2020 at a Glance
(All times are Eastern)
9/4: Clemson (Charlotte, NC, 7:30 p.m., ABC)
9/11: UAB (3:30 p.m., EPSN+/SECN+)
9/18: South Carolina (7 p.m., ESPN2)
9/25: at Vanderbilt
10/9: at Auburn
11/13: at Tennessee
11/20: Charleston Southern 11/27: at Georgia Tech
The Georgia Bulldogs come into the season ranked in the top 5 of the AP Poll for the fourth straight year, checking in with the fifth spot. They’ll have a chance to, most likely, climb into the top three if they can defeat #3 Clemson this weekend in Charlotte.
Pulling back and looking at the grand scheme of the season, though, Georgia is in a fairly good position heading into the year. They project to be the best team in the SEC East, led by USC transfer JT Daniels. Daniels appeared in four games for the Bulldogs last year, throwing for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Defensively, Jordan Davis is the big (pun intended) player to watch on Georgia. Davis took home preseason All-SEC First Team honors and is on the Nagurski Award watch list to open the year. Davis provides a massive presence to clog up the middle and impacts the game in so many ways.
Elsewhere on defense, Travon Walker, Nakobe Dean, and Lewis Cine all received All-SEC Third Team honors. The overall point is, Georgia has a lot of talent on their defense, as has been the case for the past few seasons.
We talked to our friend Macon Dawg from Dawg Sports about some of the biggest things Georgia faces this season.
1. The Kirby Smart era has no doubt been successful. That being said, some may argue that Georgia is still falling a little shy of expectations. Is that something you agree with, and further, what do you feel is the expectation for UGA in 2021?
If the expectations in question are to beat Nick Saban and Alabama then yes, Georgia is falling below expectations. I don’t know however that those are reasonable expectations for any college football program. Saban has built an absolute machine in Tuscaloosa, one which will be looked back on as the most successful run in modern college football history. Again, rational, objective people would not use that as the bogey for which to shoot.
College football fans generally and Georgia fans in particular are not rational, objective people. Georgia and Kirby Smart have certainly built a very successful football team. They’ve won an SEC Championship and played for two more in five years. They came within a whisper of a national title in 2017, and probably make the College Football Playoff in 2018 and 2019 but for being blocked by one of Saban’s best teams not to win a title and a generationally ascendant LSU. Georgia’s averaged 10.2 wins a season under Smart and has won 10 games against top 10 ranked teams. That’s heady stuff.
But I don’t think anyone will deny that Kirby Smart was hired at Georgia to supplant Saban’s Alabama sooner or later, and to take one from them here and there in the meantime. That hasn’t happened yet, and it remains a bit of a burr in the saddle.
2. Georgia’s wideout situation is in a bit of peril because of injuries and the like. How big of an issue do you foresee this being?
I think it’s all relative. Georgia lost George Pickens to an ACL injury in the spring and is currently without Arik Gilbert due to personal issues. With those two players the Bulldogs would have had the top wide receiving corps in the country. Without them, the Bulldogs are still very good and deep at the position. The issue is that the guys being counted on there or not household names at this point.
Kearis Jackson returns after a breakout campaign in 2020 in which he caught 36 passes for 514 yards to lead the team. He’s a major threat in the slot, a good downfield route runner, and a tough blocker. Arian Smith and Jermaine Burton, a pair of former five star recruits, both took a big leap forward as true freshmen once JT Daniels took over. James Cook unexpectedly returned for another season and will be used out wide, in the slot, and from the backfield after averaging 14.06 yards per reception last season. And newcomers Adonai Mitchell and Justin Robinson both have real star potential as well.
3. As usual, this looks like a loaded defense, rich with experience. But who’s the big time player that will lead the way this year?
I think it all starts in the middle with Jordan Davis. The 6’6, 330 pound nose tackle was a legitimate first round prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft but elected to return for one more season in Athens. He’s phenomenally strong and disruptive against the run, with a quick first step and a motor to chase down plays. The coaching staff has said that this season they want to see Davis prove that he can take over a game, and I think at some point, perhaps even this weekend against Clemson, he will.
4. What is your projection for the Dawgs this season?
The Bulldogs’ 2021 schedule is uncharacteristically manageable after this weekend’s matchup with Clemson. If the ‘Dawgs steak that one they should be the favorite in every game that follows unless Dan Mullen’s Gators really get things going before the annual Halloween weekend matchup in Jacksonville. With a little luck on the injury front and some cohesion on the defense Georgia could roll into the SEC Championship game at 11-1. In the end, that game remains the barometer on Georgia’s season. I think they’ll get there, likely for another matchup with the Crimson Tide, but I have no idea what happens next.