Georgia enters this season with hopes for an SEC title and
possibly even BCS glory, but it first has to deal with the
aftermath of a tumultuous offseason.
As many as four players could be suspended for the sixth-ranked
Bulldogs’ season opener against Buffalo on Saturday.
With two defeats to start last season, it appeared that Georgia
was in line for another disappointing campaign, the kind that had
put coach Mark Richt squarely on the hot seat. Instead, the
Bulldogs quickly rebounded and reeled off 10 consecutive wins –
their longest single-season streak since 1982 – while securing a
spot in the SEC championship.
They were blown out 42-10 by eventual BCS runner-up LSU in that
game and lost in overtime to Michigan State at the Outback Bowl,
finishing 10-4 after going 14-12 over the previous two seasons.
“We know what we’re capable of,” said linebacker Jarvis Jones,
who was an All-American in 2011. “We had a lot of hype last year,
and we had a great run. This year, we know that people are
expecting us to be way better. We’re just going to take it all in
The program got a boost in January when SEC interception leader
Baccari Rambo and fellow defensive back Sanders Commings announced
they would return for their senior years instead of heading to the
Commings, though, will miss the first two games for his arrest
stemming from a domestic dispute in January, and outside linebacker
Chase Vasser is also out for two games for a DUI arrest in May.
Malcolm Mitchell, who had 665 receiving yards and four touchdowns
last year, is expected to move over to the secondary and start in
Rambo, an All-American in 2011, and linebacker Alec Ogletree are
also reportedly suspended, but Richt did not say Tuesday whether
the two were out of the lineup.
“I think we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said. “Time will
Cornerback Branden Smith was initially suspended one game for
marijuana possession, but that was lifted earlier this month.
Georgia’s headaches weren’t limited to defensive players.
Leading rusher Isaiah Crowell was dismissed from the program
following an arrest on felony weapons charges, and returning senior
Carlton Thomas left the team before spring practice.
Ken Malcome, who ran for 51 yards on 12 carries against Michigan
State after Crowell was injured, is slated to start Saturday.
Freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley might also see some
Aaron Murray, who has topped 3,000 yards in each of his first
two seasons, will direct the Bulldogs’ no-huddle attack again. He
threw for 35 TDs after that offense was installed before the 2011
campaign, and Georgia ran an SEC-high 1,016 plays compared with 814
“We want to score 40 or 50 points or more per game,” Murray
said. “That’s our goal. We have the firepower at running back, at
tight end, at receiver. We have a great offensive line. We’re
capable of doing that.
“We’re not here just to roll over and say we can win with
defense. We want to have our part and our share. We want to help
Murray will face a Buffalo defense that’s missing one of its top
players in linebacker Khalil Mack.
The junior, a first-team all-Mid-American Conference selection
in 2011, is suspended for the opener after violating an unspecified
team rule. He had a team-best 5 1/2 sacks and 20 1/2 tackles for
loss during the Bulls’ 3-9 season in 2011, and was named to the
Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists.
Buffalo’s other top returning player is junior Branden Oliver,
who ran for a school-record 1,395 yards and scored 13 TDs last
In their first matchup with Georgia, the Bulls will face their
highest-ranked foe since taking on No. 2 Auburn in 2006. They upset
their most recent Top 25 opponent, beating then-No. 12 Ball State
42-24 in the MAC championship Dec. 5, 2008.
Buffalo has been outscored 121-38 in its three losses to current
SEC members while Georgia has won by a combined 112-20 in its two
games versus MAC schools.