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Offensive lineman Pat Allen #58 of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts during their game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 31-23. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 14 Georgia

Same ol', same ol': Georgia's the team to beat in the SEC East, but Alabama's the team to beat in the SEC.

Posted July 16th, 2017

Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 14 Georgia (Related coverage: Low-key Roquan Smith living up to the hype)

Best-case scenario: Sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason, a former five-star prospect, develops some consistency and improves his 55.1 percent completion rate to give this offense the balance it needs. No worries about a defense that returns 14 of its top 15 tacklers and 28 of its 29 sacks.

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Worst-case scenario: The offensive line, which shuffled around personnel during and after a lackluster 2016, does not become a cohesive unit. The Dawgs scored just 319 points last season, the fewest since 1998.

The key game: Sept. 30, at Tennessee. The late October date with Florida probably will decide the SEC East, but the early trip to Knoxville will set the tone and is a revenge match after the Vols beat the Dawgs on a Hail Mary last year.

INSIDE THE BULLDOGS

Coach: Kirby Smart (second year, 8-5)

2016: 8-5, 4-4 in the SEC (beat TCU 31-23 in the Liberty Bowl)

Returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense

Goodbye: WR Isaiah McKenzie (Broncos, 5th round); OG Greg Pyke (Bills, undrafted free agent)

Spring cleaning: Four players could have left for the NFL draft but each came back for one last shot at pushing the Dawgs to the top of the division. They are RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who provide a potent ground game, and LBs Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter, who help anchor a solid defense looking to take the next step.

Guard Greg Pyke #73 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates with quarterback Jacob Eason #10 of the Georgia Bulldogs after defeating the Auburn Tigers at Sanford Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. The Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Auburn Tigers 13-7. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Jacob Eason, 204-370-2,430, 16/8

Rushing: Nick Chubb, 224-1,130-8 (1st); Sony Michel, 152-840-4 (2nd)

Receiving: Terry Godwin, 38-397-0 (2nd); TE Isaac Nauta, 29-361-3 (3rd)

Tackles: LB Roquan Smith, 95 (1st)

Sacks: DT Trenton Thompson, 5 (T-1st); OLB Davin Bellamy, 5 (T-1st)

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS

Offense: None

Defense: None

Running back Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs is congratulated by teammates offensive lineman Tyler Catalina #72 and offensive guard Greg Pyke #73 after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter on October 9, 2016 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages)

GEORGIA: FYI

Great expectations: The Dawgs were chosen to win the East at SEC media days. If you’ve heard that before, it’s because, well, you have. This is the fourth time in the last six years Georgia has been anointed the division favorite. It met those expectations only in 2012, the last time the Bulldogs won the East before losing a 32-28 title-game heartbreaker to Alabama. The Dawgs received the third-highest vote total to win the league, behind Bama and Auburn. Anything less than a title appearance in Atlanta will be a disappointment.

Which Chubb will he be?: Eight Dawgs were voted onto the various all-SEC teams, including four first teamers: Chubb, TE Isaac Nauta, DT Trenton Thompson and LB Roquan Smith. Chubb is the most interesting story. After exploding onto the scene as a freshman with 1,547 yards rushing in 2014, the 5-10, 228-pounder was knocked out of ’15 less than midway through with a left knee injury. He returned last year to rip off 1,130 yards, but his average plummeted from 8.1 to 5.0. Will the pre-injury burst return in ’17?

Top of the class: Kirby Smart, in his second season after leaving his Alabama defensive coordinator post, didn’t wow anyone in year one. His recruiting has, though. His first class ranked sixth nationally in the 247Sports composite. His 2017 class was third, a group that included 17 four-stars and trailed only Alabama and Ohio State. His two five-stars — OT Isaiah Wilson and S Richard LeCounte — could eventually start this year. Don’t sweat the 2018 ranking of 51st. The Dawgs are just scratching the surface. And Alabama is 53rd.

Georgia's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2Appalachian State
Sept. 9at Notre Dame
Sept. 16Samford
Sept. 23Mississippi State*
Sept. 30at Tennessee*L, 34-31
Oct. 7at Vanderbilt*L, 17-16
Oct. 14Missouri*W, 28-27
Oct. 28Florida*L, 24-10
Nov. 4South Carolina*W, 28-14
Nov. 11at Auburn*W, 13-7
Nov. 18Kentucky*W, 27-24
Nov. 25at Georgia TechL, 28-27
* SEC game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL48-18 (27-13)4-1 in bowls
201212-2 (7-1)6th/5thW Capital One
20138-5 (5-3)5th/NRL Gator
201410-3 (6-2)12th/13thW Belk
201510-3 (5-3)9th/NRW TaxSlayer
20168-5 (4-4)18th/NRW Liberty

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

 

2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS

Scoring: 102nd (24.5 ppg)

Points allowed: T-35th (24.0 ppg)

Passing: 97th (193.5 ypg)

Rushing: 50th (191.2 ypg)

Total off.: 87th (384.7 ypg)

Total def.: 16th (327.5 ypg)

 

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: West Virginia

No. 18: South Florida

No. 17: Florida

No. 16: Stanford

No. 15: Louisville

No. 14: Georgia

No. 13: Coming Monday. Want a hint? This school produced the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner, a running back who broke Ricky Williams’ NCAA career rushing record.

BY CONFERENCE

3 schools:

Big 12 (19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)

SEC (14-Georgia, 17-Florida, 23-Tennessee)

2 schools:

ACC (15-Louisville, 20-Miami)

Pac-12 (16-Stanford, 24-Oregon)

1 school:

AAC (18-South Florida)

Mountain West (25-Boise State)

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