Georgia has won the SEC East in back-to-back seasons but is searching for its first conference title since 2005.
The Bulldogs return eight starters on offense, including one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Aaron Murray, along with running back Todd Gurley, receiver Malcolm Mitchell and tight end Arthur Lynch.
However, the defense is a work in progress with eight new starters stepping into the lineup. Georgia has plenty of young players to build around, including sophomore linebacker Jordan Jenkins and true freshman safety Tray Matthews. But this defense will be under the spotlight right away in 2013, as the Bulldogs play Clemson, South Carolina and LSU before their first game in October.
What will Georgia's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Georgia's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 at Clemson
9/7 South Carolina
9/21 North Texas
10/5 at Tennessee
10/19 at Vanderbilt
11/2 Florida (Jacksonville)
11/9 Appalachian State
11/16 at Auburn
11/30 at Georgia Tech
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
My original picks had Georgia losing its first two games against Clemson and South Carolina. I reversed field on South Carolina even though the Gamecocks have taken the last three meetings. Marcus Lattimore saved some of his best games for the Bulldogs, and now he’s gone. That said, Georgia’s offense was largely ineffective against South Carolina a year ago. The Bulldogs need to figure out what went wrong. The opening game against Clemson is going to be an up-and-down the field game, but I can’t go against the Tigers in Death Valley here. After that brutal one-two punch to start the season, Georgia has a chance to pick up some wins before the Florida game. Honestly, I’d be more worried about the Vanderbilt game than LSU. LSU’s young defense will be great one day, but maybe not in September against the best offense in the SEC. The last time Georgia went to Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs won a close, heated game. And the Florida game, well, that game’s always wild, and Georgia has won two in a row. That’s tempting fate.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The development of Georgia’s defense will hold all of the cards for coach Mark Richt’s team in 2013. The Bulldogs have one of the nation’s top offenses, but the defense will have eight new starters. However, the Bulldogs ranked sixth in the SEC in points and yards allowed last year, so there’s plenty of room on defense to improve. The talent level is solid on defense, but it will take some time for all of the new faces to mesh. The suspension of safety/linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons is a big loss, especially against Clemson’s spread attack. With a rebuilding defense taking on the Tigers in Week 1 – not to mention a huge SEC East showdown against South Carolina in Week 2 – I think the Bulldogs open the year at 0-1. However, Georgia will win the showdown against the Gamecocks the following Saturday and will stumble only once (Florida) in SEC play. But if Georgia’s defense emerges as a strength, and the offensive line develops as expected, the Bulldogs will have an excellent chance at running the table and finishing 8-0 in conference games.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Georgia's offense is going to be electric. There are no weaknesses on that side of the ball. The same cannot be said for the defense. There is plenty of talent with names like Jordan Jenkins, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews stepping into starting roles. Yet, there is loads of inexperience on a unit that was 12th in the SEC in rushing defense a year ago and there is no time to ease these young Bulldog pups into the season. Clemson and South Carolina will put UGA in an 0-2 hole to start, but this team will get much better as the year goes along. Mark Richt has fought his way out of an 0-2 hole before and could have to do it again. Key swing games with LSU, Florida, Georgia Tech and at Vanderbilt give Georgia a much tougher schedule than South Carolina.
Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
The opener against Clemson has the potential to be a classic shootout. Clemson gets the edge thanks to early-season jitters with Georgia’s defense, which opens without suspended safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. The Bulldogs will need to bounce back against South Carolina. It helps that game will be played in Athens. Florida, which played Georgia close last year, will be a tough opponent in Jacksonville. Georgia should be in good shape in the Eastern Division as long as it can at least split with Florida and South Carolina. Georgia is my pick to win the East.
SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
We are going to learn everything we need to know about Georgia after week 2. Opening the season at Clemson, then South Carolina coming to town is a tall task. The Bulldogs lost a ton on defense to the NFL, so they will lean heavy on their offense. Georgia might have the best offense in the SEC (Outside of Johnny Football) with names like Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell and Arthur Lynch. Returning Murray is huge; he was the 2nd highest rated QB in the nation last year, only behind McCarron. The loss to Alabama in the SEC title game still hurts (SPIKE THE BALL) but they need to turn it into motivation for 2013. Seeing them back in the title game wouldn't be surprising, seeing them do worse than 10-2 would.
Do I really think Georgia will go undefeated? No, but that doesn't mean I don't like this team's chances. For starters, with Aaron Murray at quarterback and the two-headed monster of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall powering the running game, these Bulldogs are going to be tough for anyone, including the vaunted defenses of the SEC, to slow down. Then there's the schedule. Outside of the season opener in the ACC's version of Death Valley, Georgia's toughest true road game is either Vanderbilt or Georgia Tech, depending on your preference. South Carolina and LSU both come to Athens and there's the annual cocktail party in Jacksonville, Fla., with the Gators. After that it's mostly teams who are breaking in new head coaches. And the best part of the Bulldogs' schedule is which teams are NOT on it, i.e., Alabama and Texas A&M. This means Mark Richt and company won't have to even worry about facing Johnny Manziel or the Crimson Tide until the SEC championship game, which makes Clemson the only team on this schedule that is even on the same page with the Bulldogs when it comes to offensive firepower. It certainly won't be easy for any SEC team, including two-time defending national champion Alabama, to run the table, but this just may be the year everything falls into place for Georgia to do just that, at least in the regular season.
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