Georgia Football: Game-by-game predictions for 2014
Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.
We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.
2014 CRYSTAL BALL SERIES
- MISSISSIPPI ST.
- TEXAS A&M
- OLE MISS
- SOUTH CAROLINA
THE 2014 BATTLEFIELD
Aug. 30 vs. Clemson (W): Anchored by high-profile playmakers on defense instead of offense this season, Dabo Swinney’s Tigers travel between the hedges for what promises to be one of the best non-conference openers during college football’s first weekend. Georgia no longer has to worry about the exploits of Tajh Boyd or Sammy Watkins, but defensive end Vic Beasley will be one of the nation’s sack leaders at season’s end so keeping him check is of utmost importance. Todd Gurley’s Heisman campaign is ready to launch and Georgia’s new-look secondary has the national stage to prove its worth against Clemson’s first-year starting quarterback Cole Stoudt.
Sept. 13 at South Carolina (L): Georgia’s last trip to Williams-Brice Stadium resulted in one of the worst big-stage performances of the Mark Richt era for the Bulldogs, a 21-0 deficit with 5:18 to play in the opening quarter. This year’s rivalry won’t be decided by a 28-point margin since the Bulldogs have a week to prepare, but the Gamecocks aren’t losing a meaningful Eastern Division game at home where they’ve been unbeatable over the last 18 contests.
Sept. 20 vs. Troy (W): The Men of Troy better bring the heavy-duty armor because they’re going to need it during Hutson Mason’s first 300-yard game of the 2014 season.
Sept. 27 vs. Tennessee (W): We’ll learn a ton about both teams when this made-for-CBS rivalry winds down in Athens. The Vols won’t score enough points to keep up with the Bulldogs unless running backs Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd can control the clock.
Oct. 4 vs. Vanderbilt (W): After pleading with his team to not overlook the Commodores in prep for Mizzou the following week, Richt can breathe easy when Georgia has a two-touchdown lead at intermission.
Oct. 11 at Mizzou (W): South Carolina and Florida fans will be keeping a close eye on this matchup, unofficially the ‘Grown Man Football’ game in the Eastern Division. Should the Tigers prevail at home, Georgia’s chances at making up ground within the division are minimal with games against Florida and Auburn still to come.
Oct. 18 at Arkansas (W): Must win for the Bulldogs. A victory for the Razorbacks would be Bret Bielema’s biggest in two seasons.
Nov. 1 vs. Florida (Jacksonville, L): The season-definer for both teams. Will Muschamp’s job — and Florida’s SEC Championship hopes — are on the line in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Georgia’s won three straight in the series, but its recent stretch of success ends thanks to the Gators’ best defensive performance of 2014.
Nov. 8 at Kentucky (W): In what will likely be a night game at renovated Commonwealth Stadium, folks in the Bluegrass will have all day to talk upset at the tailgate. Sandwiched between marquee matchups with Florida and Auburn for the Bulldogs, Kentucky’s hoping it can catch Georgia sleeping.
Nov. 15 vs. Auburn (L): A toss-up in every sense of the term, the Bulldogs are still smarting from last season’s Hail Mary loss in the final minute that negated a 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter. If Georgia falls behind by three touchdowns this time around, the Tigers won’t need a miracle.
Nov. 22 vs. Charleston Southern (W): Georgia’s starters play the first half before the reserves finish out a 52-point win.
Nov. 29 vs. Georgia Tech (W): The Ramblin’ Wreck could be a ramblin’ mess by this point and Georgia will already know its division title fate. The Yellow Jackets haven’t beaten their in-state rival since 2008 and it won’t happen this season.
2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 9-3, 5-3
THE LOWDOWN: We were high on Georgia coming into last season but missed the mark after a plethora of injuries crippled the Bulldogs’ chances in the Eastern Division. We picked the Clemson loss and win over South Carolina, but the rest of Georgia’s projections — and regular season total of 11 wins — were way off the mark. This fall, Georgia’s two question marks come in key areas — quarterback and the secondary. Gurley will only be able to shoulder so much of the load before Jeremy Pruitt’s defense, along with an accurate Mason, must take over games. There is one disclaimer: IF the Bulldogs beat South Carolina and Florida, we think they’ll edge out out Auburn in Athens and head into the SEC Championship Game as the SEC’s only unbeaten. But we aren’t smart enough to pick it.