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Three Things We Know and Don't Know About Georgia | SEC 2013

From the number of returning starts on the offensive line to the top receiving threat this season, the questions that will define Georgia's 2013 season

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE


They will win with offense. To the extent that Georgia wins this year, it will probably be with what the commentators like to call outscoring the other team (often ignoring that this is actually the way we decide winners in football). The Dawgs return almost all of the top players from a team that led the SEC in per-play yardage, edging out even Texas A&M by a hundredth of a yard. A lot of that has to do with Georgia being the only team in the conference to average 10 yards per pass. Given the fact that Georgia is probably the hardest-hit team in the SEC East when it comes to the division's well-publicized attrition on defense, it's fair to assume that there will be times when the offense has to carry the team.

The offensive line is all but set. There's still some shuffling to be done -- particularly now that Kolton Houston is finally eligible -- but the Dawgs return the second-most career offensive line starts in the SEC and the seventh-most in the country, according to Phil Steele, with 101. (The only team that has more returns along the offensive line is Tennessee, which has plenty of other issues to worry about.) The same group helped the Dawgs rank third in the league in rushing offense on a per-play basis, but was only middling when it came to preventing sacks. Particularly if it improves on protecting the quarterback, this has the potential to be one of the best offensive lines in the country.

The season ends Nov. 2. Of course, it ain't over until it's over, but the Dawgs' division hopes will probably be decided by the end of the first weekend in November. By then, Georgia will have played South Carolina, Florida and every other challenging team on the SEC slate (barring a quick return to competence by Auburn). The schedule after the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is: Appalachian State, at Auburn, Kentucky and at Georgia Tech. Barring an epic upset, a Georgia that has beaten both South Carolina and Florida is not then going to lose to the Tigers or the Wildcats, and will probably have a game or two cushion to boot. While there are still some tiebreakers that could have to be sorted out, we'll have a pretty good idea of whether Georgia's going to win the division when the clock hits zero in Jacksonville.


Who will emerge as the top receiving target for Aaron Murray. Even while losing two of his top four receivers from 2012, the Bulldogs quarterback will not have to look far to find plenty of threats on the roster. The biggest question mark might be Michael Bennett, who was one of the team's best receivers before he went down with an injury. Bennett had at least 70 yards in four of the five games he played in, though we'd be somewhat remiss if we didn't note that those games were against Buffalo, at Missouri, and against Florida Atlantic and Tennessee. But Malcolm Mitchell also had his moments, including against Florida, where he had five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Arthur Lynch is also a good enough receiver in the tight end spot to be a factor in the passing game.

The players who will step up on defense. Barring a completely unexpected implosion, the relative inexperience of the defense will eventually fade away thanks to at least a couple of players who meet or exceed expectations. The questions remain who and when. The Dawgs don't really have too much time to crank things up; the first game is a trip to Clemson, one that could put Georgia behind the eight-ball in the national championship race early. But after that, they might have some time. In fact, there are very few teams on the schedule that have offenses that could be termed explosive after Clemson, meaning that someone will have time to develop. And will have to if the Dawgs want to play for more than the Capital One Bowl; even an offense as good as Georgia's can only win so many games on its own.

Whether the rivalries have changed their respective directions. For the first time in 23 years, Georgia enters the season on a losing streak against South Carolina and a winning streak against Florida. The Gamecocks have beaten the Dawgs three times in a row, the first time that's ever happened; Georgia, meanwhile, has won two consecutive cocktail parties for the first time since 1988-89. The losses in the border war with South Carolina have obviously (infamously, if you listen to Steve Spurrier too much) not hurt Georgia's drive to win the division, but beating the Gators certainly hasn't hurt. Georgia hasn't won the division without defeating Florida since 2005, which might be happenstance but could also be a hint as to which of those games is more important.