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UGA coach Kirby Smart and tailback Nick Chubb

ESPN’s Football Power Index tabs Georgia to win the SEC East

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant Georgia football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Today, we’re looking at some numbers provided by ESPN.

Track: The Numbers | Artist: Radiohead | Album: A Moon Shaped Pool

FPI projects grind in SEC East

Welp, it was just last week that one metric, S&P+, was telling us to keep our hopes in check about Georgia’s chances in 2017. Now, here comes another metric telling us to go on and get ’em back up.

ESPN released the spring projections for its Football Power Index (FPI) and it’s saying good things about Georgia, relatively speaking at least. The Bulldogs are ranked 13th in FPI, the highest-ranked team in the SEC East.

RK TEAM PROJ W-L WIN OUT% CONF WIN% REM SOS RK FPI
13 Georgia 8.4 – 4.0 0.2 10.5 4 15.6
15 Florida 7.9 – 4.4 0.1 8.3 5 14.5
19 Tennessee 7.9 – 4.3 0 3.7 30 13.4
32 S. Carolina 6.1 – 6.0 0 0.8 7 8
34 Kentucky 6.7 – 5.4 0 0.8 32 7.4
41 Missouri 6.5 – 5.5 0 0.2 53 5.6
46 Vanderbilt 5.4 – 6.6 0 0.1 17 4

The most interesting tidbit to note is Georgia’s strength of schedule. The Bulldogs rank fourth according to FPI, much higher than I would have thought. It makes sense when you look at it, though. The reason Georgia’s schedule isn’t lauded is because there isn’t one great team that it has to face. Instead, the schedule is packed with a whole lot of pretty good teams. There are no certain losses, but there are also no cakewalks. For instance, Notre Dame is listed at 20 and Mississippi State at 33, while even the “cupcake” of the schedule, Appalachian State, checks in at 74.

And that’s before we get into the logjam of the SEC East. There are no really good teams in the East, but every team is basically on the same level. That parity could make for a wild season in the East, with the Bulldogs projected as the most likely to come out the other side wearing the SEC East crown. From ESPN Stats & Info:

The SEC East is projected to be the most competitive division among Power 5 conferences. It is the only Power 5 division in which three teams have at least a 15 percent chance to win — Georgia (37 percent), Florida (31 percent) and Tennessee (16 percent).

Based on the percentage chances of winning individual games, Georgia is projected to finish 9-3 with losses to Notre Dame (48.8%), Tennessee (48.7%) and Auburn (26.2%). An even matchup is also projected against Florida (52.6%). That 9-3 projected record is the same as both Tennessee and Florida. But UGA’s projected win against the Gators, along with a pair of losses by both teams against LSU, and a Tennessee loss to Alabama would give Georgia the East with a tiebreaker.

If it sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. Whether FPI holds true for Georgia in 2016 — FYI: It didn’t in 2016. The Dawgs were 11th preseason, but the projected W-L was pretty close — the numbers tell us the East is going to be as tight as it’s ever been and it’s hard to disagree. S&P+, which I trust more than FPI just because I’ve more familiar with it, is telling us the same thing. The East is going to be a tough knot to untangle. Every game is going to be important, as games always are in college football, but based on what FPI is telling us, circle the Tennessee and Florida games on your calendar. (As if you didn’t have them circled already.)

Dawgs at the Masters

Hey, the Masters starts Thursday.

There are four former Georgia Bulldogs slated to compete in the 2017 Masters. Let’s take a quick peek at what they’ve been up to heading into golf’s grandest tournament:

Bubba Watson — Bubba is the most well-known former Dawg on the tour, and for good reason: his two green jackets in 2012 and 2014. But the last two years have seen Bubba finish over par at Augusta and he’s missed two cuts this season. It always seems like he has a chance at the Masters, and, regardless, he’s having a good time with his kids.

Russell Henley — Henley enters Augusta the hottest of any Dawg, having won the Houston Open last week and making him literally the last golfer to qualify for the Masters. It was the third PGA Tour win of his career. He’s not a long hitter, which could cause problems at Augusta, but he won the Houston Open with some fine putting. If he can keep that up, he could work his way to a nice finish.

Hudson Swafford — Swafford hasn’t made much noise since turning pro in 2011. But lately he’s turned it on, winning his first PGA Tour event in January at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Unfortunately, he followed that by missing three straight cuts. The last two weeks have been good to him, though, with a T-10 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a sixth-place performance in Houston.

Kevin Kisner — Kisner, the 36th-ranked player in the world, finished +9 last year at the Masters, good enough for 37th in his first go in the event. Like Henley, Kisner is also riding a hot hand. He’s only missed a single cut and placed in the top 5 three times, including a runner-up finish in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in late March. Kisner is a bit of a late bloomer on tour, so it’d be a nice story to see him put on a show, especially considering he’s from right down the road of Augusta in Aiken, S.C., and lives there to this day. If he’s in the hunt, it’s a safe bet that he’ll be the crowd favorite.

If you’re looking for coverage of the Masters with a Georgia slant, Dawg Sports does a good job. It has a course review by someone lucky enough to play Augusta, a preview of Dawgs in the field and a look at the best Master traditions, notably the food. Check it out.

‘I’m So Sorry’

ICYMI

Good dog

Wiener dog eating a banana?

Wiener dog eating a banana.