Why Georgia Will Win The SEC East In 2011

Why Georgia Will Win The SEC East In 2011

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The expectations of Georgia will be sky high next year after two consecutive disappointing seasons in Athens.  Head Coach Mark Richt will likely have to rally the players to win nine to ten games next year in order to quell the uneasy boosters and fan base. One bad season, ok it happens, two bad seasons is a trend; three is grounds to be shown the door.

With that said, I believe Georgia will win the SEC East in 2011.  Here’s why…

1. The Schedule

For the first time in a long time, UGA will have seven true home games; plus the annual trek to Jacksonville; and the game with Georgia Tech in nearby Atlanta. Dawg fans will definitely cut down on their fuel expense next year. New Athletic Director McGarity is a UGA alum but he cut his Assistant AD teeth under Florida’s Jeremy Foley who has a much different scheduling philosophy than the prior Georgia AD. I know these schedules are set years in advance but with McGarity on-board, the future schedule will more closely mirror Florida’s home heavy schedule.    Damon Evans’ goal was to spread the UGA brand far and wide, hence the games scheduled with Arizona State, Colorado, Louisville, Oklahoma State and the since canceled home-and-home series with Oregon. It was nice for the fans to make the trips and see UGA play some interesting match up’s, but the costs outweighed the benefit with a loss.

2. Favorable SEC West Opponents

The SEC uses a 5-2-1 schedule format. Every team plays the five other teams in their division, plus a rotating two from the opposite division and one permanent team from the opposite division. UGA has Auburn on its schedule every year. UGA’s rotation this year from the SEC West includes Ole Miss and Mississippi State; no LSU, no Alabama, no Arkansas. Not to insult the teams UGA does have to play, but this is the most favorable West schedule UGA can get.

3. Open Date Prior To Florida Game

The very first thing Steven Orr Spurrier did when he became the Florida coach at Florida was lobby the SEC schedule office to get an open date before UGA.  Florida has been on an 18-3 run ever since. This year Alabama had six conference opponents with open dates prior to playing the Tide; you know how their season has gone thus far. Any open week is important, but especially so when it’s the week before a team UGA has consistently under performed for. The extra week should allow injuries to heal, extra practice on Florida’s spread option game and probably more importantly, the mental sense of an edge on the Gators.

4. Key Players Returning

Georgia is losing six defensive players and four offensive players on their two-deep roster. This may sound like a lot but consider this year the offense had ten players coming back. The only exception was Redshirt Fr. Aaron Murray replacing Joe Cox at QB. The offense has performed well this year, with five games in a row scoring over thirty points. Despite remaining relatively healthy, it wasn’t the dominant force it was capable of. The last two years have seen many injuries along the offensive front; the good to come from this is plenty of the backups got full speed snaps during the year.  In most cases the O line was a rotation of players to keep fresh legs in the game, so there is a lot of SEC game experience coming back.

QB Aaron Murray has played far better than expected and has been compared to former UGA QB David Green, which is high praise indeed. The main running threats Washaun Ealey and Caleb King will return, in addition to Ken Malcome who will push those two for early playing time. All the tight ends will be back and as I’ve said many times before, UGA has the best TE’s in college football. UGA used to be known for putting TE’s in the NFL. Randy McMichael comes to mind. If Georgia can get the TE’s more involved in the offensive scheme, it should be a banner year. All the WR’s and Split Ends will be back save for Senior Kris Durham. UGA’s offense will not be the source of concern next year.

On the Defensive side, newly hired DC Todd Grantham will have another spring and summer to get the 3-4 defense installed. He will have players at his disposal more suited to this style of defense. Interestingly, UGA’s defense is ten points better than last year and two weeks ago was actually the SEC’s best run defense. The secondary is the main area of concern.  I’d like to chalk some of the questionable play up to being new to the defensive scheme, but too many breakdowns seem to be player desire, not scheme. Bacarri Rambo in particular has had too many lapses, but leads a young and hopefully up and coming secondary. Next to last in SEC pass defense just has to get better. Freshmen Alec Olgetree is a beast who should profit from another year playing at this level. He very well could end up being a Thomas Davis/Greg Blue type player.

I do have to mention the players that might not be coming back, AJ Green is sure to dip his toe in the NFL waters and be moving on. DE Justin Houston is another underclassman who is looking to play on Sundays very soon. Losing those two will hurt UGA on both sides of the ball.

UGA is lucky to have two of the very best kickers in college football returning. PK Blair Walsh and Punter Drew Butler, the 2009 Ray Guy award winner, make up a solid special teams unit.

5. Intangibles

UGA is coming off some very frustrating years. Since the high of the 2008 Sugar Bowl and the crushing defeat of 41-10 of Hawaii, UGA has underperformed.  An initial #1 ranking in 2008 led to a disappointing 10-3 season with embarrassing losses vs. Alabama and Florida, plus losing for the first time in eight years to hated rival Georgia Tech ‘tween the hedges. A 7-5 campaign last year and fighting for bowl eligibility this year has the natives restless in Athens. Mark Richt is allowed a few seasons of mediocrity due to his early success the first 10 years at the helm. Three SEC championship game appearances, two SEC titles and wining 90+ games will buy you some insurance. I look to the promise of a more physical spring and summer practice schedule; Richt getting more involved in the play calling and the defense improving with a another year under its belt.

Bottom Line

Georgia will go through bad stretches just as any team will, remember Alabama was 6-6 just three years ago. I guess the question is, has Georgia gotten that bad or has every team around them gotten better? I believe Richt will find a way to right the ship with a more hands-on approach and win the SEC East in 2011. Remember you heard it here first…..





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Comments 20

  1. Let me first put this out there – I am a Florida alumnus and I dislike the Georgia Bulldogs. Now that’s on the table, let me take off the Gators cap and comment objectively as someone who follows SEC football almost like a religion.

    It’s become quite apparent that Georgia has lost it’s MOJO against Florida. First with SOS and now with Urban Meyer, but Georgia simply can’t get past Florida. Mark Richt has proven that he can coordinate offenses quite well, but as a head coach he has fallen short of expectations. I’ll be surprised if he’s even the head coach in 2011.

    If UGA revamps the coaching staff (i.e. teach the defensive coordinator to stay classy and not attempt to get into the opposing team’s kicker with a choke sign), then they’ll have a shot with the talent they have on that team.

    Richt is becoming to Meyer what Goof was to SOS. Yes, it’s that bad.

    But then again (putting the Gators cap back on), please keep Richt so Florida can continue to win in Jacksonville every year.

    • Donna
      Commented : 3 years ago

      If you dislike the Georgia Bulldogs, why in the hell are commenting on them. Go home to Florida you dumass!!

    • UGAstudent
      Commented : 3 years ago

      It sure doesn’t seem like you took off your Florida cap before that comment. An objective comment would not have focused on the Georgia/Florida game and the DC’s sportsmanship.

      Now let me put my UGA cap on. If we’re going to talk about sportsmanship, don’t forget Brandon Spikes trying to eye gouge Washawn Ealey, and the saintly coaching staff’s decision to stay classy by suspending him for one quarter… against Vanderbilt (if my memory serves me well). Florida (and especially Florida fans) are the least classy of all the SEC teams… except of course for Auburn. I think we all need to take a page out of Alabama’s book.

  2. Pablo from Jersey
    Commented : 3 years ago

    Sounds like a lot of wishful thinking in that article. Georgia fans expect to win the SEC East every “next year”. problem is, it rarely happens.

  3. A Different Jim
    Commented : 3 years ago

    I doubt we win the east next year. We were supposed to be 9 and 3 with our schedule this year. We should have beaten the gators, Miss state and colorado. If we did not have an idiot for an OC, we would have beaten arkansas. The problem is the coaching staff. If we can not beat tech next week, I do not think this defensive staff can turn it around even with another year. A dawg fan.

  4. nobie
    Commented : 3 years ago

    Lets face it. Richt’s best years were with Defensive Coordinator, Brian VanGorder. The day BV left the Georgia program I told my family and friends that the run was over and unfortunately I was right. When BV left he took our attitude, sawgger, mojo, whatever you want to call it with him. When BV was around all the offense had to score was 20 points or more and we won every game except for two. Now UGA cannot score enough points to win half of their games.

    Richt is a lame duck coach and needs to be replaced before he causes more damage like Ray Goof did, because UGA held on to him at least 3 years too long and it took years to dig out of that hole. Richt failed UGA by hiring Willie Martinez as DC and then failed again by hanging onto him for 2 years too long. I truly believe that Richt will not get it done next year and we’ll be lucky to win 7 games.

    Do I like Richt as person, you bet. Do I like him as my Head Coach? Not any longer. I am not renewing my season tickets for the first time in 12 years and I’ve come to the point that I cannot even watch the Dawgs on TV. It just turns my stomach and I’ll bet I’m not the only person to feel that way. Money will slow down to the Athletic Department and they will be forced to make a change, but I’m affraid that it will be too late for a quick turn around.

  5. Red Roosterette
    Commented : 3 years ago

    USC will be up for the challenge again next year. The talent we have this year will be there again and even better in 2011. TN will be the team to watch in 2011. They have a great coach and seem to be improving. A year will make a difference. UGA has too many issues right now that may carry over to next year, if not taken care of now. Dawgs are in for a dry spell.

  6. oj rot
    Commented : 3 years ago

    I like to read, for amusement, and get these types of articles, but I always feel like the writers are fluffing the upside of their team, saying all the good things that can potentially happen for their team, while at the same time ignoring all of the other teams in the conference.

    Yes, he mentions the SEC west teams, but what about the SEC East teams? You know, the ones in the division that Georgia “will win.” The Florida mention was important, but other than that, not a word about the other teams in the East.

    These articles always say, “well, we’ve got some returning players, we’re bound to rebound, some intangibles here and there, etc.” which is the same for a lot of schools. Is there a template that any school can use to predict how they will win the conference? Tell me why SC wont’ repeat, with Lattimore, Garica, Jeffery and more back? Why will UGA rise about TN? It just seems that these types of articles, like the one whoever wrote about why TN will win an SEC championship (a few weeks ago) all say the same things.

    1. Our team will be better.
    2. Our team is bringing back key players.
    3. Our coach will fix things.

    I mean, that’s what every team is saying. Don’t get me wrong, I like reading the articles, but you just told me, really, why UGA has a chance against Florida and how the out of conference schedule (i.e. doesn’t matter in the SEC standings) will be easier, while leaving out what Georgia will actually do to beat the majority of the teams in their own conference.

  7. AUGamecock
    Commented : 3 years ago

    Yea, I have to agree with the last 2 comments. I just don’t see Georgia winning the east next year, not with South Carolina returning virtually every playmaker thats made them good this year. Sure, they lose TE Pat DiMarco and DE Cliff Mathews but Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jefferey, Stephen Garcia, Tori Gurly, Most of the O line, Ace Sanders, Stephon Gilmore, Devin Taylor, and many many more on both sides of the ball are returning.

    And our backup QB Connor Shaw will probably be a lot better than Garcia is, so I think South Carolina’s dominate years are still ahead. We have depth right now that we’ve never had before.
    Even our terrible secondary looks to be good next year. The guys we have back there are incredibly talented and another year of maturity is exactly what they need. Also, we just recruited a highly regarded safety in Marcus, so our one weakness looks to be much improved next year.

    That’s not to say Georgia won’t be good next year, I think they’ll have an 8 or 9 win season, but i think SC will have a 10+ win season.

    We’ll see what happens. All I know is that the border bash next year will be a lot of fun. I think it’s turned in to one of the best early season rivalries in the SEC.

  8. Peter Parker
    Commented : 3 years ago

    Let me be the first to say it….You’ve just stated my exact thoughts. If it’s always darkest before the light, then consider this 1979. Because u heard it hear first-Richt’s Red Clay Hounds will run the table in 2011. For the exact same reasons mentioned above, but also because the breaks have to fall our way eventually, and after two years of not getting any, the 3rd times a charm. New Orleans better brace themselves because they’ll be a pack of ravenous Dawgs in the French Qtr. come that national title game in early 2012.

    Is it just boundless optimism to say UGA will win it all next year, or blind luck??? No, when you consider not only Georgia’s improvement on both sides of the ball, but also the fact that Tenn. and Florida are not that good right now, and won’t be dramatically better 12 months from now. Tyler Bray’s a great QB but that whole team needs another year of recruiting and development to contend for any titles. Oh and the whole Florida curse in J-Ville??? Enter Steve Addazio, whose offense has no identity, and lacks a true QB to run it. Either he’s fired or he needs to revamp that system to fit his talent. Not to mention Florida will lose around 7 upperclassmen on defense to graduation, and go ahead and make that 9 because Hill and Jenkins are going to enter the draft. The problems in Gainsville won’t go away in one off season. All that’s left is Spurrier’s Cocks. So really, USC is going to enter Athens next year and get a victory??? No one, not even Gamecock fans believe that is going to happen, and they’re right. UGA has the schedule and means to make a lot of noise next fall. Here’s to Richt reeling off a perfect season and the first of 2 straight victories over Florida. (BTW, we have an open week before Florida in 2012 as well) Not since the days of Dooley has a Dawg enjoyed either. Goooooo Dawgs!!!

    • oj rot
      Commented : 3 years ago

      “No one, not even Gamecock fans believe that is going to happen, and they’re right. ”

      You must not talk to many gamecock fans, then.

      • David Rosamond
        Commented : 3 years ago

        Peter Parker, U need to go pick a peck of pickled puppies.!!!! What U fail to realize what is going on here is ‘The Gamecocks’ are about to become the premier team of the east. With the talent we have returning for next year I will be in total shock if we don’t win the SEC title. But that is not even going to be the biggest difference maker. Allow me to introduce U to our new offensive line coach. Within 3 – 5 years Shawn Elliott will become the most sought after coach in college football.!!! What he has done in his first year is beyond anyones imagination. Oh yeah did I mention the new attitude these guys are playing with now. Expect that to carry over to next year. Granted Georgia has a very good qb in the making, but is lacking in so many other areas i don’t understand how U can feel so good about next year ???? Wait a minute,, yes I do U need to share whatever that is ur smoking.!!!
        GO ‘COCKS’ BEAT THE TIGGERS & WIN THE STATE TITLE
        BEAT THE OTHER TIGGERS & WIN THE SEC TITLE.!!!

        • UGAstudent
          Commented : 3 years ago

          “You,” not “U.” At least UGA has one thing over USC.

  9. FRED RUSSO
    Commented : 3 years ago

    CAN I HAVE SOME OF WHAT YOU ARE SMOKING PLEASE!

  10. GA BirdDAWG
    Commented : 3 years ago

    Let’s hope you are right….. Go DAWGS!!! Me personally, I am done with Richt!! The only way he can redeem his self is to win a NC next year or at a minimum the SEC and a spot in NC game. Anything short of that and his a$$ should be fired!!!

  11. Patwood
    Commented : 3 years ago

    You’re assuming half the team will not be arrested in the off season. UGA has some serious coaching problems. The last few years they have under performed for the level of talent they can recruit. A loss to an average GT team will make for a long off season (literally since they will be watching the bowl games from the couch).

    AJ Green is a freak and I doubt UGA’s passing game is going to be better without him next year.

    UF will be better next year. UT will be better next year. USC will be better next year. Lattimore is a true freshman and is going to be a beast.

  12. GA BirdDAWG
    Commented : 3 years ago

    Oh yeah and take Bobo, Gardner, Grantham and Lakatos with him!! If UGA is going to stink it up then take out the trash and start from scratch. Can’t be any worse than what those overpaid morons are doing now!!! That Defense should not be giving up big plays like that are consistently doing. If it isn’t a coaching issue then is a player issue which makes it a coaching issue and those morons are paid way too much money to be putting crap like that on the field!!!

  13. Andrew Phelps
    Commented : 3 years ago

    sorry guys. south carolina returns 15 or 16 starters including all skill players on offense. with the confidence of finally winning the SEC east, it will be carolina’s to lose.

    garcia, lattimore, jeffery all back, it doesn’t look good for the rest of the SEC

  14. Johnson
    Commented : 3 years ago

    While I would like to say it won’t happen for the Dawgs next year—I can’t. I do take offense to everyone else who counts them out. One question “Do you even watch football?” SC is good this year ONLY because of one or two players, AND the fact that Georgia and Florida were weaker than usual. You barely won the Georgia game…… Getting a big head has been your downfall many times. There are reasons you lost to teams you should not have lost to IF you are that grand. The rest of football nation doesn’t buy it. You have to have SEVERAL seasons of winning to say you are a powerhouse. Coaches will also spend a lot of time watching film and making ways to stop your 2 players. Now I leave with this….Georgia had very high expectations a couple of years ago and INJURIES took out 5 starters. You better be careful……Injuries will take you from the top to the bottom quickly when you depend on 1 or 2 players.