2007 Georgia Bulldogs

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Georgia Bulldogs Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Georgia Bulldogs

Recap: The Bulldogs caught fire following a loss to Tennessee on Oct. 6 and never cooled off, closing the season with seven straight wins and a blowout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.  Playing with youthful exuberance on both sides of the ball, Georgia got better with each passing game, as did head coach Mark Richt, who reinvented himself en route to his best coaching job in Athens.  Even better than the Dawgs' 11 wins, seven against bowl participants, was that it was achieved with a slew of freshmen and sophomores that entered the season with limited relevant experience.            

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Knowshon Moreno

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Dannell Ellerbe

Biggest Surprise: Moreno.  Yeah, he was one of the stars of spring, but a spot on the All-SEC first team wasn't expected until 2009 or 2010.  After starting the year behind Thomas Brown, he erupted when his opportunity arose, rushing for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns, including 188 yards and three scores in the Dawgs' upset of Florida on Oct. 27.       

Biggest Disappointment: Although there wasn't much to complain about in 2007, Georgia recognizes its 35-14 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 6 cost it a shot at swapping the Sugar Bowl for the BCS National Championship game.  A couple of weeks before they'd find their rhythm, the Dawgs got blindsided by the Vols, falling behind 28-0, and never making the game interesting in the second half.     

Looking Ahead: Prepare the hype machine in Athens because Georgia is going to be one of the hottest teams between now and the start of the 2008 season.  And why not?  The Bulldogs are loaded, and capable of improving on last year after starting three freshmen on the offensive line and sophomore Matt Stafford behind them.

- 2007 Georgia Preview
2006 Georgia Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2007 Record: 11-

Sept. 1 Oklahoma St W 35-14
Sept. 8
South Carolina L 16-14
Sept. 15 West Carolina W 45-16
Sept. 22 at Alabama W 26-23 OT
Sept. 29 Ole Miss W 45-17
Oct. 6 at Tennessee L 35-14
Oct. 13
at Vanderbilt W 20-17
Oct. 27 vs. Florida W 42-30
Nov. 3
Troy W 44-34
Nov. 10 Auburn W 48-20
Nov. 17 Kentucky W 24-13
Nov. 24 at Ga Tech W 31-17
Sugar Bowl
Dec. 1 Hawaii W 41-10

Jan. 1
2008 Sugar Bowl
Georgia 41 ... Hawaii 10

Georgia destroyed Hawaii with eight sacks, several other pressures, and holding the high-octane Warrior attack to a mere 306 yards with most coming late. Hawaii turned it over six times leading to several easy scores, but Georgia had now problems moving the ball on its own with Knowshon Moreno running for scores from 17 and 11 yards out in the first quarter, Sean Baliey catching an 11-yard scoring pass in the second, and Marcus Howard recovering a fumble off a sack in the third. Brandon Coutu blasted field goals from 52 and 45 yards out for the Bulldogs on the way to a 31-3 lead before Hawaii finally got in the end zone on a Tyler Graunke touchdown pass to Ryan Grice-Mullen in the fourth. The two teams combined for 22 penalties for 190 yards.
Offensive Player of the Game: The entire starting Georgia offensive line
Defensive Player of the Game: Georgia DE Marcus Howard made four tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, forced two tumbles, and recovered one for a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 14-23, 175 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Thomas Brown, 19-73, 1 TD. Receiving: Mo Massaquoi, 5-54
Hawaii - Passing: Colt Brennan, 22-38, 169 yds, 3 INT
Kealoha Pilares, 7-26. Receiving:
Jason Rivers, 10-105
Thoughts & Notes ... 5 Thoughts on the Sugar Bowl ... Sugar Bowl Stream of Consciousness Quarter By Quarter Game Notes ... The Hawaii offensive line almost got Colt Brennan killed. The Warrior's star quarterback never had time to operate with the Bulldog defense hitting him on seemingly every play and throwing the Hawaii offense off its rhythm all game long. Hawaii might have been overwhelmed by the moment, but the biggest problem was the poor play by the offensive line. ... Lost in the blowout win was the average game by Matt Stafford and the passing game. Thomas Brown only averaged 3.8 yards per carry, but Knowshon Moreno averaged 6.8 yards a pop to get the running game going. They carried the day while Stafford only completed 14 of 23 passes despite having all the time he wanted. ... Because of the sacks, Georgia outgained Hawaii 159 yards to -5 on the ground.

Nov. 24
Georgia 31 ... Georgia Tech 17
Matthew Stafford ran for a 31-yard touchdown and hit Mo Massaquoi for a nine-yard score in the second quarter o give the Bulldogs control of the game, but it wasn't until Thomas Brown tore off a 32-yard touchdown run early in the fourth before they could relax a bit. Georgia Tech played tough with a 12-yard Tashard Choice touchdown run and a 17-yard Colin McPeek catch, but the offense couldn't get going in the second half.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Thomas Brown ran 17 times for 139 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 14-29, 214 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Thomas Brown, 17-139, 1 TD. Receiving: Mo Massaquoi, 6-74,1 TD
Georgia Tech - Passing: Taylor Bennett, 9-27, 137 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Tashard Choice, 25-134, 1 TD. Receiving: Greg Smith, 3-49

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Red-hot, Georgia kept the momentum from the end of the regular season going with a solid effort against a fired up Georgia Tech. Matthew Stafford might not have thrown all that well, but he didn't have to with the way the running game was going. Tech spent so much time worrying about how to bottle up Knowshon Moreno, and doing a good job of it, that Thomas Brown was able to crank out a big game. The defense was fine, but was helped by Taylor Bennett's inconsistent passing. Now it's on to the BCS where the Dawgs are all but assured of a high-profile game. They deserve it.

Nov. 17
Georgia 24 ... Kentucky 13
Georgia rallied from a 10-0 deficit with a 24-3 run on one-yard touchdown runs from Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown, and a ten-yard Matthew Stafford run. The story was the Bulldog defense that came up with five sacks, generated pressure all game long, and held he UK offense to 297 yards of total offense. The Wildcats started off the scoring with a 36-yard Kennan Burton catch and a 31-yard Lonas Seiber field goal, but could only manage a 44-yard Seiber field goal the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Georgia LB Rennie Curran made 13 tackles and a tackle for loss
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 12-22, 99 yds. 2 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno. 22-124, 1 TD. Receiving: Mo Massaquoi, 4-49
Kentucky - Passing: Andre Woodson, 24-41, 268 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rafael Little, 16-32. Receiving: Steve Johnson, 8-88

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Georgia showed that it could win when things weren't going well. The offense turned it over four times against Kentucky and didn't get anything to click from the passing game down the field, but the defense hit Andre Woodson time and again while the running game was its typical strong self with Thomas Brown contributing more, with 73 yards and a score, in his second game back from injury. He might not be nearly as effective as Knowshon Moreno, but he was able to crank out 22 carries to help the overall workload. Now the Dawgs need a Tennessee loss to play LSU for the SEC title.

Nov. 10
Georgia 48 ... Auburn 20
Georgia outgained Auburn 417 yards to 216, and after falling behind 20-17 on a 33-yard Wes Byrum field goal, blew the game open with 28 unanswered points on Knowshon Moreno touchdown runs from 24 and three yards out, followed up by one-yard scoring runs from Brannan Southerland and Thomas Brown. The Bulldogs bombed away early on with a wide-open Mo Massaquoi catching a 58-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Sean Bailey catching a 13-yard scoring pass in the second for a 17-3 Georgia lead. But the Tigers came back with 17 straight points on a seven-yard Ben Tate run and a 12-yard Mario Fannin catch.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno ran 22 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 14-30, 133 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Ben Tate, 13-58, 1 TD. Receiving: Montez Billings, 3-21
Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 11-19, 237 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Knowshon Moreno, 22-101, 2 TD. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 4-96, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While Georgia doesn't control its own destiny to the SEC title, it's playing like a team able to challenge LSU for the championship. That's a strong Auburn defense that got gashed by the Dawgs, while the defense shut down the mediocre Tiger attack. Matthew Stafford might have thrown a bad interception, but he bombed away well averaging a whopping 21.5 yards per completion. With Kentucky and Georgia Tech certain to throw everything and the mascot at Knowshon Moreno over the next two weeks, Stafford will have to keep taking advantage of his opportunities.

Nov. 3
Georgia 44 ... Troy 34
Knowshon Moreno tore off an 80-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Matthew Stafford threw two second quarter touchdown passes to give Georgia a 24-10 lead, but Troy never backed down all game long with Omar Haugabook throwing a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jerrel Jernigan and connecting with Kennard Burton for a 44-yard score to pull within four. The Dawgs were able to pull away with two one-yard Moreno scoring runs and two Brandon Coutu field goals. The Trojans outgained Georgia 488 yards to 465.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno ran 26 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Troy - Passing: Omar Haugabook, 29-45, 310 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Kenny Cattouse, 9-60. Receiving: Jerrell Jernigan, 11-102, 2 TD
Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 17-29, 217 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Knowshon Moreno, 26-196, 3 TD. Receiving:
Sean Bailey, 5-57, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The good: Georgia got a fantastic day from Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford against a good Troy defense. The bad: The starters got way, way too much work considering Auburn is up next week. This was a big-time trap game, and the Dawgs can be forgiven if they didn't have the intensity cranked up to 11, but it would've been nice to have kept Moreno, the team's burgeoning superstar, on the bench for extended stretches. Against Auburn next week, there can't be the three turnovers or nine turnovers there were this week.

Oct. 27
Georgia 42 ... Florida 30
Georgia showed off its attitude early on, as the entire team came out to celebrate a one-yard Knowshon Moreno touchdown run to establish the tenor of the game. Florida responded with a 40-yard Louis Murphy touchdown catch, but Georgia answered right back with an 84-yard Mo Massaquoi touchdown catch. The Bulldogs overcame an interception returned for a score by Wondy Pierre-Louis to get relative control of the game for the final 35 minutes, with Moreno running for a 10-yard score at the end of the first half, and sealing the game with a three-yard scoring run after Florida got Tim Tebow's second touchdown run of the game. Stafford threw three touchdown passes highlighted by a great throw to Mikey Henderson, who made a tough catch, for a 53-yard touchdown.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno ran 33 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 11-18, 217 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 33-188, 3 TD. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 3-44
Florida - Passing: Tim Tebow, 14-22, 236 yds, 1 TD
Percy Harvin, 10-97. Receiving:
Andre Caldwell, 4-56
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might be easy to dismiss the team's on-field celebration after the first touchdown against Florida as a goofy gimmick, but it threw down the gauntlet and appeared to give the Dawgs an attitude that the Gators couldn't stop. The defensive line was terrific, teeing off on Tim Tebow and rarely letting him get any room to move. The offensive line had one of its best games all season long. Knowshon Moreno might have been the star of the game, but this might have been the coming out party for Matthew Stafford on a big-time scale. He only threw one miserably bad pick, and was brilliant on his three touchdown passes. Now the key will be to keep this fire. It's one thing to rock Florida. It'll be another to show up against a good Troy team (don't laugh) next week.

Oct. 13
Georgia 20 ... Vanderbilt 17
Brandon Coutu nailed a 37-yard field goal as time ran out to complete a fourth quarter comeback to give the Bulldogs the win. Coutu also hit a 31-yard shot to tie it up with 6:12 to play, but Vanderbilt had a shot late getting down to the Bulldog 18, but
Cassen Jackson-Garrison lost a fumble, sparking the final UGA drive. The Commodores took a 17-7 lead into halftime on a 15-yard Sean Walker touchdown run and a phenomenal 16-yard acrobatic catch. The Bulldogs outscored Vandy 13-0 in the second half.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno ran 28 times for 157 yards and caught two passes for 18 yards.
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 16-31, 201 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 28-157. Receiving: Tony Wilson, 4-57
Vanderbilt - Passing: Mackenzi Adams, 7-10, 125 yds, 1 TD
D.J. Moore, 2-48. Receiving: Earl Bennett, 3-31

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... This is going to be Georgia all year long. It's going to have some moments when it looks like a world-beater, and it'll have others when it struggles just to get things going. Against Vanderbilt, the offense struggled in the first half, but it moved the ball enough in the second to set up the key fourth quarter field goals, with QB Matthew Stafford coming through when he had to. Now the running game is going to be all Knowshon Moreno, as Kregg Lumpkin hurt his knee. Stafford will have to do even more.

Oct. 6
Tennessee 35 ... Georgia 14
Tennessee stunned Georgia by getting up 28-0 at halftime on Arian Foster touchdown runs from nine and 22 yards out, a 56-yard trick play pass from to Lucas Taylor, to LaMarcus Coker, and a ten-yard Montario Hardesty scoring dash. Georgia showed some life on the first drive of the second half with a 26-yard Demiko Goodman scoring grab, but Tennessee ended any comeback hopes with a four-yard Foster run. Tennessee outgained Georgia 411 yards to 243.
Player of the game: Tennessee RB Arian Foster rushed for 98 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries, while making a reception for 11 yards.
Stat Leaders: Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 16-33, 174 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 13-30. Receiving: Tripp Chandler, 4-33, 1 TD
Tennessee - Passing: Erik Ainge, 17-22, 165 yds
Arian Foster, 17-98, 3 TDs. Receiving: Lucas Taylor, 6-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Call the Tennessee loss a learning experience for a big step forward. Eventually. The Vols got on an early roll, Georgia couldn't answer, and all of a sudden it was 28-0. Matthew Stafford couldn't bomb his way back into it, and the running game failed, coming off an amazing performance against Ole Miss. Now the Dawgs have to gear it back up again, avoid losing to Vanderbilt for a second year in a row, and then take the time off for Florida. This is still a dangerous team that might still get its shot to win the East, but it can't afford a mistake the rest of the way.

Sept. 29
Georgia 45 ... Ole Miss 17
Ole Miss scored first on a 45-yard Mike Wallace touchdown catch, and then Thomas Brown took over. The Georgia back tore off a 50-yard touchdown run for the first of his three scores on the day. With the game tied at 17 late in the third, the Bulldogs cranked out 28 unanswered points with brown scoring from four and 41 yards out and Knowshon Moreno and Fred Munzenmaier each running for short scores. The Bulldogs outgained the Rebels 328 yards to 158 on the ground.
Player of the game: Georgia RB Thomas Brown ran 16 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns, and caught a pass for 11 yards
Stat Leaders: Ole Miss
- Passing: Seth Adams, 24-35, 228 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 22-108, 1 TD. Receiving: Shay Hodge, 6-77
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 13-21, 144 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Thomas Brown, 16-180, 3 TD. Receiving: Mo Massaquoi, 3-29, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After the big win over Alabama, and with Tennessee coming up, the concern was whether or not Georgia would be able to focus for Ole Miss. After struggling for almost three quarters, the offensive line took over and dominated the Rebels on the ground. If Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno can keep ripping off big runs like they did this week, and the pressure is taken off Matthew Stafford, he didn't have to force many throws, this will be a tough offense to stop. The defense wasn't a rock, but it was good enough, and did a great job over the final 20 minutes.

Sept. 22
Georgia 26 ... Alabama 23 OT
Bama's Leigh Tiffin connected on a 42-yard field goal in overtime, but Matthew Stafford connected with Mikey Henderson on a 25-yard touchdown pass on Georgia's first play in overtime for the win. The Dawgs had a shot to win in regulation, but Brandon Coutu missed a 47-yard field goal as time ran out. Coutu connected on field goals from 45 and 47 yards out, and Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno each ran for short touchdowns, but the Tide was able to tie it up late on a ten-play, 88-yard drive ending with John Parker Wilson's second short rushing touchdown of the game.
Player of the game: Georgia QB Matthew Stafford completed 19 of 35 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: Alabama
- Passing: John Parker Wilson, 17-35, 185 yds
Rushing: Terry Grant, 11-80. Receiving: Mike McCoy, 6-47
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 19-35, 224 yds, 2 TD, 2 iNT
Rushing: Thomas Brown, 20-74. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 5-74
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... This is Georgia football. Just when you think it might not be the most talented team around, just when you think there are major holes, the Dawgs come out and win a tough road game. That they were able to come back emotionally at Alabama when the Tide tied it up in the final minute, and with a missed field goal forcing overtime, shows how tough the team appears to be right now. The defense did a nice job of never letting Alabama establish its offense, but struggled on the final drive in the fourth. Even so, this was the type of win that could change things around after the South Carolina loss a few weeks ago. Now the Dawgs are back in the fight.

Sept. 15
Georgia 45 ... Western Carolina 16
Georgia exploded for 21 points in the second quarter on two Matthew Stafford touchdown passes and a 23-yard Knowshon Moreno touchdown run. The Bulldogs rolled for 21 points to start the second half on two short touchdown runs and a 34-yard Demiko Goodman scoring grab from Joe Cox. WCU didn't get into the end zone until late in the fourth on a Mike Malone touchdown run.
Player of the game: Georgia QB Matthew Stafford completed 14 of 20 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Western Carolina
- Passing: Adam Hearns, 10-14, 122 yds
Rushing: Willie Harper, 8-20. Receiving: Mike Malone, 4-17
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 14-20, 174 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 13-94, 1 TD. Receiving: Mo Massaquoi, 3-47
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bulldogs were able to go through the motions and come up with the win over Western Carolina, but while that might not sound exciting, for an offense that needed work and needed consistency, it was a plus. With a road trip to Alabama up next, the receivers needs to get more involved after struggling last week, and for the most part, they were. It would've been nice if the running game had been better, but it was still effective.

Sept. 8
South Carolina 16 ... Georgia 12
South Carolina got Ryan Succop field goals from 41, 35 and 34 yards out after starting off the scoring with a nine-yard Cory Boyd touchdown run, and then hung on late as a last gasp Georgia pass was kicked into the hands of Jasper Brinkley. The Bulldogs got four Brandon Coutu field goals and outgained the Gamecocks 341 yards to 314, but Coutu missed an early 48-yarder and the offense failed to go on any long drives after the second-quarter march to set up Coutu's first field goal. The two teams combined to convert four of 29 third down chances.
Player of the game: South Carolina K/P Ryan Succop scored 10 of his team's 16 points, going 3-of-3 on field goals, and averaged 40.7 yards a punt, landing two inside the 20.
Stat Leaders: South Carolina
- Passing: Blake Mitchell, 20-31, 174 yds
Rushing: Cory Boyd, 14-76, 1 TD. Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 7-102
- Passing: Matthew Stafford, 19-44, 213 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Knowshon Moreno, 14-104. Receiving: Sean Bailey, 4-44
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... As good as the Georgia offense looked at times against Oklahoma State, that's how stagnant it became against South Carolina. Matthew Stafford took a step back, mainly because he receiving corps struggled, but on the plus side, Knowshon Moreno had a great day and showed he can handle himself as a centerpiece back if he gets more work. Unfortunately, there's no more margin for error in the SEC and there's a trip to Alabama ahead. To get back on track, finishing off drives with touchdowns instead of field goals is a must, and that'll come with better play on third downs. That'll come with better play from the passing game. That's what Western Carolina is for next week.

Sept. 1
Georgia 35 ... Oklahoma State 14
Georgia's offense was balanced an efficient as Thomas Brown ran for two first half scores and Matthew Stafford threw for two second half scores on the way to a surprisingly easy win. Oklahoma State's offense struggled to get consistently going, but it was able to tie it at seven early on a 20-yard Adarius Bowman touchdown catch and pulled within seven at the end of the first half on a five-yard Dantrell Savage run. And then the Dawgs took over, not allowing any second half points while Stafford calmly kept the offense moving.
Player of the game ... Georgia QB Matthew Stafford finished 18-of-24 for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Oklahoma State- Passing: Bobby Reid, 16-30, 191 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dantrell Savage, 10-55  Receiving: Brandon Pettigrew, 7-85
Georgia - Passing: Matthew Stafford, 18-24, 234 yds, 2 TDs
Knowshon Moreno, 20-70  Receiving: Sean Bailey, 5-87

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Georgia shockingly appeared to be in midseason form with a surprisingly easy win over a very, very dangerous Oklahoma State team. The offensive line did a great job when it had to get the ground game moving, and, for the most part, it kept Matthew Stafford upright against the OSU speed rush. The defense did a fantastic job of limiting the big plays, and did a better job of stopping the Cowboys on third downs. This is the exactly sort of performance the team needed going into the South Carolina showdown. There aren't any glaring issues to work on this week.

Sept. 1 - Oklahoma State
Offense: The potential is there for the nation's 16th best offense and seventh best scoring attack to be even better. Quarterback Bobby Reid lived up to the hype last season and proved he could be a star. While he loses a great target in D'Juan Woods, he gets Adarius Bowman back to go along with a slew of speedy but unproven receivers to stretch the field. The 1-2 rushing punch of Dantrell Savage and Keith Toston is among the fastest and most dangerous in America running behind a decent line that has experience, but will be a work in progress to find the right starting combination.
Defense: If nothing else, the defense was certainly interesting with an aggressive style that produced a ton of sacks, plenty of tackles for loss, and gave up too many big plays. New defensive coordinator Tim Beckman will tone things down a little bit while still taking the fight to the offense. The back seven will be terrific with a fantastic linebacking corps, even with top middle man Rodrick Johnson playing end and star Chris Collins trying to get through knee and off-the-field problems, while the secondary will strong as long as injuries don't hit the safeties. Experience on the line, especially at tackle, will be an issue early on, but the starting ends, Marque Fountain and Nathan Peterson, will be all-stars.

Sept. 8 - South Carolina
Offense: This should be a balanced attack that'll rely on the running game early on and the steady play of emerging QB Blake Mitchell to be more explosive and consistent than last year. The big concern is a line that was overmatched throughout the spring as it tried to break in three new starters. Getting a push for the nice 1-2 rushing punch of Cory Boyd and Mike Davis is job one, while Mitchell will have to make quick decisions early on until things start to come together. The loss of Sidney Rice won't be a killer if Kenny McKinley handles the number one job like he's expected to and a good number two emerges.
Defense: The defense has plenty of returning experience, depth, young options waiting to step up and shine, and good stars to build around. MLB Jasper Brinkley is one of the best in America, and now his twin brother will move from defensive end to outside linebacker to help out (though he might end up back on the line). The secondary is emerging as a potential force if everyone starters to play consistently. There's speed at corner, depth and experience at safety, and an emerging star in SS Emanuel Cook. The defensive line has to be far better against the run, and it should be with the return of Marque Hall from injury and the emergence of freshman Ladi Ajiboye.

Sept. 15 – Western Carolina

Sept. 22 – at Alabama
Offense: Major Applewhite takes over as offensive coordinator and will play around with several different formations and ideas, while trying to stick with Nick Saban's run-first philosophy. He'll incorporate a little bit of spread and four-wide sets. There's one problem; Bama might not have the backs to run well on a consistent basis. The strength is in the passing game with the great 1-2 receiving tandem of D.J. Hall and Keith Brown working with rising passer John Parker Wilson. The line welcomes back five starters led by soon to be All-Everything tackle Andre Smith.
Defense: Former Florida State defensive coordinator Kevin Steele came in and switched things up to a 3-4 in an attempt to jump-start a woeful pass rush by getting more production from the outside linebackers, led by a hybrid position of defensive lineman and linebacker, manned by Keith Saunders. Wallace Gilberry and Bobby Greenwood look the part of top ends, and now they have to start producing. The biggest problem is tackle, where former backup center Brian Motley, who looked great this spring, has to be an anchor for everything to work right. The back eight should be excellent, led by all-star corner Simeon Castille.

Sept. 29 - Ole Miss
Offense: The offense needed more out of the running game after a woeful 2005, and it got it with BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming up with a 1,000-yard season as the workhorse for the offense. Now the offense has to figure out how to score after averaging 15.7 points per game (up from a whopping 13.45 per game in 2005). The passing game needs a lot of work, and the hope will be for the young receiving corps to step up and become passable. There will be a quarterback battle into the fall with Brent Schaeffer needing to prove he can move the offense, or he'll be unseated be Seth Adams, who's the more efficient passer. The massive line should be better after years of seasoning.
Defense: This should've been the year when everything started to come together for the Rebel defense, but the loss of all three starting linebackers, along with some major uncertainty in the secondary, will make this an inconsistent year, at least early on. The defensive line will be the strength with end Marcus Tillman on the verge of stardom, and the tackle combination of Peria Jerry and Jeremy Garrett to be among the best in the league ... if they stay healthy. The secondary lost some of its top safety prospects to the depleted linebacking corps, and the corners have to be far better. Ole Miss only picked off three passes last year. That can't happen again.

Oct. 6 – at Tennessee
Offense: The return of David Cutcliffe as offensive coordinator made a night-and-day difference in the passing game. Now he needs to get the running game to do more, and there needs to be even more from QB Erik Ainge after a nice bounceback year. The receiving corps loses the top three targets and the line loses the two best players, so it'll be up to the trio of Arian Foster, LaMarcus Coker and Montario Hardesty to carry the running game and the offense. Ainge has to make everyone around him better until new producers at receiver emerge.
Defense: Is there a defense in America that's produced less with so much promise and potential? The Vols have a who's who of top high school prospects that haven't quite panned out, and now that has to change to have any hope of winning the SEC East. Jerod Mayo will move from the outside to the middle and Jonathan Hefney returns at free safety to give the Vols two All-America caliber defenders to build around. Now there needs to be more of a pass rush after coming up with an inexcusable 17 sacks, and the new starting tackles have to quickly emerge. The secondary has to replace three starters, but should be fine in time, while the linebacking corps, if healthy, will be among the SEC's best.

Oct. 13 – at Vanderbilt
Offense: The offense is loaded with experience with nine starters returning including tackle Brian Stamper, who missed most of last year. The line should be tremendous with five senior starters that know how to pass protect and should be better for the running game. Junior receiver Earl Bennett is one of the nation's most productive playmakers and should finally start to get the attention he deserves. Quarterback Chris Nickson is a dangerous run/pass combination with the potential to grow into a star if he can cut down on his interceptions. The running backs aren't special, but they're experienced.
Defense: Vanderbilt won't have one of the SEC's better defenses, but it'll be far better with seven returning starters and plenty of experience. Most importantly, there are plenty of all-stars to build around. Tackle Theo Horrocks, end Curtis Gatewood, safeties Reshard Langford and Ryan Hamilton, and linebacker Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs are all capable of making All-SEC teams. The cornerbacks have to shine, a second defensive tackle has to take the heat off Horrocks, and the stars have to be stars for a major overall improvement. Coming up with more turnovers would be nice, but just being better in all areas might be enough to dramatically change the record.

Oct. 27 - Florida
Offense: Now it's time to see how this baby runs. Now the Urban Meyer spread offense will do what it's supposed to with Tim Tebow at the controls full-time, and with a slew of speedy players around him. The offensive line isn't going to wow anyone, but it's experienced, and good enough to win with. The receiving corps has explosion, led by Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell, and some tremendous tight ends, and the running backs, with the emergence of smallish speedster Chris Rainey, will have more pop. Now it's up to Tebow to not only shine, but stay healthy with two true freshmen behind him.
This is what's called giving Florida the benefit of the doubt. Anyone else replacing nine starters, needing a slew of true freshman to play big roles right away, and/or had the issues the Gators have on the line and at corner, would be instantly dismissed from any SEC East title talk much less the national championship discussion. The recruiting classes have brought in a ton of ultra-fast, ultra-athletic player for the back seven, but there isn't enough size up front, or developed depth anywhere, to hope for any sort of consistency. No, things won't fall off the map after finishing sixth in the nation in scoring and total defense, but there will be some major growing pains to fight through.

Nov. 3 - Troy
Offense: Spread it out with four wide receivers, let Sun Belt Player of the Year Omar Haugabook throw to the open guy, hope it all works. This isn't an explosive attack, and it won't be for a while with a mixed bag of talents on the front line trying to fit the puzzle. The running backs are fine with the return of Sean Dawkins helping out Kenny Cattouse, and Gary Banks and Mykeal Terry lead an inexperienced receiving corps that'll be fine. But it's all up to Haugabook. He's the difference between a second straight Sun Belt title and a losing season.
Troy won the Sun Belt title despite a mediocre year from the defense. Now the D will be positively dominant with the best secondary and a defensive line that's either the best, or a close second behind Middle Tennessee's. Generating pressure won't be a problem with phenomenal pass rushers from every spot, while the secondary will use five and six defensive backs at times just to get all its talent on the field. The linebacking corps is the weakness of the defense by default considering how good the line and secondary will be, but it'll still be fantastic with Boris Lee and Marcus Richardson each deserving all-star consideration.

Nov. 10 - Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.

Nov. 17 - Kentucky
Offense: The Wildcat offense exploded last year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons, tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line, which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The run defense won't be any good again with little size up front, but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things to be a bit better.

Nov. 24 – at Georgia Tech
Offense: Is it possible an offense can lose the offensive coordinator, a sure-fire NFL superstar and a four-year starting quarterback and be better? Absolutely. Calvin Johnson's departure will sting, but the passing game should be even better with Taylor Bennett (or any one of a slew of terrific prospects) taking over for Reggie Ball. Patrick Nix left to take over the Miami offense, but John Bond is a veteran who did a good job with the Northern Illinois program for the last three years. James Johnson will be a decent number one target, and now someone else has to quickly emerge to take the heat off and give Bennett more options. Tashard Choice is an All-ACC caliber back leading a deep and talented group of runners working behind a fantastic line loaded with experience and
Defense: The defense had two lousy games against Clemson and West Virginia and was solid against everyone else. With just about everyone returning, expect another great year holding almost everyone to under 300 yards and around 20 points. The defensive line will be one of the team's strengths with one of the best groups of ends in America. MLB Philip Wheeler deserves All-America attention while the safety tandem of Jamal Lewis and Djay Jones will be one of the ACC's best. The corners are a bit suspect and the proven linebacker depth is a bit thin, but those aren't glaring problems.



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