Why I Believe The Georgia Bulldogs Will Win The 2014 National Championship
I understand that we are in the heart of summer and that college football fans across the nation are relaxing by chilling and grilling in their bathing suits. However, if you love college football as much as I do, the off-season allows me to study and gain valuable knowledge that enhances my work during the regular season. Not only do I breakdown game film by watching old games from the past season, but I start to look ahead at the upcoming schedules for each team and see what games are critical for the success of their season. The off-season allows me the opportunity to play out scenarios that allow me to post predictions and be ahead of the curve of other analysts/"experts".
It is this research that has me predicting in July that the Georgia Bulldogs will win the 2014 National Championship. Call me crazy and out of my mind, however, I have the facts to back it up.
I understand that Mark Richt and company have not lived up to expectations in the past. However, the 2014 schedule favors the Bulldogs to make a serious run at the title in 2014.
What are my reasons for believing in this when teams like Florida State and Alabama are loaded with talent and picked at the top of the polls entering the 2014 season. Well, first let me discount the reasons why in my opinion, I believe those teams will not be in the four team playoff.
Florida State has Heisman Trophy Winner Jameis Winston returning along with one of the best offensive lines in the country. That being said, the Seminoles lose starting wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw along with starting running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Players like wide receiver Rashard Greene, running backs Freddie Stevenson and Karlos Williams are expected to step up. However, the defensive side of the ball is where the 'Noles will not be as strong as they were last season.The main reason for that will be the departure of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt led a Seminoles defense that yielded 12.1 points per game and 156.6 passing yards per game in 2013. Both of those statistics were tops in the country. I understand that the players make the plays, however, with a new coordinator comes a different style of calling plays. Not every coordinator calls the same style of game plan and entering 2014 the Seminoles will be tested early from a defensive perspective. New defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will not call the exact same game plan as Pruitt did. A coordinator has to find a groove just like a quarterback and I believe that the Seminoles defense will not be as good as it was with Kelly calling the plays. Not to mention the loss of Timmy Jernigan and safety Lamarcus Joyner to the NFL. The Seminoles struggled in my opinion with the tempo of the Auburn offense in the National Championship game. When you look at 'Noles schedule, teams like Oklahoma State, Louisville and Clemson can pose a threat to the Seminoles stellar defense along with rivalry games against Miami and Notre Dame.
Alabama seems to reload year in and year out with top 5 talent. However, entering 2014, the Crimson Tide has two major factors that will affect their 2014 season. First, is the absence left by former starting quarterback AJ McCarron. McCarron was often looked at as a "game manager" to the offense and not a top flight quarterback. In my opinion, I think those accusations are completely false. What McCarron was able to do in big games was remarkable. He was 36-4 as a starting quarterback in the SEC and led his team to two straight National Championships. He made big plays in big games- the 2012 SEC Championship game against Georgia. McCarron's strike to wide receiver Amari Cooper sealed the victory. How about his 20 of 29 performance week 3 on the road last season against Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel. Everyone talks about how Manziel tore up the Crimson Tide defense, however, McCarron threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions. Even in last season's Iron Bowl, McCarron's 99 yard touchdown strike to a streaking Amari Cooper put his team in a position to win.
In big games in 2013 against Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn , McCarron threw 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions. No interceptions!! That is what McCarron brought to the Crimson Tide offense that goes overlooked. In big games he played his best and more importantly did not turn the ball over. The second reason for why the Alabama Crimson Tide will not make a 2014 championship run is simple-Lane Kiffen. Yes, Lane Kiffen. I do not care that he is under the tutelage of the master Nick Saban. Kiffen is completely overrated as an offensive mind and gets more credit for the success at USC than Steve Sarkisian does.
Sarkisian was the main reason why Pete Carrol's offensive was like a fine tooled machine-not Kiffen. Remember Sarkisian was a standout quarterback at BYU. Remember the opening game in 1996 Texas A&M on the road against the BYU Cougars. Sarkisian tore it up that day and led that team to a Cotton Bowl victory over Kansas State 19-15 on New Year's Day 1997. As long as Kiffen is on the Alabama staff, the Tide will struggle. Kiffen is not a players coach and has more facial expressions than a frustrated high school student. If you think that personality is going to gel with Nick Saban and defensive guru Kirby Smart- think again.
That brings me right back to my original pick- the Georgia Bulldogs. What is it about those 'Dawgs that make them my pick to win it all. First, the schedule. When you look at their 2014 schedule, the 'Dawgs open with Clemson and South Carolina. This will make or break their season. However, the Bulldogs matchup very well with both of those teams. Clemson will be without quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Roderick McDowell and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. New staring quarterback Cole Stoudt will have to play Georgia on the road in Sanford Stadium. I like Georgia's chances.
The South Carolina Gamecocks are very impressive with three straight 11 win seasons. However, the Gamecocks lost starting quarterback Connor Shaw, wide receiver Bruce Ellington and star defensive end Jadaveon Clowney. The game will be played in Columbia, however, did you happen to watch the last 9 minutes of the 2013 game? The game in which the Georgia offensive line pounded the Gamecock defense with Clowney on the field as the Bulldogs ran out the clock behind running backs Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas. Also, Gamecock quarterback Dylan Thompson is a pocket quarterback. I think Gamecock fans will realize just how important Connor Shaw was to the offense. Flashback to the Missouri game last year. Down 17-0 with Thompson at the helm, Shaw came on in relief and led the comeback in one of the most dramatic games of the 2013 season. Thompson's immobility will allow new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to find ways to generate a pass rush and I like Georgia's chances in week 2.
What Georgia has is one of the most potent offenses entering 2014. Running back Todd Gurley is legit and the front runner for the 2014 Heisman, while Keith Marshall is back from his knee injury suffered against Tennessee last year. Sophmore Brendan Douglas is a punishing runner and can offer fresh legs for the offense. The wide receivers are loaded with Chris Conley, Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley (one game suspension). The main concern is at the quarterback position with Hutson Mason taking over for former 'Dawg quarterback Aaron Murray. If Mason did not play at all last season my prediction would be a different. However, Mason is a fifth year senior who stepped in when Murray went down and gained valuable game experience down the stretch for the Bulldogs. That experience will be the key to Mason having a stellar 2014 season. To top it off the Bulldogs have one of the most underrated coordinators in college football-Mike Bobo. The former 'Dawg quarterback has done an excellent job of utilizing his talent and his play calling will be one of the reasons why the 'Dawgs will win it all.
The defense gets a major boost from new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt who comes from Florida State. Pruitt has many people raving about his attacking style in spring practice and how the players love the style of play. In 2013, the Bulldogs defense struggled in creating turnovers against their opponents. Pruitt's play calling will be more aggressive than former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's style and the Bulldogs should improve dramatically in this area in 2014.
The weak spot for the Bulldogs is in the secondary. Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons were suspended and kicked off the team. Their departures deplete the secondary of the Bulldogs. However, when you look at the 'Dawgs schedule, outside of the their first two games- what team is going to challenge the Bulldogs secondary vertically? After Clemson and South Carolina, the Bulldogs play Troy, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech.
Out of those ball games, Tennessee has quarterback Justin Worley coming back from an injury and sophmore quarterback Joshua Dobbs is more of a runner than passer at this point in his career- advantage Georgia.
Missouri has Maty Mauk taking over for James Franklin. Mauk performed solid in filling in for Franklin last season. Missouri came into Sanford and beat the Bulldogs 41-26. The 'Dawgs did not have Gurley and Marshall and the Tigers this season lose big play wide receivers L'Damian Washington (NFL) and Dorial Green-Beckham (dismissed). Without those star wide receivers playing-advantage Georgia.
Florida is a rivalry game, however, the 'Dawgs have stepped up in recent years to beat Florida in the last three years-advantage Georgia.
The toughest game for Georgia is another rivalry game against Auburn. This is the swing game for the Bulldogs. If you remember last season- this was the second best game of the year. Both teams went back and forth in an SEC battle that was one for the ages. However, this season the game is played in Athens and by that time, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt should have his defense hitting on all cylinders. It is not going to be easy, however, I believe the Bulldogs can do it at home.
Georgia should be in a perfect position to represent the SEC in one of the playoff games in 2014. Should the Bulldogs make it to the final round of four- I think they get it done.
As long as you have #3 Todd Gurley in the lineup- the Bulldogs are as fierce as any team in the country. What Gurley brings to the team is leadership. Not just to the offense, but the team as a whole. The Bulldogs are a different team with Todd Gurley in the lineup and this is the main reason I am going out on a limb by picking the Bulldogs to win it all.
My prediction is what makes college football so special. Looking at the 2014 season will be a new animal with a four team playoff to see who will be crowned National Champion. The regular season is going to be very special with 126 teams vying to make a run. There is no other game around that can compare to the tradition and pageantry of the best game in town.
This is what the off-season is all about!!!!
Joseph Lisi is a former ABC Sports college football researcher. He is the owner of www.NCAABLITZ.com and www.GOFORTHE2.COM. Joseph has contributed as a writer for www.Rantsports.com- You can follow him on YOUTUBE at: MRJAL2230 or on Twitter @Goforthe2
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com called :
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