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Former Georgia QB Matt Stafford

A way-too-early look at Georgia’s 2017 schedule

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Let’s take a way-too-early look at Georgia’s 2017 schedule and evaluate how the Dawgs in the NFL fared now that the NFL regular season is over, shall we?

A look ahead

The 2016 season just ended, so it’s time to immediately square our attention to 2017. There will be months and months to pore over Georgia’s opponents and break down how we think the season will shake out. Between incoming recruits, players emerging during the spring and injuries that are incurred between now and next fall – by both Georgia and their opponents — it’s difficult to get a super accurate assessment of next season. But since we are officially in the dead- off-season, I thought it would be fun to go ahead and take a brief look at the 2017 schedule and predict how the Bulldogs will fare in Kirby Smart’s second season at the helm:

Appalachian State — I have little doubt Georgia will win this game, but there isn’t a team in America that does a better job of making major programs look awful in supposedly cupcake games than App State. Prepare for a lot of gnashing of teeth and face-palming during Week 1. Regardless, WIN.

 At Notre Dame — Notre Dame’s situation at QB should be iffy, as both passers they’ve relied on the last few years, DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, will no longer be with the program. The Irish defense was atrocious this season and there’s no reason to think it will improve markedly. Josh Adams shows potential to be a good tailback and could give Georgia’s defense some trouble. On paper it seems as if Georgia should walk. I’m a bit of sucker for mythology, though, so all the “Wake up the echoes” and “Win one for the Gipper” crap scares the bejeezus out of me. (I’m gonna be such an iconoclast in the buildup to this one.) Still, WIN.

Samford — It’s Samford. WIN.

Mississippi State — Georgia’s defense has had problems with dual-threat QBs this season, particularly when they run. MSU’s Nick Fitzgerald can run with the best of them. State’s defense had difficulty preventing big plays, though, so I expect Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to break some plays and help Georgia break away. WIN.

At Tennessee — Tennessee will be only a few weeks into breaking in a new OC. There will be no Josh Dobbs, no Derek Barnett and, hopefully, no Hail Mary. Please, God, WIN.

At Vanderbilt — The loss to Vanderbilt this season was the most embarrassing of the fall, by leaps and bounds. If I were a Georgia player, I’d be hankering to prove that I’m better than the Commodores. I expect the Dawgs to come out firing in this one. WIN.

Missouri — This is Georgia and there’s always going to be some loss that should’ve been a win. A lot of times that comes against Missouri. LOSS.

Florida — I’ll be honest, I never know what to expect from the Florida game. And it’s always one of those where — cliche alert — you can throw out the records. All I know is that most times when I’m optimistic about it, Georgia ends up losing. With that in mind, LOSS.

South Carolina — Until South Carolina turns its recruiting around in a major way, I’m going to be skeptical. And having Will Muschamp in charge will never breed confidence. WIN.

At Auburn — Georgia will likely not be as lucky next season against Auburn as it was this season. Expect RB Kamryn Pettway to play. Expect the Tigers to have a QB with a functional throwing arm. Expect a rowdy crowd Jordan-Hare Stadium hungry for a little revenge before setting their eyes on ruining Bama’s season. LOSS.

Kentucky — This was a tight game in 2016 and both teams should be better in 2017, so another close one is well within reason. And the tailback pairing of Benny Snell and Boom Williams is one of the best in the country. I think Georgia’s defense will take a big step forward next season, though, and should be able to limit those two enough to stay on top. WIN.

At Georgia Tech — A pattern has emerged as Georgia has gone W, L, W, L against Tech in the last four playings of the rivalry. Smart now has some experience against the triple-option, and he’ll likely be hellbent on stopping it next season after Paul Johnson torched his defense in the fourth quarter this fall. This feels like a toss-up, but just because of the aforementioned pattern I’m going to say WIN.

Going by that, the Bulldogs will finish the 2017 regular season at 9-3. That may or may not be enough to win the SEC East, depending on who the Dawgs lose to and how those teams fared in the rest of their schedules. In my mind, anything between 8-4 and 11-1 is within the realm of possibility. A 10-win season should be the goal, and it’s certainly attainable. With the relative weakness of this schedule, eight wins would suck, and anything under eight wins would be an enormous disappointment.

Dawgs in the NFL: The end-of-the-regular-season edition

There is no doubt that Matt Stafford had the best season of any Dawg in the NFL. The seven-year NFL vet passed for 4,327 yards, 24 TDs and 10 INTs while leading the Lions to a 9-7 record and a wild card appearance in the playoffs. He also became just the fourth player in NFL history to pass for 4,000 for six consecutive seasons and eclipsed the 30,000 career yards mark, reaching that milestone quicker than any QB in NFL history.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Todd Gurley, who had a dismal sophomore campaign after earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2015. Gurley finished the season with just 885 yards and 6 TDs on 3.2 YPC behind a weak Rams offensive line. His teammate and fellow former Dawg, Alec Ogletree, fared much better, leading L.A. in tackles with 136. The Rams finished 4-12.

There is a slew of Bulldogs on the 6-9 (nice) Cincinnati Bengals. Most notably A.J. Green, who had 964 yards and 4 TDs this season, his lowest production since entering the league. To be fair to Green, he only played in 10 games this season and would’ve been near his career high in yards if he had played in all 16 games and his average per game held steady. Geno Atkins had 32 tackles and 9 sacks for the Bengals this season, while Shawn Williams had 81 tackles, a sack and 3 interceptions.

Justin Houston of the playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs is perennially one of the best Dawgs in the NFL. His 2016 season was plagued by injuries, but Houston still managed 4 sacks, 3 of which he racked up against the Broncos in Week 12. He is expected to play in the Chiefs’ divisional round game, so prepare accordingly, Dolphins and Steelers. Chris Conley has also been a key cog in the K.C. receiving corps, catching 44 passes for 530 yards.

Panthers LB Thomas Davis is getting up there in years, for an NFL player at least, but he isn’t showing it. In his 11th season in the pros, Davis accumulated 102 tackles and 2 picks. It wasn’t enough to help the Panthers much, though, as they went from Super Bowl runners-up to 6-10 in the span of a year.

A year ago, the NFL Draft was hardly a banner one for UGA, but a few former Dawgs from the draft class of 2016 excelled in their rookie years. First-round pick Leonard Floyd had 33 tackles and 7 sacks in his first season and appears to be the future of the Chicago Bears defense and a player the team can build around.

Fourth-round selection Malcolm Mitchell hit the jackpot when he was drafted by the Patriots. In his first season, he’s become a valuable target for Tom Brady and racked up 401 yards and 4 TDs on 32 catches. His connection with Brady proliferated as the season wore on and the Pats incurred injuries elsewhere in the receiving corps. Don’t be surprised to see Mitchell make a few big plays as the Patriots begin their march toward another Super Bowl, that is if he can return from a knee injury that kept him out of New England’s final game of the regular season.

When the offseason just started


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