2010 record: 6-7, 3-5 (T-3rd, SEC East)
2010 bowl: 10-6 loss to UCF in the Liberty Bowl
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Coach: Mark Richt, 11th year; 96-34 overall, 53-27 conference
Offensive coordinator: Mike Bobo, fifth year
2010 offensive rankings: 30th, scoring offense (32.1 ppg); 56th, total offense (385 ypg); 73rd, rushing offense (142.6 ypg); 40th, passing offense (242.4 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Todd Grantham, second year
2010 defensive rankings: 36th, scoring defense (22.1 ppg); 23rd, total defense (328.5 ypg); 56th, rushing defense (147.2 ypg); 17th, passing defense (181.3 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 4
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Athens, Ga.
Stadium: Sanford Stadium (grass; 92,746)
Last league title: 2005
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: It’s sort of hard to fathom that the backside of a coach with six 10-win seasons and two conference championships could be anywhere near tepid let alone warm, but that’s the position Mark Richt’s rear finds itself in heading into the 2011 season. Of course, when you’re coming off back-to-back poor seasons — including last year’s sub-.500 debacle — and compete in the hyper-competitive SEC, that all comes with the territory.
There are three things, however, that could give credence to the thought that the past two seasons were mere aberrations, and that Richt’s in Athens for an even longer haul. First, and despite the loss of A.J. Green to early entry into the NFL draft, the play of quarterback Aaron Murray. In his first year as a starter, and as a freshman, Murray showed that he has the talent, poise and football acumen to be one of the top QBs in the country sooner rather than later, with that sooner very likely coming during the 2011 season. Secondly, a defense that was surprisingly solid in the first year in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense should be even better a year later thanks to two spring sessions, two summer camps and one full season of adjusting to the new scheme. Finally, the arrival of two outstanding back-to-back recruiting classes generally and running back Isaiah Crowell specifically.
Simply put Crowell has the talent to be to the Bulldogs as a true freshman what Marcus Lattimore was to South Carolina as a true frosh last season. With the loss of the top two rushers the past two seasons this offseason, Crowell, Richt and the Bulldogs will likely have no other choice than to allow the youngster to carry the bulk of the running game load. If — and it’s certainly a sizable if — all three of those issues come to fruition in a positive way, Georgia will go a long way in putting the past two years in the rear-view mirror and will be looking ahead to what appears to be, once again, a very bright future for the football program.
Make-or-break game: Sept. 10 vs. South Carolina
Georgia would love nothing more than to rise once again to the level of being a real threat to win the East Division. The second week of the season, the Bulldogs will get their measuring stick as they’ll face the runaway preseason favorite to take home their second consecutive East crown. This game will serve as their stiffest conference test of the season as they manage to avoid seeing both Alabama and LSU on the schedule, with the added bonus that the Gamecocks game will be played between the hedges in Athens. Regardless of the outcome, though, Georgia should have a pretty good idea how far it has to go to back to a championship-contending level. Or how close it already is.
Heisman hopeful: Murray
Three of the last four Heisman winners have been sophomores, redshirt or otherwise and nine of the last 10 have played quarterback. Why not this redshirt sophomore quarterback? All he did in his first year as a starter in the toughest conference in the country was throw for over 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and, perhaps most impressively, just eight interceptions. Not saying Murray will win the Heisman this year — next year may be the real Heisman push — but I will say I’d be very surprised if he’s not in the discussion as the calendar turns from October to November.
Postseason projection: Chick-fil-A Bowl