Why Georgia can win the playoff: Deep backfield, dangerous D
EDITOR'S NOTE: FOX Sports college football columnists Stewart Mandel and Bruce Feldman think a handful of teams have a legitimate shot at hoisting the College Football Playoff trophy this season. This week, they'll make a case for each of those squads.
1. What we like: There's no denying the talent level in Athens. Mark Richt has recruited consensus top 10 classes four of the past five years, which automatically puts the Dawgs on any short list of realistic playoff contenders. Heisman candidate Nick Chubb ran for 1,547 yards as a true freshman last season and will benefit from the presence of four returning offensive line starters. With Chubb, Sony Michel and Keith Marshall, the Dawgs may have the deepest backfield in the country.
Meanwhile, coordinator Jeremy Pruitt enters his second season with the pieces to elevate the Dawgs from 17th nationally in efficiency (per Bill Connelly's S&P ratings) to one of the country's very best. Athletic outside linebackers Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter should form the backbone of a potentially scary pass-rush.
2. What concerns us: For one thing, Richt is dealing with more uncertainty at quarterback than in any preseason of his 15-year tenure. He even brought in Virginia grad transfer Greyson Lambert to push frontrunners Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Richt also lost longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to Colorado State, replacing him with NFL lifer Brian Schottenheimer. And while undeniably talented, last year's defense struggled mightily at times to stop the run -- and that was before losing key performers LB Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera.
But most of all, Georgia is one of those teams that always makes us a little nervous to embrace. The Dawgs, after all, have averaged nearly 10 wins per year under Richt but have never played for a national title. Is this, his 15th Georgia team, really the one that will put it all together?
3. What would the committee think? (schedule analysis): Even though its division, the SEC East, is fairly mediocre, Georgia's schedule is fairly rugged thanks to crossover games against preseason top 5 teams Alabama and Auburn and its annual Thanksgiving weekend date with Georgia Tech, itself coming off an 11-win season. And because the committee showed in Year 1 that it clearly values big wins more than it frowns on bad losses, the Dawgs could probably afford one of their annual slip-ups against Florida or South Carolina and still come out fine.
A more fascinating proposition would be a 10-2 Georgia team upsetting a 12-0 or 11-1 West foe in the SEC title game. Depending on the state of the other conferences' champions, Georgia might have a fairly compelling case.