By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
For a guy whose nine seasons as Georgia's coach have ended six times in double-digit wins, Mark Richt is inexplicably on the hot seat. Such is life in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference.
Richt's squad went into last year trying to recover from the departures of offensive stars Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. And this year, the Dawgs will start a new quarterback for the second straight season, but their rushing attack could prove to be one of the SEC's finest.
Returning are Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, who ran for a combined 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. They'll continue to get the carries behind a talented and veteran offensive line. Once new QB Aaron Murray gets comfortable, he'll look for A.J. Green (53 catches last year, 808 yards, 6 TDs), a Biletnikoff Award favorite.
Defensively, a new coordinator and two new position coaches are installing a 3-4 defense that will take some getting used to. Typically a schematic change can gradually become successful when a team eases into its September schedule. But with South Carolina and Arkansas on the early season docket, the Bulldogs will need to adjust in a hurry, and that will be the X factor for this team's fortunes in 2010, especially considering five defensive starters were taken in the NFL Draft. There's a lot of talent to replace.
Who's back? WR A.J. Green, P Drew Butler, K Blair Walsh, OL Clint Boling
Who's gone? QB Joe Cox, LB Rennie Curran, DT Geno Atkins, S Reshad Jones
Why they'll win: A strong ground game gives a team a chance in every game, and Georgia's got that.
Why they'll lose: Defensively, there are holes to fill, a new scheme and no true stars.
Get your tickets: vs. Florida (at Jacksonville, Oct. 30), at Auburn (Nov. 13), vs. Georgia Tech (Nov. 27)
Prediction: 9-3 (6-2, second place SEC East)