The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 6: Georgia
Coach: Mark Richt (106-38, 12th season)
2011 record: 10-4 (7-1 in Southeastern Conference, first in SEC Eastern Division)
Look back: Georgia struggled throughout the 2010 season, posting a disappointing 6-7 record that prompted more calls for head coach Mark Richt to be fired. The team got off to a rough start in 2011, opening the season with a 35-21 loss to Boise State and a 45-42 loss to South Carolina. Richt weathered the storm, leading the Bulldogs to 10 consecutive wins and SEC Eastern Division title. Georgia struggled in the SEC title game, losing 42-10 to potent LSU. The Bulldogs faced off against Michigan State in the 2012 Outback Bowl. The two teams turned in one of the most exciting games of the bowl season. Michigan State’s Dan Conroy hit a 28-yard field goal in the third overtime period to push his team ahead. The Bulldogs could not respond. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh’s 47-yard field goal attempt was blocked, giving Michigan State a 33-30 triple overtime win.
Offensive starters lost-returning: 5-6
Defensive starters lost-returning: 2-9
Top returnees: QB Aaron Murray, LB Jarvis Jones, DB Bacarri Rambo, RB Isaiah Crowell, WR Tavarres King.
Strengths: Veteran starting quarterback Aaron Murray has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy contender. Murray, who is entering his third season leading the Bulldogs’ offense, set a school record with 35 touchdown passes last season. While Murray leads a high-power offensive attack, Georgia’s defense turned in elite performances last season. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones was a consensus All-American in his first year at Georgia. The USC transfer led the SEC with 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
Weaknesses: Safety Bacarri Rambo, cornerback Sanders Commings and linebacker Alec Ogeltree are talented playmakers, but they all face early-season suspensions. Georgia must replace three starters on the offensive line. While left tackle Cordy Glenn was the most coveted by NFL teams, center Ben Jones provided invaluable leadership and will be missed. And while Murray is capable of putting up big numbers, he had 14 interceptions. Some of the turnovers were especially costly for Georgia.
Outlook: Georgia’s potent defense and talented offensive playmakers should help the program make another trip to the SEC championship game. However, the Bulldogs will need new starters on the offensive line to step up in a big way to exceed last season’s success. Georgia’s game at South Carolina Oct. 6 will illustrate whether Murray is a true Heisman candidate and the Bulldogs can make a strong run in the SEC.
Sept. 1 Buffalo
Sept. 8 At Missouri
Sept. 15 FAU
Sept. 22 Vanderbilt
Sept. 29 Tennessee
Oct. 6 At South Carolina
Oct. 20 At Kentucky
Oct. 27 Vs. Florida in Jacksonville
Nov. 3 Ole Miss
Nov. 10 At Auburn
Nov. 17 Georgia Southern
Nov. 24 Georgia Tech
Rest of the countdown: