Head Coach: Mark Richt
2014 record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 SEC East
2014 Postseason results: Beat Louisville 37-14 in the Belk Bowl
2015 returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 27/1
Odds to win 2015 SEC Championship Game: 9/2
Odds to Win 2015 SEC East Division: +170
Regular season wins: over 9 -140 / under 9 +110
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The Georgia Bulldogs have gone to 18 straight bowl games. That streak should continue as Georgia is favored to win the SEC East and is the second choice behind Alabama to win the conference championship. Georgia also has a shot of qualifying for the college football playoff. Twelve starters are back for long time coach Mark Richt.
Last year, Georgia went 10-3, but the losses were to rivals South Carolina, Florida and Georgia Tech. The two conference losses prevented Georgia from playing in the SEC Championship game. The Bulldogs had to settle for a berth in the Belk Bowl where they beat Louisville 37-14 in Charlotte.
Last season, Georgia averaged 458 yards per game on offense including 258 rushing yards and 41 points per game. The Bulldogs were #30 in total offense, #12 in rushing and #8 in scoring. The passing game was an afterthought at best and was #90 out of 128 teams. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo left to become the head coach at Colorado State. Richt hired Brian Schottenheimer as the new offensive coordinator from the NFL. Six starters are back.
The Bulldogs must replace quarterback Hutson Mason who threw for 2,168 yards with 21 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and he also had 4 rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Brice Ramsey and junior Faton Bauta will compete for the job. Ramsey is more of a traditional pocket passer and Bauta is more mobile. Ramsey threw for 333 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions mostly in mop-up duty in blowouts. Bauta threw only 5 passes last year, but did have 2 rushing touchdowns. The competition could even go into the regular season.
Sophomore running back Nick Chubb began last season as the back-up to Heisman hopeful Todd Gurley. However, after Gurley was suspended for four games after the fifth game of the season for accepting money for autographs, Chubb took over. Gurley would later return, but tore his ACL in his first game back. Gurley rushed for 911 yards on 123 carries with 9 touchdowns, and also had 12 catches. Gurley was a first round pick by the St. Louis Rams. Now it is Chubb who is garnering Heisman buzz after he had 219 carries for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns, and also making 18 catches for 213 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sony Michel is also back after rushing for 410 yards on 64 carries with 5 touchdowns, and also making 7 catches with a touchdown. Keith Marshall will also get some carries. Both Michel and Marshall battled injuries last season and look to remain healthy in 2015.
Georgia must replace leading receivers Chris Conley (36 catches, 657 yards and 8 touchdowns) and Michael Bennett (37 catches, 404 yards and 4 touchdowns). Conley is now with the Kansas City Chiefs. Tight end Jed Blazevich is back after making 18 catches for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. Malcolm Mitchell is the leading returning receiver after making 31 catches for 248 yards and 3 touchdowns, despite battling injury. Besides Chubb, no other returning receiver had more than 10 catches last year. Speedster Isaiah McKenzie made only 7 catches last year but should get a lot more targets in 2015.
The offensive line was a strength of the team last year, and four starters are back. They were excellent at opening up holes for Chubb and Gurley and only allowed 17 sacks. Granted the Bulldogs didn’t pass much. Only center Isaiah Wynn is a new starter, with all the guards and tackles are intact.
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Last year, Georgia allowed 337 yards per game, including 170 passing yards, and 21 points per game. Georgia was #17 or better nationally in all three categories. Six starters are back for coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
All three starters are gone on the defensive line, but Georgia did bring in the #1 rated overall recruit Trent Thompson at tackle. Seniors Sterling Bailey and Josh Dawson should start at the ends.
Outside linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins could have both left early for the NFL, but both return after combing for 18 tackles for loss including 11 sacks. Lorenzo Carter will also get time at outside linebacker after an impressive freshman season. The questions are on the inside with unproven juniors Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough starting.
Four players with starting experience are back in the secondary including corners Aaron Davis and Devin Bowman. Davis could lose his starting spot to sophomore Malkom Parrish though. Safeties Quincy Mauger and Dominick Sanders are also back.
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Senior kicker Marshall Morgan has converted 84% of his field goals over the last two seasons. Senior punter Collin Barber needs to be more consistent. McKenzie returned two punts and a kickoff return for touchdowns last year and is back in both jobs.
September brings home games against Louisiana-Monroe, South Carolina and Southern, and a road game at Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs open October with a showdown in Athens against Alabama. Georgia travels to Tennessee before hosting Missouri and closing out the month against Florida in Jacksonville. November brings home games against Kentucky and Georgia Southern, and road games at Auburn and Georgia Tech.
There are a lot of questions at quarterback and wide receiver for Georgia. Still this team should compete for the SEC title even with a difficult October schedule. I don’t know if the Bulldogs will make the playoff but I do think they will go to one of the Big Six bowls perhaps the Peach in nearby Atlanta.
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