Will the Bulldogs win the SEC East?
Georgia opened the 2013 season with a loss to Clemson, but the Bulldogs have won four in a row, including key SEC matchups against South Carolina and LSU.
Despite Georgia’s winning streak, trouble could be lurking.
Running back Keith Marshall and receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell are all out for the year due to injury. And receiver Michael Bennett is out indefinitely after suffering a knee injury against Tennessee.
With injuries mounting, the Bulldogs hold on the SEC East is starting to fade.
Georgia has already crossed two huge hurdles with South Carolina and LSU, but Florida, Missouri and Auburn remain.
With Injuries Mounting, Will Georgia Win the SEC East?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I still like Georgia as the favorite in the SEC East. There’s no question the injuries to receiver Michael Bennett, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley, along with running back Keith Marshall are going to be difficult to overcome. However, the Bulldogs have one of the nation’s best quarterbacks (Aaron Murray) at their disposal, along with running back Todd Gurley and an experienced offensive line. While Georgia ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense, this unit will only get better with more experience. Games against Missouri, Auburn and Florida represent the biggest challenges for the Bulldogs in the regular season. Even if Georgia loses once, will Florida make it through SEC play with just one defeat or an unbeaten record? And for South Carolina to get back into the division title picture, the Bulldogs have to lose twice. Anything is possible, but even if Georgia loses a game in SEC play, I still think Mark Richt’s team represents the East in Atlanta this season.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I picked South Carolina to win the East in the summer and Florida to finish second. That put Georgia in third in my preseason ballot. All three were basically considered equal with different areas of strength. However, those areas have shifted after one month of play. Florida's quarterback woes are no more as Tyler Murphy has been excellent, efficient and productive under center. South Carolina's defense isn't nearly as... focused, let's say, as we anticipated, but the offense is better. Aaron Murray has shredded the idea he can't deliver in the clutch against big-time competition but has done so while the rest of his supporting cast crumbles around him. The defense is still young and road games at Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia Tech and a neutral site game against Florida still loom. So after one month of play, I will stick with my predicted order of finish from the summer: 1. South Carolina 2. Florida 3. Georgia — but it could easily be a three-way tie with the BCS sending the Gamecocks to Atlanta.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Georgia’s hold on the SEC is tenuous for sure. If I had to pick again today, I’d go with South Carolina or Florida in the East. That’s as much because of Georgia’s new rash of injuries along with a few revelations in the division. We’ll find out Saturday if Tyler Murphy is a long-awaited answer at quarterback when the Gators visit LSU. The Gators’ defense is good enough to win any league. Meanwhile, South Carolina could have a secret weapon if Jadeveon Clowney ever returns to form. And then there’s Missouri and to a lesser extent Tennessee. The Tigers may not as good as other 5-0 teams, but they may be good enough to sneak up and upset Florida, Georgia or South Carolina. Mizzou doesn’t have to beat all three to upset the whole division.
I still think Georgia is the favorite, but the Bulldogs' margin of error seems to be shrinking with every passing day. Even though Mark Richt's team did what it needed to do to escape Knoxville with a win last Saturday, it didn't come without a cost. Running back Keith Marshall and wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley join wideout Malcolm Mitchell as those key players who will miss the rest of the season because of injury. The Bulldogs' offensive skill position depth will certainly be tested, but I think they can survive, provided running back Todd Gurley returns from his ankle injury soon and that it doesn't impact his production the rest of the way.
Georgia will certainly need to bring its "A" game this Saturday against Missouri, but the big contest that looms, of course, is the one with Florida the following weekend. That will be the true test of Georgia's offensive depth, as the Gators have one of the top defenses in the country. The winner of that game will be in the driver's seat to play in Atlanta in December for the SEC championship. The difference in that game may very well come down to quarterback play, and while Florida has had to go to its backup quarterback because of a season-ending injury to Jeff Driskel, Georgia can lean on Aaron Murray. The senior stepped up against Tennessee this past Saturday when his team needed him the most. That just reinforces the fact that, despite the litany of injuries Georgia has suffered, Murray is the one player who must stay healthy if the Bulldogs want to chase their championship dreams. As long as he can avoid the injury bug that's wreaking havoc on the depth chart, I like Georgia's chances to win the East.
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