a chance to prove their worth against one of the nation’s premier offensive attacks. This defense should be better equipped to handle multifaceted offenses and on offense Joe Cox is more David Green and less Matthew Stafford.The senior is not the risk taking, cannon for an arm, gunslinger that the Detroit Lions have made one of the NFL’s highest paid players. Cox is a measured, calculated and accurate passer. He’s more of a game manager than a game changer but the waiting in the wings and learning from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has polished Cox into a heady football player that won’t put the Bulldogs behind the eight ball. He’ll lead long drives, protect the football and rely on his defense to win ball games.
Biggest Roadblock To Their Dark Horse Dreams:
Gator Bait. That’s what the rest of the nation is right now as Florida is the overwhelmingly unanimous preseason favorite. All twenty-two players back on the defensive two-deep, the top Heisman trophy candidate returning for his shot at a second stiff arming man and now the highest paid coach in the SEC. The Gators are where it’s at in terms of preseason hype and obviously they are the Great Wall that blocks any shot the Dawgs have at an SEC title.
Just two seasons ago Mark Richt had his squad fired up to whip the Gators, how quickly the tables turned as a furious Urban Meyer orchestrated a Tebow led 49-10 massacre of the Dawgs. This season Meyer’s team is focused on making it three titles in four years and according to the preseason press out of Gainesville they’re not taking anything for granted. There hasn’t been a wire to wire #1 during the BCS era and, in keeping with history, the Gators are apt to stumble somewhere; why not against the Dawgs in Jacksonville.