Georgia will enter the 2015 season with a lot of momentum coming off a 10-win season, a bowl win against Louisville and playmakers at almost every key position. During SEC Media Days, the Bulldogs were picked to win the SEC East and have Heisman hopeful Nick Chubb, returning after a record-setting freshman season, and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell leading the way on offense.
Jeremy Pruitt will enter his second year as defensive coordinator with returning starters Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins as well as highly touted freshman defensive tackle Trenton Thompson. The Bulldogs look to take back the SEC reigns and de-thrown whomever survives the SEC West. Mark Richt will enter his 15th season at Georgia with one of the most talented teams he has ever had and should be a championship contender in the SEC.
Three Reasons Why Georgia Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
1. Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall and Sony Michel
After Todd Gurley was suspended prior to him tearing his ACL after playing just six games, freshman Nick Chubb came in and wowed everyone with his physical running style. Chubb finished off his freshman year by rushing for 100 yards or more in the final eight games for Georgia, including his 266 yards against Louisville in the Belk Bowl. Georgia leaned on Chubb heavily last year, as he topped the 30-carry mark at least three times last year. Georgia must find a way to get Michel and Marshall the ball more to keep Chubb fresh and healthy. Michel rushed for 413 yards and five touchdowns in 2014 and should see more carries this fall. Marshall, who is coming off of an ACL injury, looks to get back to his freshman form when he rushed for more than 700 yards. With four starters returning on the offensive line, Georgia will again lean heavily on the run. The Bulldogs led the SEC in scoring last year with 41 points per game. They will try to duplicate that again this year.
In Jeremy Pruitt’s first year as Georgia’s defensive coordinator he had eight returning starters as the unit had an up-and-down season. Pruitt’s defense showed promise in games against Missouri, shutting them out 34-0, and Auburn, defeating the Tigers 34-7, but struggled at times as well, allowing Florida and South Carolina both to score 38 points. This season, Pruitt has six starters returning, but the defense should be better. Linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins passed on the NFL to come back to Athens and will head up a talented front seven that will include sophomore Lorenzo Carter, freshman Trenton Thompson and UAB transfer Jake Ganus Sr., a linebacker who was a second-team All-CUSA selection last season. The secondary returns three of the team’s top returning tacklers from a group whose longest pass play allowed last season was just 38 yards. Pruitt and his defense will surely be a force in 2015.
3. Good History
In 14 years at Georgia, Richt has never finished lower than third in the SEC East. He has led Georgia to five SEC Championship Game appearances, and most would agree the Bulldogs blew their chances the last two years to play in Atlanta. The SEC East is still very weak overall and Georgia is considered the clear-cut favorite for this season, receiving 166 first-place votes in the SEC Media Day preseason poll. Tennessee finished a distant second with only 36 first-place votes. Georgia has been the favorite in the East for the better part of Richt's tenure at Georgia and that will not change in 2015.
Georgia’s 2015 Schedule
Athlon Projected Rankfor 2015
at Georgia Tech
*Game in Jacksonville, FL
Three Reasons Why Georgia Won’t Make the College Football Playoff
1. Too Many New Parts on Offense
With the departure of former offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and quarterback Hutson Mason, the Bulldogs are left with new play-caller Brian Schottenheimer, who hasn’t coached in college since he was a tight ends coach at USC (Southern Cal) and has never been an OC in college, and either Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert under center. Ramsey has been a disappointment after coming to Athens as a finalist in the 2012 Elite 11 competition and was outplayed in this year’s spring game by Bauta. Lambert still has two years of eligibility and showed some flashes last season for the Cavaliers, but he was never able to put it all together. Maybe a change of scenery is what he needs. Maybe he just isn’t that good. But Georgia will struggle if the signal-caller can’t make some things happen and take the pressure off of Chubb and the backfield contingent. It doesn’t matter how great your running game is if the opponent is allowed to stack the box with eight or nine guys because they don’t fear the passer.
2. A Brutal Schedule
Even though Georgia only has three true road games, not counting the yearly trip to Jacksonville, the Bulldogs will have to navigate one of the toughest months in college football in October. The Bulldogs open October with a home game against SEC juggernaut Alabama followed by a trip to Knoxville the very next week. Georgia is back home for Missouri on the 17th, has an open date and then plays Florida in Jacksonville. Things don’t get much easier after that as they take a trip to Auburn on Nov. 14, have a home date against 2014 Sun Belt champion Georgia Southern the following week and then travel to Atlanta to face in-state rival Georgia Tech to end the season. Georgia should enter the Alabama game undefeated. After that, all bets are off.
3. Bad History
For as good as Georgia has been under Richt, his Bulldog teams just can’t seem to put a full season together. Richt had early success at Georgia, but hasn’t won an SEC title since 2005. His best chance came in one of the most memorable title games in 2012 when his Bulldogs fell to Alabama in what most thought was a much better game than the actual national championship game that year. Georgia seems to slip up yearly against South Carolina and last season let a inept Florida offense put up 38 points in a game where the Gators gashed the Bulldogs for 418 yards rushing in what ended up being a 38-20 rout. The Bulldogs simply cannot get out of their own way. The 2015 schedule leaves little to the imagination, as Georgia cannot afford any slip ups.
If Georgia can enter Oct. 3 against Alabama undefeated, Athens will be what SEC writers and historians talk about when they talk about the atmosphere of the conference’s tradition. Georgia will have revenge on its mind and will know that if anyone is to take these Bulldogs serious, they must compete with Alabama throughout the game. Nick Chubb and the other 12 returning starters give Georgia a more than capable roster to compete in the talent-laden SEC. But with a new offensive coordinator and a question mark at the most important position on the field, along with a very tough schedule, history says Georgia will have a hard time making it back to Atlanta, let alone make a strong case for getting into the College Football Playoff.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 10
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 10-3
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9
5 Dimes Projected Over/Under Odds: 9
— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.