Expectations are clear in Athens this season.

It’s Atlanta or bust for Bulldogs, a team that hasn’t won a conference championship since 2005.

Despite elite-level recruiting classes, several Heisman candidates on offense and a coach who has been victorious in nearly 74 percent of his career games, that special, nationally-momentous campaign hasn’t happened for Georgia and time could be running out under its current regime.

The 2015 season is Georgia’s best shot to win a national championship based on personnel in several years, but avoiding a single disappointing Saturday that could inevitably derail the ultimate objective has proved easier said than done for a team that doesn’t often meet a crazed fanbase’s lofty expectations.

Path to the College Football Playoff Series

Furthermore, here’s a breakdown of Georgia’s path to the College Football Playoff …

Defining factors

  • Will the Bulldogs avoid losing to a team they shouldn’t this season?
  • Can QB Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Greyson Lambert become a serviceable starter?
  • How will Mark Richt navigate through a challenging schedule featuring Alabama and Auburn?
  • What will Brian Schottenheimer’s impact on offense entail?

Magic numbers

  • 8: Wins over ranked teams over last 15 nationally-ranked matchups; Play as many as five this fall
  • 29: Number of takeaways in Year 1 defensively under Jeremy Pruitt, a 14 turnover increase from 2013
  • 41.3: School-record points per game average with Mike Bobo calling the plays last season

Key stretch

Getting to the bye week with one loss or fewer is essential to Georgia’s Playoff hopes this fall considering how much more difficult the first half of the season is compared to the second. Over the first seven weeks, the Bulldogs battle likely nationally-ranked Alabama, Tennessee and Mizzou consecutively in October. That doesn’t include the feisty Gamecocks who have dominated the recent rivalry series and always give Georgia all it can handle at home or on the road. We’ve mentioned several times this offseason that Georgia’s cross-divisional schedule is the nation’s toughest and should determine just how good this team really is this fall. Winning all six games against the East, splitting the West matchups and beating Georgia Tech will be enough to play for a Playoff berth against the West champion in Atlanta.

Final say

Yes, I’m going out on a limb and taking the Bulldogs as my Playoff representative from the SEC this season. I accurately projected three teams in last year’s final four and think this is the year Richt finally delivers in grand fashion. How the quarterback situation plays out is obviously a primary storyline as went enter fall practice in six short weeks, but Georgia doesn’t need an All-SEC type player at the position. The Bulldogs simply need a leader, a player who can make smart decisions in crunch time and allow his backfield mates to do most of the heavy-lifting.