A case for Georgia as No. 1

August 20, 2013 

So the previous column was devoted to giving Alabama its due as the obvious choice for preseason No. 1.

The obvious choice, yes.

But not the only choice.

There is the case to be made for Georgia. Glenn Guilbeau of the Shreveport Times did just that with his ballot. He ranked Georgia first and Alabama second, a fact that spread quickly through Tide Nation.

"I truly thought I would receive a tweet from Bear Bryant himself," Guilbeau wrote in his column.

Guilbeau, you should know, is a respected veteran member of the media covering the SEC. And while he covers LSU, he used to work in Alabama, so he understands the importance of not trifling with something as sacred to Bama fans as a Top 25 ballot.

But Guilbeau doesn't need me to defend his position. He did that quite eloquently in his column. But the gist of his point regarding not picking Alabama was irrefutable. History is not on Alabama's side. No team has won three consecutive national championships. That's because luck almost always plays a role. And that's NOT to say the Crimson Tide was lucky to beat Georgia last year in the SEC Championship Game. But unquestionably, luck played a part, as it almost always does in games that come down to the last play.

The Tide was lucky that Oregon lost to Stanford, it would have been the Ducks playing Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game. They were lucky that Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State the year before. That doesn't diminish either championship even in the slightest.

But luck, historically, does play a role.

Guilbeau's point is part history, part hunch. So if Bama isn't going to win it all, then who else will?

There may be no other team in college football that elicits a broader spectrum of opinions than the Bulldogs. Some believe they are, to use Mark Richt's words last year, "knocking on the door of greatness." Others have picked the Dogs to finish behind either South Carolina or Florida -- or, in some cases, both -- just within their own division. And that's not even counting having to open the season on the road in prime time against Clemson with placekicker Marshall Morgan (presumably) and strong safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (officially) suspended for the game.

Overall, though, both the AP voters and the coaches ranked Georgia fifth, which put them second only to Alabama in the SEC.

History tells us there's very little carry over from one season to the next. This is a new team with a new personality playing other new teams with new personalities. Still, it's difficult to ignore this:

The Bulldogs came within one play of upsetting Alabama. Virtually the entire offense from that team returns, along with more depth. The defense lost several players to the NFL. But as talented as they were individually, collectively they were very average.

Georgia's defense

doesn't have to be a reincarnation of Erk Russell's Junkyard Dawgs. It just has to be good enough to stop teams on more time than the offense gets stopped. As good as the running game was at times last year, it could verge on being dominant this year with running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall being stronger and the offensive line being more seasoned.

I've already gone on record as saying I think Georgia will run the table in the regular season but lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That won't change until new evidence comes in.

But to think the Bulldogs will get the break they need and beat the Tide isn't exactly a stretch. Not nearly as unthinkable as it was at the beginning of the 2010 season that Auburn would dethrone Alabama as national champs.

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