I made a joke to on my Facebook page the other day—an unoriginal one mind you—in regards to Sports Illustrated’s (SI) decision to leave the Georgia Bulldogs out of their Top 10; it went something like, “I don’t always read SI, but when I do, I don’t pay it any mind”…told you, not original. That said, you see where I stand in regards to the well-known publication, particularly where the Georgia Bulldogs are concerned; most of the time whatever they print about Georgia is either complete mularkey or just flat-out nonsense…and that’s just the stuff Stewart Mandel has to offer.
Speaking of Mandel, though, it seems I wasn’t the only individual flummoxed by the ranking SI saddled the Dawgs with; see here the Q&A for why the decision was made to leave the Bulldogs on the outside looking in where the Top 10 was concerned.
Why is SI much lower on Georgia this year than many other websites? Almost everyone has them in the top five, as the Bulldogs have an offense loaded with great seniors and came this close to beating Alabama when ‘Bama was playing its best. Sure, the defense is somewhat young, but it’s loaded with top recruits. SI’s decision to leave Georgia out of the top 10 is perplexing.
— ATL G, Atlanta
I’ve been getting a lot of questions like this over the past week, and I’d like to reiterate that I have but one vote of many in compiling SI’s Top 25. I would probably have the Dawgs in the top 10; however, count me among those that think their top-five spot in both the AP and Coaches’ polls is a bit overly optimistic [emphasis added]. For one thing, while that SEC Championship Game near-miss became the lasting image of Georgia’s 2012 season, it’s causing a bit of revisionist history. The Dawgs likely wouldn’t have gotten into that game if not for a fortuitous scheduling break. If you recall, South Carolina pummeled Aaron Murray and company last season. In my opinion, the Gamecocks were the best team in the SEC East in 2012, but they had to turn around and play consecutive road games at Florida and LSU. They lost both. Georgia certainly got better over the second half of the season, but besides an ugly Cocktail Party win over Florida, it largely feasted on lower-tier conference foes prior to falling short against Alabama.
Looking to 2013, Georgia unquestionably has the makings of a lethal offense. In fact, it quietly led the country in yards per play (7.1) last season, a notable statistic given it doesn’t use an up-tempo offense [emphasis added]. With Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and, most notably, ALL FIVE offensive line starters returning, the offense should only be better. But another 2012 memory that goes largely unmentioned is the Tide running all over Georgia’s defense. Alabama’s 350 rushing yards (6.9 per carry) in the SEC title game were even more than it racked up on Notre Dame (265; 5.9) a month later, and now Georgia is replacing seven starters and dealing with numerous injuries. The Dawgs’ defense may well improve, but it could take some time to gel. That could prove costly with games against Clemson and South Carolina right off the bat. So I’m going with the Gamecocks and their established defense in that division, and I can’t see both teams finishing in the top five. (Stewart Mandel, SI)
Okay…here’s my beef/reply/rant to Mandel’s answer:
1. If we use SI’s Top 25 from 2012, a couple of the teams Georgia played underachieved mightily—including Auburn at No. 24 (who was overrated from the start) and Georgia Tech at No. 20 (laughable)—perhaps SI should have done a better job researching before they put that list out, but to give Georgia a downgrade on their schedule for beating teams that didn’t meet expectations (Georgia beat both of the aforementioned by a combined 70-points) seems a bit unfair; prior to the start of 2012, the perception was the Dawgs had a fairly rough schedule—particularly because they had to go on the road to Auburn, meet up with a Top 10 Florida in Jacksonville, and face a Missouri team whose QB was garnering Heisman consideration. The fact that those games ended differently than some predicted, is just another reason why they play the games.
In other words: perception isn’t always reality, but you can’t blame Georgia for people having poor perceptions.
2. No up-tempo offense? What?!
Georgia ran more plays last season than 80 percent of the SEC; the only two programs executing more plays than Georgia were Mississippi State and Texas A&M—both of whom run a spread offense with a mobile quarterback being the key to their success.
It’s not a secret the Bulldogs like to go no-huddle when possible, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has made it clear that his goal is to run as many plays as possible during a game—the more the better.
That said, what team are you watching on Saturday’s Mr. Mandel? Just sayin’.
3. Yes, the Dawgs did lose to South Carolina, but the Tide lost to Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa and no one made any quips about that when making them the universal No. 1 (deserved might I add) for 2013.
My point is this: South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama all suffered SEC losses, but Georgia bested Florida by eight and the Gamecocks were, to use your words, “pummeled” by better than 30 so….
4. Yes, the defensive line was ravaged by Alabama, but that had more to do with depth than talent. This season Georgia’s defensive line is actually deeper, faster, and hungrier than in 2012; that should make all the difference. The only question will be how well the secondary performs in light of some key departures; that more than anything will be the storyline heading into weeks 1 and 2.
5. You’re going with the Gamecocks “established defense”? Okay, I won’t crap on the Gamecocks, but I will ask this question—forgetting the fact that Marcus Lattimore, Ace Sanders, D.J. Swearinger, DeVonte Holleman, and Shaq Wilson are all gone—if Jadeveon Clowney wasn’t on the football field, what would you think of the Gamecocks “established defense” then?
I consider myself an objective fan and I understand as well as anyone the challenges Georgia will face defensively, and I can admit that a Top 5 ranking might be setting the bar a bit high considering. However, Georgia is a Top 10 team in my mind, if only for what they bring on offense, and that alone should grant them as much respect as most media types are giving the Clemson Tigers—a team that will have as many, if not more, questions to answer about their own defense this season.
Okay, I’m done.