Georgia football: 10 bold predictions for 2020
College football season will be here before you know it.
With the coronavirus having thrown everything in flux, how the season will look — and if it will even take place — remains to be seen. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with what to expect in 2020 for the Georgia Bulldogs football program by dishing out a fresh, right-out-of-the-oven serving of piping hot takes.
Let’s dive in. And remember, these are just for fun.
1. Jamie Newman beats out JT Daniels for the starting quarterback job, wins the Heisman Trophy
As part of my prep work for this piece, I pulled up my colleague Connor O’Gara’s Heisman favorites post from a year ago, a list that had Justin Fields, Adrian Martinez, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa from 1 to 4.
Martinez’s chances were dampened by a disappointing season for the Huskers and Tagovailoa’s injury derailed his quest, but Hurts and Fields were 2nd and 3rd in the voting to a kid named Joe Burrow.
At the end of the day, it’s not called “Bold Predictions” for nothing, and Newman is as good a shout to win the Heisman as anyone, really. That is, if he beats out JT Danies for the starting gig, which he does after Kirby Smart drags it out more than he needs to.
2. Azeez Ojulari reaches double-digit sacks
As Georgia makes its way through the schedule, it will need to prioritize a consistent pass rush.
Stopping the run hasn’t been a problem. And the secondary, featuring a possible 1st-round pick in Eric Stokes, won’t be a problem, either.
Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning will approach 2020 with a focus on improving Georgia’s sack numbers (an average 31.0 last year), and Ojulari will be the primary beneficiary, making him the Dawgs’ first double-digit sack man since Jarvis Jones reached the mark in 2011 and 2012.
3. Jamie Newman records over 750 yards rushing
The focal point of the running game is obvious: Zamir White. But who’s to stop Newman from getting involved?
Newman notched 574 yards on 180 carries in 2019 at Wake Forest last year. Despite facing some better defenses in the SEC, 750 or more yards rushing shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, right?
4. Georgia won’t have 1 1,000-yard receiver in 2020. It’ll have 2.
Here’s the list of Georgia football players who have broken the 1,000-yard receiving mark in a single season: Terrence Edwards.
That’s it. That’s the entire list.
The closest anyone’s come to that mark since then is Tavarres King, who hauled in 950 yards in 2012 in an offense powered by the program’s most prolific quarterback in Aaron Murray. But with an offensive guru in Todd Monken, a talented graduate transfer signal-caller from Wake Forest in Newman — who, by the way, had 2 wide receivers go for more than 1,000 yards last year — and a deep pass-catching corps that includes Dominick Blaylock, George Pickens and Demetris Robertson, and the tools are there to see Edwards’ nearly 20-year-old mark of 1,004 receiving yards challenged.
You know what? It’s called “Bold Predictions.” Not only will 1 Georgia receiver break the 1,000-yard mark, but 2 players will do it in the same season.
5. Georgia loses to Florida in Jacksonville
The Dawgs have won the 3 games in the Cocktail Party, with last year’s 7-point win the closest margin of victory for any team in the series since the Dawgs’ 23-20 win in 2013.
But no team has won 4 consecutive in the series since Florida rattled off 6 in succession between 1998-2003, and behind a buzz-worthy senior quarterback in Kyle Trask, the Gators will end the Bulldogs’ streak.
6. Kirby Smart becomes the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat his former boss …
Fans know all too well that Nick Saban has held the upper hand against his former assistants. When facing teams led by his ex-staffers, the Alabama head coach holds a 19-0 record, including a 2-0 mark against Smart.
Dawgs fans would rather not be reminded of what happened in either Smart-Saban showdown, but with the meeting on Sept. 19 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa serving as an early-season showcase, Smart will make a little bit of history and make it a 19-1 count for Saban against former assistants. And I have a feeling that it will come down to the wire: last-second field goal, anyone?
7. … and Smart will make it 2-for-2 against Saban in 2020, this time in the SEC Championship
Let’s be honest: Order will be restored in the SEC West and Alabama, apart from my prediction of a loss at home against Georgia, will run the table the rest of the way and make its way back to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game.
Its opponent? The Bulldogs, of course. The rest of the SEC East still has a little catching up to do, with Florida probably the best-positioned to close the gap.
But at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Smart and his group will make it back-to-back against Saban and the Tide, in what has served as a de facto play-in game to the College Football Playoff. That’s right: Alabama on the outside looking in for the 2nd consecutive year. Who would have thought?
8. Georgia earns the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff and will beat Ohio State in the national championship game
There’s so much narrative here that it’s too difficult to resist. Justin Fields’ final college football game against the program he left after losing out on the starting quarterback battle and standing as the last hurdle between the Dawgs and a long-awaited national championship?
Sign me up.
This time, there won’t be overtime heartbreak. Newman will guide the Dawgs to a victory at Hard Rock Stadium, featuring a 4th-quarter go-ahead touchdown and a defensive stand against the Buckeyes to deny a game-tying score.
9. Dan Lanning, Tray Scott and Todd Monken will exit for head coaching posts
Lanning’s probably the easier call here: He’s 34 and with a strong season behind him (and certainly a championship), he’ll be snapped up by a program looking to add an up-and-comer.
But Monken, making his return to the college game, and Scott, like Lanning in his 30s, could be picked off by teams with vacancies. And while they obviously would have to be replaced, having assistants in demand for head coaching gigs is a good problem to have.
10. Georgia will finish outside of the top 5 in the national recruiting rankings
As of this writing, the Dawgs had the No. 16 recruiting class in the country according to 247Sports.com’s composite rankings.
Relax, Georgia fans. It’s still early days. Highly touted offensive lineman Amarius Mims has the program near the top of his list. Overall No. 1 recruit Korey Foreman is a primary target. One-time Miami pledge James Williams has it down to the Canes and Dawgs right now.
With that said, I think Georgia does something it hasn’t done since 2016: finish outside of the top 5 in the 247 rankings.
Kirby Smart being denied a class in the top 5? Perish the thought. But Dawgs fans will be too busy celebrating that national championship to notice.