2008 CFN Georgia Preview
Georgia QB Matthew Stafford
Georgia QB Matthew Stafford
Posted Apr 23, 2008

It should be Georgia's turn. The SEC rotates its national champion superpowers, and the Dawgs are way overdue to get over the hump. Can Matthew Stafford bring home the program's first national title since 1980, and is it championship or bust? Check out the CFN Georgia Preview.

Georgia Bulldogs

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Georgia Preview | 2008 Georgia Offense
- 2008 Georgia Defense | 2008 Georgia Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Georgia Preview | 2006 CFN Georgia Preview

The SEC is so good and so tough year in and year out that it’s nearly impossible to be a consistent national title superpower like USC is in the Pac 10, Ohio State is in the Big Ten, and Oklahoma is in the Big 12. Instead, the star teams are always strong, but it takes a year or two to build to a level good enough to get through the league and win the title.

Florida grew into the powerhouse that won the 2006 national title. LSU won it last year, and in 2003, after building, and Auburn went unbeaten in 2004 and probably should’ve been playing for the whole ball of wax.

Head coach: Mark Richt
8th year: 72-19
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 17, Def. 25, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best Bulldog Players
1. RB Knowshon Moreno, Soph.
2. QB Matthew Stafford, Jr.
3. CB Asher Allen, Jr.
4. LB Dannell Ellerbe, Sr.
5. OT Trinton Sturdivant, Soph.*
6. DT Geno Atkins, Jr.
8. FS Reshad Jones, Soph.
8. DT Jeff Owens, Sr.
9. LB Rennie Curran, Soph
10. TE Tripp Chandler, Sr.

*Injured, lost for the season

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Georgia Southern
Sept. 6 Central Michigan
Sept. 13 at South Carolina
Sept. 20 at Arizona State
Sept. 27 Alabama
Oct. 11 Tennessee
Oct. 18 Vanderbilt
Oct. 25 at LSU
Nov. 1 Florida (Jack.)
Nov. 8 at Kentucky
Nov. 15 at Auburn
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE 
Nov. 29 Georgia Tech

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

It should be Georgia’s turn.

Phenomenally successful under head coach Mark Richt, with 64 wins in the last six seasons with two SEC titles, the Bulldogs have been among the elite of the elite teams, but they haven’t been able to put together that one special season at the right time to get their first national title since 1980. This year’s team is the one that can change all that.

Considering Georgia’s history of great running backs, it’s saying a lot that many consider Knowshon Moreno the best Dawg runner since Herschel Walker. The no-name defense that finished 14th in the nation gets nine starters back, Matthew Stafford is considered by many to be the best NFL quarterback prospect in college football, and the offensive line could grow to be among the best in school history. It’s all there to finally get over the hump.

Now the team has to show it can do it with the lights on.

Georgia always seems to do its best work when it's flying just barely under the radar, but now everyone will be watching.

Over the last seven years under Richt, Georgia has been the nation's best program that hasn't been able to get over the hump. It doesn't fall into the Texas A&M/UCLA/Michigan State category of programs that have the potential to explode, but haven't; this is a bona-fide, every-year-top-ten superpower that has won two SEC titles and came up with a whale of a 2002 season, but wasn't in the national title game because of Miami and Ohio State.

This is Georgia's year. This is the time when everything has to come together for a national championship. An SEC title would be nice, another BCS appearance would be solid, but unless Richt is holding that crystal football in Miami at around 11:30 p.m. on January 8, 2009, this season will be a failure. While that might seem harsh, with the level of excellence set by the rest of the SEC when it comes to winning national titles, it's an all or nothing year for a Dawg team that's really that good.

What to watch for on offense: Can the receivers come through? Stafford is the type of quarterback who can make everyone around him better, and Moreno is a next-level caliber talent to take the focus of the offense away from the passing game. But for Georgia to navigate through the nasty SEC waters and win the title, and play for the national championship, it needs more through the air. The passing numbers weren't awful, averaging just under 200 yards per game, but it was an inefficient attack. Mohamed Massaquoi and Kenneth Harris have the experience, but it might be a bunch of young players, like A.J. Green and
Tavarres King, who make it all happen.

What to watch for on defense: The emergence of Dannell Ellerbe. There aren't any nationally known defensive stars, at least compared to the offense, but there are plenty of All-America caliber talents, like CB Asher Allen and DTs Geno Atkins and Jeff Owens. Ellerbe should be the star who brings it all together in his middle spot. If he's the NFL-caliber playmaker he's supposed to be, the defense goes from being a killer to one of the top five in America.

This team will be much better if … the passing game is more consistent. The running game is in place, the offensive line is terrific, and Matthew Stafford is one of the top NFL quarterback prospects. So why can’t the Bulldogs get more through the air? If the receivers are merely consistent and can keep the chains moving, the rest of the offense will open up.
The Schedule: Everyone will know right away if Georgia is a national title contender with road trips to South Carolina and Arizona State by September 20th. The interdivision draw couldn't be any worse than facing Alabama and going on the road to play LSU and Auburn with both Tiger games bookending a brutal four-week stretch of at LSU, Florida, at Kentucky, at Auburn. Throw in a sneaky-tough early game against two-time defending MAC champion Central Michigan and its explosive spread offense, and the regular-season ender against Georgia Tech and an option that should be jelled by the end of November, and the Dawgs will truly earn a spot in the national title game if they get through with just one blemish.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Knowshon Moreno. Originally was seen as a nice option for down the road after showing a good flash and nice power in 2007 spring ball, he turned into the main man with 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns averaging 5.4 yards per carry. It's a stretch to say he carried the Bulldogs over the second half of the season, but yeah, he sort of carried the Bulldogs over the second half of the season. At 207 pounds, he can run between the tackles, but he's at his most dangerous when he gets a little room to move.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB Asher Allen. Allen made the step up from being a nice reserve to a fantastic all-around playmaker with 64 tackles, good for second on the team, three interceptions and five broken up passes. He plays much bigger than his 5-10 and 198 pounds with great open-field tackling skills, while his tremendous speed and quickness makes him a strong option on any No. 1 receiver.

Key player to a successful season: Senior DE Jeremy Lomax. One of the team's biggest losses is on the end where Sugar Bowl superstar Marcus Howard is gone, taking with him 10.5 sacks. The 6-4, 247-pound Lomax has the potential to flourish with all the attention paid to the rest of the line, and he has to come through after spending his career as a decent reserve.

The season will be a success if ... the Bulldogs play for the national title. The schedule might be too nasty to go unbeaten, but there’s no reason this can’t be the year they finally break through the ceiling under Mark Richt and play for the whole ball of wax. There’s too much talent to shoot for anything lower.

Key game: Nov. 1 vs. Florida. The cute little stunt (that worked) to fire up the team with the mass show of support on the field in last year's game has only stoked the fire of what might be the biggest game of the 2008 season. It's not an overstatement to suggest that the winner of this game wins the East, the SEC, and the national title.

2007 Fun Stats: 

- Sacks: Georgia 42 for 294 yards – Opponents 15 for 132 yards
- Second half scoring: Georgia 227 – Opponents 104
- Punt return average: Georgia 11.8 yards – Opponents 4.9 yards