Is this the year? The Georgia Bulldogs saw their national championship dreams dashed by Alabama in each of the last two seasons. If Kirby Smart and the Dawgs fail to get over the hump again in 2019, the title drought in Athens will reach 40 years.
Smart and his coaching staff have built one of the most talented rosters in the country. Quarterback Jake Fromm and running back D'Andre Swift are set to begin their junior seasons, and the pair will work behind arguably the best offensive line in Georgia football history. Receiver is the only question mark on offense, as the Bulldogs must replace more than 76 percent of last year's yardage, but transfers and blue-chip freshmen should step in to keep the offense humming along.
Defensively, both the line and the secondary are deep and experienced. Safety J.R. Reed has gotten a lot of preseason All-American attention. The Bulldogs were hit hard by graduation at linebacker, but three players return with starting experience and a trio of newcomers ranked among the best in the nation as recruits.
The coaching staff also is in a period of transition following the voluntary departures of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to Tennessee and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to Colorado. But like the roster, replacements were already waiting in the wings as James Coley and Dan Lanning were promoted at OC and DC, respectively.
That leaves the schedule, which includes visits from 2018 College Football Playoff participant Notre Dame and SEC West contender Texas A&M in addition to the typical SEC gauntlet. Can the Bulldogs navigate a difficult slate to return to the SEC Championship Game, and perhaps beyond?
Athlon asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors to share their win-loss projections for Georgia in 2019.
Georgia Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Under Kirby Smart’s direction, Georgia has claimed the East Division title, won the SEC championship, beat Oklahoma in the CFB Playoff and earned a trip to the national championship. So what’s next? Beat Alabama and win the national title. Coach Kirby Smart’s team has had the Crimson Tide on the ropes for two consecutive years but couldn’t finish. Crossing that final hurdle will require Georgia to navigate a change at offensive coordinator (Jim Chaney to James Coley) and quickly restock a receiving corps for All-America candidate Jake Fromm. Smart’s defense needs to get more pressure on the quarterback and replace standout cornerback Deandre Baker, but there’s no shortage of talent at every level. The schedule sets up for a 12-0 mark in the regular season and a potential showdown versus Alabama in the SEC title game for a spot (or two?) in the CFB Playoff.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
There's not much to discuss here. Georgia is one of the most talented teams in the nation and should be favored in every game on the regular-season slate. If the Dawgs do slip up, the best bets appear to at home to Notre Dame or Texas A&M, vs. Florida in Jacksonville or at Auburn. If Jake Fromm stays healthy, Georgia will be playing in the SEC Championship Game.
Nicholas Ian Allen (@NicholasIAllen)
Georgia is likely to be favored in every regular-season game this season. In fact, my favorite set of CFB Winning Edge preseason projections calls for the Bulldogs to go 12-0 (and seven of the nine sets of power ratings also call for the Dawgs to finish undefeated). However, those same power ratings indicate Georgia would win 9.28 games on average given the combined win probabilities of each matchup — so there are plenty of opportunities to slip up.
The Bulldogs are just 1.2-point favorites according to the projections against Florida, and Georgia is favored by 4.5 points on the road against Auburn, 6.1 points at Tennessee, and 8.7 points at home against both Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Because the Dawgs have a win expectancy between 52 percent and 69 percent in each of those four games, the likelihood is high Georgia loses at least one (UGA should win 2.5 of the four on average). Nevertheless, the Bulldogs should win them all.