New Bulldogs squad will be loaded.

by Sam Forman |@samwforman |

Welcome back to our SEC schedule breakdown, this week we get down to business with my pick to 5th in the SEC. So far I have picked Auburn to finish 14th, Kentucky 13thSouth Carolina 12thMissouri 11thMississippi State 10thVanderbilt 9th, and Texas A&M 8thFlorida 7th, and Arkansas to finish 6th.

The Pick: Georgia

League Finish: 5th

Division Finish: 2nd

SEC Record: 6-2

Overall Record: 9-3

Bowl Game: Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

It’s the start of a new era in Athens, GA as Kirby Smart embarks on his first season as the Bulldogs head coach. For Smart it could be a very good first season just like it was for Jim McElwain at Florida last season. The Bulldogs still have plenty of talent left on the roster and the staff Smart has been able to put together is impressive.

Smart brought in Jim Chaney a proven and respected offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach to head up the offense. He also convinced Sam Pittman to jump ship form the Hogs to the Dogs. Pittman is one of the best offensive line coaches in the business and has produced multiple players to NFL carriers. Smart also brought Mel Tucker with him from Alabama to help with the defense.

From a player stand point there no shortage of talent missing from the roster. The Dogs have Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, plus freshman Elijah Holyfield.

The starting quarterback is a bit of a question at the moment which is something to be concerned with. Senior Greyson Lambert could win the starting job, at least for the start of the season. However, freshmen Jacob Eason has had a tone of hype around his name and looked like he could start week one for the Dogs.

The only real area of concern on offense is at receiver. The Dogs will need someone to step up at receiver and tight end to have a good season passing the ball, regardless of who starts under center.

Defensively it will be important to see where the Dogs are at learning the new system Smart is bringing with him to Athens. Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish are two of the best cornerbacks in the league and could be poised for a big season.

With serval key questions remaining unanswered at this point it looks like Georgia could have a good year. There floor is 8-4 and their ceiling is 10-2, I think they wind up finishing second in the East with a 9-3 record. While a trip down the road to Atlanta in year one would be huge for Smart he will have to settle for a shot at ten wins during bowl season.

Week one Georgia vs. North Carolina (Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game, Georgia Dome). Sat, Sept. 3rd
The Dogs and Tar Heels meet up in Atlanta in week one for the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. There are plenty of week one matchups that are dominating the headlines and this game I think is being overlooked a bit. This game could be missing its biggest star in Nick Chubb if he is not fully healthy. We could even see the Dogs be without their second string back Sony Michel. With the possibility of a freshmen starting at both running back and quarterback it is heard to pick Georgia to win this one. While North Carolina fell apart at the end of last season I think they could be set for yet another great year. This game will be won by the running backs and with Georgia very possibly down its top to options that clears the way for Elijah Hood to lead the Heels to a big time win in week one.

Week two Georgia vs. Nicholls State. Sat, Sept. 10th
Even if Georgia is still without its top two running backs they will be fine in this game. The Dogs have too much talent for Nicholls St. to hang around long in this game. If Jacob Eason isn’t the starter for week one or two, he will see big minutes in clean up duty in this game.

Week Three Georgia @ Missouri. Sat, Sept. 17th
The Dogs open up SEC play in Columbia, Mo against the Tigers. Last year this was a 9-6 win for the Dogs in the heart of their SEC schedule, this year the two meet up in the third week of the season. Missouri will still have one of the nation’s best defenses and if Georgia is still down both Chubb and Michel than the Tigers could steal this game. However at least one of the two back should be back, but that still leaves the question as to who is under center for the Dogs. Missouri’s offense won’t be a threat in this game, but if the Dogs offense struggles or the QB makes a couple of mistakes the Tigers will be within striking range late. That being said, I’m still going with the Dogs to win this one, starting the season 2-1.

Week four Georgia @ Ole Miss. Sat, Sept. 24th
The Dogs hit the road for a second straight week to open up SEC play and meet their first opponent from the SEC West. Ole Miss will be replacing a lot this season, but will still be one of the league’s best teams and will have the best quarterback in the SEC under center. Chad Kelly is the key to a win by Ole Miss, Georgia will be leaning heavily on its running backs in this matchup. Kelly will need to match the Dogs backs blow for blow for the Rebels to win. I don’t trust this Georgia team on the road just quite yet and I think Kelly makes enough plays to put Ole Miss ahead late. Rebels win and Georgia drops to 2-2 and 1-1 in the SEC heading into a potential SEC title deciding game with Tennessee.

Week five Georgia vs. Tennessee. Sat, Oct. 1st
The Vols first major win under Butch Jones came against the Dogs last season. The win snapped a five game winning streak by Georgia in the series as the Vols got their first win since a 45-19 win in Neyland Stadium back in 2009. The Vols and Dogs are the two favorites to win the East this season and their week five matchup will go a long way to determining the SEC East Champion. This matchup may be an interesting on for Tennessee. The Vols could be coming of a victory over the Florida Gators, snapping an 11 yearlong losing streak to arguably their biggest rival. The Vols will also be looking at a trip to Texas A&M. This could be a trap game for the Vols, but Butch Jones has done a great job of keeping his teams focused. This game will also give us one of the best running back matchups of the year when Chubb and Michel go up against the Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara of the Vols. Ultimately I see this game coming down to two things, which defense gets the big stop and witch quarterback makes the big play. I’m taking Tennessee in both of those categories. The Vols have the better defenses and the better quarterback in Joshua Dobbs. The Vols win and take control of the East, leaving the Dogs in need of help at 2-3 and 1-2 in SEC play.

Week six Georgia @ South Carolina. Sat, Oct. 8th
The first year as head coach of the Gamecocks will be a hard one for Will Muschamp and this game may not be a fun one to watch. South Carolina is way behind the eight ball in talent compared to Georgia. The Dogs will be more talented at just about every position. It’s hard to imagine USC wining this one when you look at the two teams on paper, but you never now Stranger things have happened. That being said, I still think the Dogs win this one easily. It could also be the time for Jacob Eason to take over the starting job if he hasn’t done so already. Dogs win and move to 3-3 and 2-2 in SEC play.

Week seven Georgia vs. Vanderbilt. Sat, Oct. 15th
This game could really throw the SEC East standings into Chaos if Vanderbilt can find a way to win. While I don’t think it will happen there is a good chance at it. Vandy will have one of the nation’s best defensive unites in 2016 and be on the uptick. However, the Dogs should finally have both of their star running backs at full health and they will prove too much for the Commodores defense. Vandy should keep it close early and they have a chance to keep it close into the fourth, but Georgia hold on to the win.

Week nine Georgia vs. Florida. Sat, Oct. 29th
“The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is finally here. This game will once again have a major impact on who wins the SEC East. Georgia will be entering the game with two losses in league play and Florida will have at least two losses as well. To add to it both teams will have a loss to Tennessee and wont own the tie break if the Vols have two losses as well. However, that’s looking way ahead, let’s just look at this week’s game. If both teams do in fact have two losses each a third one would end their hopes of going to Atlanta. The Dogs should have the slightly better roster and if Chubb can stay healthy he will run all over the Gator’s defense. Dogs win and move to 5-3 and 3-2 in the SEC keeping their dreams alive for now.

Week ten Georgia @ Kentucky. Sat, Nov. 5th
The month of November looks to be pretty kind to the Bulldogs as things sit right now. They start the month off with a trip to Kentucky and the Wildcats should be in a bad spot at this point of the season. There is a good chance they will be without head coach Mark Stoops and they won’t have much to play for. Georgia should win this one easily and move to 6-3 and 4-2 in the SEC, earnings Smart a trip to a bowl game in year one.

Week eleven Georgia vs. Auburn. Sat, Nov. 12th
The Bulldogs second opponent of the year form the SEC West won’t offer near the challenge as Ole Miss did. Also the Bulldogs could be looking at playing a team with an interim head coach for a second straight week. Georgia wins big and picks up win number seven for Smart.

Week twelve Georgia vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. Sat, Nov. 19th
This one should be an easy win for the Dogs, but I’m putting them on upset alert. Lafayette isn’t a bad team and could catch Georgia looking ahead to their matchup with Georgia Tech. However, I think the Dogs find a way to win and move on to next week.

Week thirteen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. Sat, Nov. 26th
This one is a hard one to deiced on for me. I think Georgia has the better team and will win, but I think the Yellow Jackets will be a much improved team from a year ago. In a rivalry game of this magnitude you never know what will happen. I think Smart and his boys will win, but ask me in November and you might get a different answer.

The Dogs will have a good first year under Kirby Smart going 9-3 in the regular season. Smart will keep the Dogs in contention for an SEC East title year in and year out, but will he be able to get over the hump? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned next week as Sam Forman reveals his picks to finish fourth and third in the SEC this season.


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