As season openers are almost here, our SEC previews continue with Georgia:
Record last season: Georgia finished 10-3 overall and 6-2 in the SEC but repeated its history of suffering that one bad loss. Last season, it was the 38-20 loss to Florida in Jacksonville that ultimately knocked the Dawgs out of the league title game. (Florida fired its coach, Will Muschamp, at season’s end, anyway.) Missouri ended up winning the division with a 7-1 mark. Had the two teams tied, Georgia would have held the upper hand thanks to a 34-0 rout of Mizzou in Columbia. Georgia lost to arch-irval Georgia Tech 30-24 in overtime in the regular season finale. It did rebound to whip Louisville 37-14 in the Belk Bowl.
Head coach: Mark Richt enters season 15 as the Georgia head coach. The 55-year-old former Florida State offensive coordinator is 136-48 overall and 78-34 in the SEC. His teams won the SEC in 2002 and 2005. They have either won or tied for the Eastern Division title six times. Born in Omaha, Neb., Richt played quarterback at Miami. He was offensive coordinator at East Carolina in 1989 before joining Bobby Bowden’s staff at FSU as quarterbacks coach the next season. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1994. His Georgia teams have won 10 or more games in nine of his 14 seasons as head coach.
Trend: After an eight-win dip in 2013, Georgia rebounded to go 10-3 overall and 6-2 in the SEC last season. The Bulldogs haven’t made the league title game since 2012, however, when Georgia lost a heartbreaker to Alabama in Atlanta. Stoops has had just one losing season at Georgia. The Bulldogs were 6-7 in 2010, including a 3-5 SEC mark. They have been 25-7 in league play since then.
Last year’s high point: On Oct. 11, Georgia went on the road and pitched a shutout at defending SEC East champ Missouri 34-0. The fact star running back Todd Gurley missed the game because of suspension made no difference. Quarterback Hutson Mason completed 22 of 28 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown. Nick Chubb rushed for 143 yards on 38 carries. The Bulldogs led 20-0 at the half and held Missouri to just 147 total yards. The host Tigers turned the ball over five times. Georgia intercepted four passes.
Last year’s low point: No. 11 Georgia brought a 6-1 record to Jacksonville for the renewal of the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” and got smashed 38-20 by the Gators. Florida rushed for a mind-boggling 418 yards in the upset win. Matt Jones rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Kelvin Taylor gained gained 192 yards and two touchdowns, also on 25 carries. Florida threw for just 27 yards, but it didn’t matter. It was the most team rushing yards given up by an SEC defense all season, and only the second 400-yard game of the year. Auburn gave up 400 rushing yards to Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. After the season, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn replaced defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson with former Florida coach Will Muschamp as his defensive coordinator.
The 2014 stats: Georgia ranked 28th nationally in total offense, averaging 457.8 yards per game. That was down from 484 yards per game in 2013 and 468 in 2012. Georgia did average 41.3 points per game, which ranked sixth nationally. The Bulldogs were 17th nationally in total defense, allowing 337.2 yards per game. That was a 43-yard per game improvement over 2013. Georgia allowed just 20.7 points per game. That was much better than the 29 points per game allowed under former coordinator Todd Grantham in 2013. Grantham is now in his second season as defensive coordinator at Louisville.
Drafted by NFL: The Bulldogs had five players drafted in 2015. Running back Todd Gurley went in the first round to the St. Louis Rams with the 10th overall pick. Kansas City took wide receiver Chris Conley in the third round, then took linebacker Ramik Wilson in the fourth round. New Orleans grabbed cornerback Damian Swann in the fifth round. Indianapolis tapped linebacker Amarlo Herrera in the sixth round. Georgia had two first-round picks in 2013, when Pittsburgh took linebacker Jarvis Jones with the 17th pick and St. Louis drafted linebacker Alec Ogletree with the 30th pick. Before that, wide receiver A.J. Green went to Cincinnati with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Rivals class of 2015 ranking: Georgia’s recruiting was ranked 6th by Rivals, one spot behind Tennessee and one spot in front of Auburn. It was the second straight top-10 finish for the Bulldogs, as Rivals ranked Georgia’s 2014 class seventh. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson, out of Albany, Ga., is considered the team’s top true freshman prospect. He was ranked as the seventh-best overall prospect by Rivals. Terry Godwin, an all-purpose athlete from Hogansville, was ranked 10th.
Coordinators: When longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bobo took the head coaching job at Colorado State, Richt delivered a curve ball by hiring Brian Schottenheimer. The son of former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer, Brian had spent the past 14 years as an NFL assistant with Washington, San Diego, the New York Jets and St. Louis. Schottenheimer was a backup quarterback under Steve Spurrier at Florida, but he has coached college football just two years — 1999 at Syracuse and 2000 at USC. Jeremy Pruitt starts his second year as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt, 41, from Rainsville, Ala., was an assistant at Alabama from 2007 through 2012 before succeeding current UK head coach Mark Stoops as Florida State’s defensive coordinator. He left Tallahassee after just one season — a national title season — to join Richt at Georgia.