PFF: Georgia Bulldogs could make national championship run in 2017

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MEMPHIS, TN – DECEMBER 30: Running back Nick Chubb #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs looks to maneuver by linebacker Sammy Douglas #35 of the TCU Horned Frogs at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. At halftime the TCU Horned Frogs leads the Georgia Bulldogs 16-14. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Some people think the Georgia Bulldogs will be poised to take the next step in 2018. But depending on the circumstances, one analytics site thinks that leap may come a year earlier.

Pro Football Focus’ Gordon McGuinness noted Friday the Bulldogs’ 2017 national championship odds have improved steadily since the offseason began. And he doesn’t think a title run is farfetched thanks to three factors.

First, he said Georgia has “arguably the best backfield in the nation.” Nick Chubb and Sony Michel form a dangerous running back tandem. McGuinness also cited some advanced stats to show Chubb is getting even better as he gets further away from his 2015 knee injury.

“In the first eight games he played in this past season, Chubb forced just 19 missed tackles on 124 carries,” McGuinness wrote. “Over his last five games though, he looked much closer to the Nick Chubb of old, forcing 20 missed tackles on 99 carries.”

Second, QB Jacob Eason showed flashes of brilliance in 2016. McGuinness said Eason demonstrated the potential to be “a really special quarterback.” The key will be improving his performance when defenses get in his face.

“Things shifted entirely when he was put under pressure though, with his completion percentage dropping to 31.8 percent, only throwing for 396 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions,” McGuinness said. “If you were looking at his season using the NFL passer rating, Eason’s rating dropped from 91.2 without pressure to 45.5 when pressure got there.”

If Eason improves in that regard this season, Georgia’s offense would be incredibly tough to stop.

And finally, Georgia still benefits from a weak SEC East, creating an easier road to the SEC Championship–and therefore the College Football Playoff. Tennessee and Florida both lost some key pieces from their 2016 squads, and those will probably be Georgia’s biggest challengers for the division crown. Looking at the schedule, the Bulldogs’ toughest task may be a road game against Auburn.

“If they can pass those tests on the road, they’ll likely find themselves in the SEC Championship against Alabama, LSU or a rematch against Auburn,” McGuinness said, “and a win there would almost certainly see them with a spot in the playoff.”

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