2018 SEASON PREVIEW - GEORGIA BULLDOGS
2017 Win-Loss record: 13-2 (7-1 SEC; lost National Championship game)
2017 S&P ranking: 3rd (overall), 14th (offense), 1st (defense)
It was a big step forward in Year 2 for Kirby Smart and his Georgia Bulldogs. After being undefeated for much of the season, they got hammered by the Auburn Tigers in November, ending their hopes of an undefeated season. Those two met again three weeks later in the SEC Championship Game, where the Dawgs would trounce the Tigers, giving UGA their first SEC Championship since 2005.
The good news for Georgia is that they have a ton back from last year’s team and are well positioned to make another hearty run at the brass ring. Couple with two Top 3 recruiting classes from the last two years, and it’s not like this roster is void of elite talent, either.
Can UGA finish the job in 2018? Time will tell, but they’re certainly in range to do so.
There will be a common theme with Georgia, and that’s that there isn’t really a weak link to this team. Jake Fromm returns, but has competition with the 2nd overall prospect in the nation in Justin Fields. The Bulldogs may very well have some packages with plays for Fields to add in a different dynamic this season.
Nick Chubb and Sony Michel both graduated and are now on NFL rosters. But have no fear, as D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, James Cook, and Zamir White all look to handle the carries moving forward. Swift was a Top 40 player in the country, and a five-star prospect by 247Sports. Elijah, of course, is a former four-star talent and the son of Evander Holyfield. Cook was a Top 50 player and a four-star prospect and is the brother of former FSU star Dalvin Cook. And lastly, Zamir White was a Top 10 recruit. There is talent all over the backfield on this team.
The Dawgs return their whole receiving corp, minus leading receiver Javon Wims. Wims hauled in 45 receptions for 720 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Expect much bigger roles for guys like Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin, and Riley Ridley, the brother of former Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.
This offense is a unit that ranked in the Top 10 last year in total offense and Top 5 in rushing. This is a very steady unit that should put up enough points for Georgia to win a lot of games in 2018.
This is where the Bulldogs shine. This unit was Top 10 in total defense last season, allowing just under 300 yards per game. They were Top 10 in scoring defense as well, allowing just 16.4 points per game. In addition, UGA was also Top 10 in passing defense. This is a very balanced team from top to bottom.
The Dawgs will have to replace Roquan Smith, however, but there is enough depth to fill the void and make his departure not feel like as big of a loss. Smith was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 8th overall pick in this past year’s NFL Draft.
This is only the start of Georgia’s run, as evidenced by their recruiting class. They have many elite prospects on the team this season in Brenton Cox, Tyson Campbell, Otis Reese, among others. Some of them should see the field regularly, but they can all play in at least four games and still redshirt with the NCAA’s passage of a new rule this season.
Looking at the Dawgs schedule, there isn’t any game that stands out as a chance for a slip up. They have their tough ones, though, going to South Carolina and Death Valley, and having Auburn at home. Auburn will be out for revenge losing in the SEC Title Game last year, while UGA will be looking for redemption from the drubbing they received at Jordan-Hare.
I’ll predict that they are unable to win all three of the games between South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn, but it will amount to their only loss of the season, and they’ll capture another SEC East Division Championship.