Are the Georgia Bulldogs overrated?

Yeah, I'm looking at you.
Photo by tanakawho

College football pundits, emerging sluggishly from their hibernation and with their pupils still adjusting to the sun, are already uttering bold predictions for the coming season. What are they saying?

Woof! Woof! Woof!

According to Lindy's, the Georgia Bulldogs are preseason No. 1. Georgia appears to be the first team that SMQ addressed in his excellent Contenders series. Athlon and Football Time have the Dawgs ranked No. 5, and even my local paper is mentioning the Red and Black as a preseason favorite to win the national championship.

Really? Well, with apologies to my friends in the Bulldog football blogosphere, I'm just not seeing it.

Most-Cited Reasons for Georgia's Preseason National Championship Hype

Momentum

The argument goes . . . no team finished the 2007 season on a more convincing run than did Georgia. The Bulldogs, after losing two of their first six (to South Carolina and Tennessee), and after barely beating Vanderbilt 20-17, rode the much-publicized entire-team-on-the-field celebration penalty against Florida not only to a convincing win over the Gators but to a seven game winning streak. During that time, they averaged almost 38 points per game, including absolute thumpers against Auburn in their black jerseys and Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.

Yeah, but . . . look at who they beat in those seven games: Florida (9-4), Troy (8-4), Auburn (9-4), Kentucky (8-5), Georgia Tech (7-6), and Hawaii (12-1). And about Hawaii, no offense to the Warriors and their mid-major brethren, but Boise state beating Oklahoma in 2006 doesn't necessarily legitimate the mandatory BCS invite to a token non-BCS school. Also, Georgia had a loss to South Carolina (6-6) and an embarrassing 14-35 loss to Tennessee, who was 10-4 on the year, but who got toasted by Cal, Florida, and Alabama. So yeah, hurrah for the momentum and the streak and everything, but let's not get carried away.

UGA OPP
09/01/07 Oklahoma St. 35 14  
09/08/07 South Carolina 12 16  
09/15/07 Western Caro. 45 16  
09/22/07 Alabama 26 23 OT
09/29/07 Mississippi 45 17  
10/06/07 Tennessee 14 35  
10/13/07 Vanderbilt 20 17  
10/27/07 Florida 42 30  
11/03/07 Troy 44 34  
11/10/07 Auburn 45 20  
11/17/07 Kentucky 24 13  
11/24/07 Georgia Tech 31 17  
01/01/08 Hawaii 41 10

Experience

The argument goes . . . Georgia returns (depending on who you're reading) 14 (or up to 17) of 22 starters from the 2007 team that finished on the aforementioned roll. This includes 7 (or 8) from the offense, most notably quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back and SEC Freshman of the Year Knowshon Moreno. Even more importantly, 7 (or 8 or 9) starters return from the defense that was one of two in the nation (the other being National Champion LSU) to finish in the top three of total defense, run defense, and scoring defense.

Yeah, but . . . Knowshon Moreno was indeed 30th in the nation in rushing and second in the conference only to Darren McFadden, but against lowly Tennessee (69th in the nation and 9th (!) in the league against the rush), he and the rest of Georgia running backs managed only 69 net yards the entire game. I'm telling you, that is pitiful against our run defense of last year.

And the defense, yeah, it was good, but I'm not sure where Lindy's got that "one of two in the nation to finish in the top three of total defense, run defense, and scoring defense" thing, either, because the official NCAA page has Georgia ranked 14th, 16th, and 18th respectively. Good, but not really even in the vicinity of the top three.

And Matthew Stafford? The mag dudes seem to be putting a lot of stock in Stafford's potential rather than his actual performance to date. Stafford was 56th in the nation (4th in the conference) in passing efficiency and 74th in the nation (6th in the conference) in total offense.

And what about the positions that aren't filled by returning starters? Like kicker Brandon Coutu? And the center? Dawg fans, remember when Coutu missed seven games in 2006? You know, the year when you lost to both Vanderbilt and Kentucky? Yeah, well, Coutu's gone, and who's going to take his place? Incoming freshman Blair Walsh and "several" walk-ons. That can't be good.

Schedule

The argument goes . . . the Bulldogs' brutal schedule provides nothing but opportunity. When they play on the road against the likes of South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, and Auburn, at home against Alabama and Tennessee, and at Jacksonville against Florida, no one can question the superiority of their schedule. Should they win them all, they'll be No. 1 regardless of whether anyone else goes undefeated. They could even, like LSU last year, lose a couple and still make it to the National Championship Game.

Yeah, but . . . at LSU? At Auburn and against Florida in a grudge match? At Arizona State early? Games against South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee? There's at least one loss in there, and if you think a team will sneak into The Game with two losses this year, then you're just betting on further annihilation and frequent trips to the Vietnamese Boathouse.

DATE OPPONENT Lindy's Athlon Football Time
August 30 Georgia Southern       
September 6 Central Michigan 
67
62
September 13 at South Carolina 
27
34
September 20 at Arizona State 
14
15
20
September 27 Alabama 
20
30
October 11 Tennessee 
24
17
13
October 18 Vanderbilt 
78
73
October 25 at LSU 
7
9
9
November 1 Florida 
6
1
2
November 8 at Kentucky 
63
58
November 15 at Auburn 
13
8
7
November 29 Georgia Tech 
58
56

Look, Georgia is going to have a great team this year. Better than Tennessee. Better than anyone in the East except for perhaps Florida. But No. 1 in the nation? No. Sorry. Not buying it. Not yet.

[Note by Joel, 06/06/08 9:02 AM EDT ] Will Overstreet strenuously agrees.

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