2011 record: 10-4 overall, 7-1 in SEC (1st in East)
2011 postseason: SEC championship game (42-10 loss to LSU); Outback Bowl (33-30 3 OT win over Michigan State)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 19/No. 20
Head coach: Mark Richt (106-38 in 11 seasons at Georgia)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Bobo (12th season at Georgia, sixth as OC)
2011 offensive rankings: 49th rushing offense (164 ypg); 48th passing offense (244.5 ypg); 39th total offense (408.5 ypg); 33rd scoring offense (32 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: six
Defensive coordinator: Todd Grantham (fourth season at Georgia, fourth as DC)
2011 defensive rankings: 11th rushing defense (101.2 ypg); 10th passing defense (176 ypg); 5th total defense (277.2 ypg); 23rd scoring defense (20.6 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: nine
Location: Athens, Ga.
Stadium: Sanford Stadium (92,746; grass)
Last league title: 2005
2011 statistics: [view]
This one’s easy — the schedule. Sure, the Bulldogs will have to travel to SEC East rival South Carolina as well as Auburn, but, for the third straight season, they will avoid both Alabama and LSU. On top of that, they won’t face Arkansas for the second year in a row. Add that to what should once again be a stifling defense — nine starters return from a unit that finished fifth in yards allowed per game last season — and Georgia is primed for back-to-back divisional crowns.
This one’s almost as easy — the running game. OK, maybe “bad” is too strong of a word, but it is troublesome, at least on paper. Not only did the Bulldogs lose their leading rusher — Isaiah Crowell, who was dismissed by Richt and landed in an FCS program — but theyalso lost three starting linemen as well. Fortunately, Keith Marshall, the No. 2 all-purpose back in the country, was a member of the Bulldogs recruiting class this year and will be given the opportunity to run with what should’ve been Crowell’s ball.
Make-or-break game: vs. South Carolina, Oct. 6
Last season, South Carolina handed Georgia one of its two regular-season losses, a 45-42 win in the second weekend of the season in Athens. This season, Georgia will be forced to travel to Columbia for a game that should play a pivotal role in determining the East’s representative in the SEC title game, although Florida could very well have something to say in the division as well.
Heisman hopeful: quarterback Aaron Murray
In two years as starter, Murray has thrown for more than 6,100 yards and 59 touchdowns, including 35 last season as a sophomore. With uncertainty swirling around the running game, an even bigger reliance on the junior’s right arm will likely be in the offing, especially early on in the season as the Bulldogs feel their way around on the ground. Of course, the additional workload should benefit Murray statistically, which would greatly help the QB land at least a December trip to New York City.