On Georgia's preseason ranking and Mark Richt's seat: Five questions with Dawg Sports

AUBURN AL - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs rushes out of the pocket against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If you missed my Georgia preview yesterday, you missed a Boise State fan trying desperately to sound cool talking about a team he knows about mostly through Phil Steele. How about we bring in an expert to talk about the Bulldogs?

After the jump, enjoy some detailed info on the inner workings of the Georgia football team, courtesy of Dawg Sports blogger T. Kyle King. Kyle thinks more people should give Georgia a chance in the season opener. Isn't he cute?

What kind of Bronco fan would I be if I let a fan of the opposing team have the last word? 

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1. Where do you think the Georgia Bulldogs will be ranked in the preseason AP Top 25? Where do you think they should be ranked?

Kyle's response:

Georgia is likely to be ranked somewhere between 16th and 19th, because that's where pollsters tend to place traditional powers struggling through tough times and offering little in the way of certainty.

The Bulldogs shouldn't be ranked at all. They've finished two straight seasons outside the top 25, and they face perhaps the country's toughest two-game season-opening gauntlet. The Boise State and South Carolina games will let us know whether Georgia is a legitimate top 25 team; until then, there's no justification for treating the Bulldogs like they are one.

**

2. Be honest: Is Aaron Murray really the best quarterback in the SEC? And if so, does that speak more to Aaron Murray's strength or the relative strength of SEC quarterbacks?

I'll admit to being biased, but I couldn't be any higher on Aaron Murray unless I rolled him up and smoked him with Willie Nelson. Murray likely is the best quarterback in the SEC, and, while that partly is a function of the relative weakness of the league under center, Murray has earned every accolade he's received.

A year ago, quarterback was Georgia's only offensive question mark; by the time A.J. Green made it official that he was leaving for the NFL, Murray was virtually the Bulldogs' lone remaining offensive exclamation point. While he doesn't have Matthew Stafford's arm, D.J. Shockley's legs, or David Greene's brain, he's only a half-step behind any of those guys in any of those categories, and he's clearly the best combination of all those attributes to have suited up in the silver britches since Fran Tarkenton.

If you don't believe me, believe the numbers: Murray's 2010 season put him at or near the top of the list by every major statistical measure in comparison to Mark Richt's five previous first-year starting quarterbacks at Georgia. Moreover, Murray's completion percentage (61.1%) and yards per attempt (8.9) as a redshirt freshman nearly matched Stafford's as a junior (61.4% and 9.0), while Murray's rookie pass efficiency rating (154.5) exceeded the high-water marks set by Greene as a senior (148.4) and by Stafford as a junior (153.5).

David Greene left Georgia as the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. Matthew Stafford left Georgia as the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Statistically, Aaron Murray was as good as or better than either of them as a freshman.


**

3. What position on the Georgia football team will be keeping you up at night this summer?

Although I have my worries about a receiving corps without A.J. Green and a defensive secondary thinned by injury, most of my fretting is focused on the offensive line. The Bulldogs field an experienced starting five along their forward wall, but academic casualties and ACL injuries have made the Red and Black paper-thin in the trenches heading into their first year under a new position coach.

Given the weakness of the Georgia running game, the uncertainty in the Georgia receiving corps, and the strength of the Boise State defensive front, the Bulldog offensive line will have its hands full for 60 minutes in the Dome. In the Labor Day weekend opener, and throughout the rest of the season, as goes the offensive line, so go the ‘Dawgs.

**

4. Mark Richt's seat: Hot or not?

Regrettably, hot, although the temperature was turned down a tad by a top-shelf recruiting haul on national signing day, a shakeup of the strength and conditioning staff, and an offseason that thus far has been blissfully bereft of off-the-field issues.

After the disappointment of 2008, the disintegration of 2009, and the disaster of 2010, much of the good will Mark Richt built up in Bulldog Nation has dissipated, making 2011 very much a "prove it" year for the head coach who has won more of his first 130 games on the Sanford Stadium sideline than any of his predecessors. (The only other football coaches to have coached at least 100 games for the Bulldogs both have Athens athletic facilities christened in their honor.)

While athletic director Greg McGarity has been careful not to saddle Coach Richt publicly with the same "significant improvement" mandate which Vince Dooley imposed upon Ray Goff in 1995, it is clear that the direction of the program must be seen as trending distinctly upward by the time we get to the first weekend in December.

This is just my read of the situation, but I believe Mark Richt's 2011 season will be judged by the answers to three questions.

  1. Did the Bulldogs win nine regular-season games?
  2. Did the Bulldogs win the SEC East?
  3. Did the Bulldogs beat Florida?

If the answers to at least two of those three questions are "yes," Coach Richt still will have an Athens mailing address in 2012. If the answers to at least two of those three questions are "no," he won't.

**

5. Tell me an aspect of the Boise State - Georgia opener that not enough people are talking about.

Clearly, the most under-discussed aspect of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic is the fact that Georgia actually intends to field a team in this game. I understand that Boise State will be, and by all rights should be, favored in this game, but, to hear ESPN tell it, the most compelling storyline of this contest is whether the Broncos will squeak by with a mere 30-point victory or whether they really will put a whipping on the Bulldogs. If I didn't know any better, I'd think the Worldwide Leader was predicting the outcome of an outing between the Denver Broncos and the Yale Bulldogs.

This game is at least as big a deal for Georgia as it is for Boise State. It is no exaggeration to say the opener in the Dome could be the make-or-break game of a make-or-break season for an historic SEC power that has seen three straight years of decline as its conference coevals have rolled to five straight national titles. The future of Mark Richt, and, thus, the program he leads, is very much on the line in this game.

Given the stronger than usual incentives both teams have for the need to succeed, a close game akin to last year's Boise State-Virginia Tech opener ought to be anticipated. It's perfectly reasonable for a neutral observer to pick the Broncos to win, but the pundits appear to doubt whether Georgia will even bother to show up for the game. Boise State may win, but it won't be by forfeit, or even by default.

**

Want more Georgia information? Kyle waxes poetic about the Dogs daily over at Dawg Sports, SB Nation's Georgia Bulldogs blog

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