Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list.
Our Top 25 — so far:
Today’s team: No. 4 Georgia
The Bulldogs’ best-case scenario: The defending SEC champs get over the Tua Tagovailoa hangover and remain a title contender after blowing a 13-point second-half lead in the national championship loss to Alabama.
Their worst-case scenario: The Bulldogs don’t figure out a way to get run production with the loss of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, putting too much pressure on sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm to carry the offensive load.
Inside the Bulldogs
Coach: Kirby Smart (third year, 21-7)
2017: 13-2, 7-1 in the SEC (lost to Alabama in the CFP championship game)
Returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense
Goodbye: RB Sony Michel (1st, Patriots); RB Nick Chubb (2nd, Browns); LB Roquan Smith (1st, Bears); OT Isaiah Wynn (1st, Patriots); LB Lorenzo Carter (3rd, Giants); WR Javon Wims (7th, Bears)
Spring cleaning: James Coley, a former offensive coordinator at Miami who spent the last two years as the receivers coach, has been promoted to co-offensive coordinator. Cortez Hankton was hired from Vanderbilt to coach receivers. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will remain the playcaller. Tight ends coach Shane Beamer, who was also the special teams coordinator, left in January for an assistant coach’s job at Oklahoma.
PASSING: Jake Fromm, 181-291-2,615, 24/7 (1st)
RUSHING: D’Andre Swift, 81-618-3 (3rd); Elijah Holyfield, 50-293-2 (4th)
RECEIVING: Terry Godwin, 38-639-6 (2nd); Mecole Hardman, 25-418-4 (3rd)
TACKLES: DB J.R. Reed, 79 (2nd)
SACKS: OLB D’Andre Walker, 5.5 (2nd)
INTERCEPTIONS: DB Deandre Baker, 3 (2nd); DB J.R. Reed, 2 (3rd)
Returning All-SEC players (1)
Defense: DB Deandre Baker (2nd team)
Next in line: Michel and Chubb got the most headlines but D’Andre Swift quietly averaged a team best 7.6 yards per carry. Swfit and Elijah Holyfield — the son of boxing legend Evander Holyfield — will have a chance to prove they are the real deal against some of the toughest run defenses in the country.
An increased workload: Fromm exceeded expectations as a freshman starter but with those experienced runners leaving, the playmaking responsibilities will increase. His 160.1 passing efficiency rating was the ninth best in the country and the second in the SEC behind Missouri’s Drew Lock. It will be interesting to see if he is better in the vertical game than he was a freshman.
A Roquan-less defense: Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith has left a huge void at linebacker. Also, the entire starting linebacking corps from the postseason left along with three members of the secondary. Smart is hoping that Tae Crowder, who made that big play on Oklahoma’s squib kick in the Rose Bowl, will step up on the inside. Redshirt junior safety J.R. Reed announced before the national championship game he would be back along with ball-hawking cornerback Deandre Baker. It may take some time for the unit to gel but the first half of the schedule is pretty friendly aside from the South Carolina game.
2017 national rankings
Scoring: 20th (35.4 ppg) — right above No. 21 Wake Forest, right behind No. 19 North Texas
Points allowed: 6th (16.4 ppg) — right above No. 7 Penn State, right behind No. 5 Washington
Passing: 105th (176.9 ypg) — right above No. 106 Illinois, right behind No. 104 Ball State
Rushing: 9th (258.4 ypg) — right above No. 10 San Diego State, right behind No. 8 South Florida
Total offense: 32nd (435.3 ypg) — right above No. 33 Washington State, right behind No. 31 Appalachian State
Total defense: 6th (294.9 ypg) — right above No. 7 Michigan State, right behind No. 5 UTSA
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 1 (2:30 p.m., ESPN)||Austin Peay|
|Sept. 8 (2:30 p.m., CBS)||at South Carolina*||W, 24-10 in Athens|
|Sept. 15 (6:15 p.m., ESPN2)||Middle Tennessee|
|Sept. 22||at Missouri*||W, 53-28 in Athens|
|Sept. 29||Tennessee*||W, 41-0 in Knoxville|
|Oct. 6||Vanderbilt*||W, 45-14 in Nashville|
|Oct. 13||at LSU*|
|Oct. 27||Florida*||W, 42-7 in Gainesville|
|Nov. 3||Duke*||W, 31-6 in Durham|
|Nov. 10||at Kentucky*||W, 42-13 in Athens|
|Nov. 24||Georgia Tech||W, 38-7 in Atlanta|
|* SEC game|
Note: Georgia went on to beat Auburn in the SEC championship game, 28-7
The key game: At South Carolina, Sept. 8. The second weekend of the season provides a stiff road test. If recent history means anything, the Dawgs should be confident despite the massive loss of talent. Kirby Smart is 2-0 against South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, his former teammate at Georgia.
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKINGS||BOWL, RESULT|
|2013||8-5 (5-3)||5th / —||Gator, L|
|2014||10-3 (6-2)||12th / 13th||Belk, W|
|2015||10-3 (5-3)||9th / —||TaxSlayer, W|
|2016||8-5 (4-4)||18th / —||Liberty, W|
|2017||13-2 (7-1)||15th / 2nd||CFP title game, L|
|Total||49-18 (27-13 SEC)||4-2 in bowls|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking
Our Top 25, by conferences
SEC — No. 4 Georgia, No. 9 Auburn, No. 17 Mississippi State, No. 24 LSU
Pac-12 — No. 5 Washington, No. 14 Stanford, No. 20 USC, No. 23 Oregon
Big Ten — No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 10 Penn State, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 12 Michigan
Big 12 — No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 15 TCU, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 25 Texas
ACC — No. 7 Miami, No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Florida State
Independents — No. 13 Notre Dame
Mountain West — No. 18 Boise State
AAC — No. 22 Central Florida
Coming tomorrow: Our No. 3 team
Want a hint?
This school’s head coach was drafted in the 13th round of the 1982 MLB draft as a shortstop, but instead played college football as a defensive back for the Cincinnati Bearcats.