ATHENS — Georgia football didn’t get a chance to start spring football drills in earnest, but the Bulldogs are moving up in the ranks in terms of perception.
The latest example comes via the updated USA Today preseason Top 25, per Paul Myerberg last week.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 3 in the newest rankings, behind preseason No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Ohio State.
This, after checking in at No. 11 in the first USA Today “way-too-early college football Top 25” on Jan. 14.
At that time, Georgia was seen as a program with “enough unknowns to put the Bulldogs behind Florida in the race for the SEC,” per the January article.
To be fair, there was some shock value to Jake Fromm announcing he was turning pro and Cade Mays announcing his intention to transfer less than a week before the initial early rankings.
It’s also important to note that, while Jamie Newman was on board as a graduate transfer quarterback, Todd Monken had not yet been hired as the new OC.
Those not following the program closely couldn’t have the same sort of read on Georgia football as the passionate DawgNation fans and those who keep up with the program daily.
Alabama, meanwhile, dropped from No. 2 in the early USA Today rankings to No. 5 in the latest one.
Could losing Scott Cochran mean that much?
The Tide, like the Bulldogs, had yet to start spring drills when the coronavirus pandemic triggered a shutdown.
USA Today’s most recent breakdown of the Bulldogs states:
“Georgia takes a big step forward in the post-spring rankings after cementing its quarterback position with Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman. If replacing Jake Fromm’s experience and reliability may be difficult, Newman’s arm and athleticism should provide a different look to an offense run by a new coordinator in Todd Monken.”
The offense will be a work in progress, though it’s safe to assume much will run through the quarterback position with a heavier presence of RPO action in UGA’s Pro-Style scheme.
Kirby Smart has said he wants to maintain a degree of balance while seeking explosive elements. That comes down to players, and Georgia will have plenty to sort out at the skill position when practices resume.
Still, it seems many are overlooking the biggest reason to have the Bulldogs projected as the top-ranked team: Defense.
Dan Lanning proved worthy of the internal promotion to defensive coordinator last season. UGA led the nation in scoring defense and run defense, and it also ranked No. 3 in total defense and No. 8 in pass efficiency defense.
Nine of the 11 defensive starters from the Sugar Bowl team return. It’s not a stretch to say Georgia should have the best defense in college football presuming the season starts as scheduled.
Here’s the updated USA Today preseason Top 25, reflecting how teams have gone up or down since the nation’s largest newspaper released its version:
1. Clemson (1)
2. Ohio State (3)
3. Georgia (11)
4. Oregon (6)
5. Alabama (2)
6. Oklahoma (5)
7. Florida (8)
8. Penn State (7)
9. LSU (4)
10. Notre Dame (9)
11. Michigan (12)
12. Auburn (13)
13. Texas A&M (19)
14. Iowa (10)
15. Texas (14)
16. Iowa State (21)
17. Cincinnati (16)
18. Wisconsin (18)
19. Oklahoma State (NR)
20. North Carolina (25)
21. Boise State (20)
22. Southern Cal (17)
23. Cal (23)
24. Washington (24)
25. Louisville (NR)
Dropped out: Memphis (15), Baylor (22)