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Acknowledging that college football's new four team playoff could someday inch toward a larger basketball Grey Adidas Tracksuit With Blue Stripes style tournament, we continue our Super 16 countdown, with No. 9 Georgia:
Georgia's always athletic roster returns nine defense starters and will be led by new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
We mean Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly, of course, although "Touchdown Jesus" probably isn't thrilled, either.
Richt is still looking for his first at Georgia, which has patiently waited to hang a banner.
is Southern comfort in knowing the new quarterback, Hutson Mason, is a fifth year senior who has waited patiently for his turn.
readers may have noticed that "only" two of the first seven teams in our Super 16 countdown hail from the vaunted Southeastern Conference.
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We'll know early where Georgia stands, as the Bulldogs open at home against Clemson and then rest a week before a huge SEC East showdown at South Carolina.
Georgia, a program that fell a few feet short of the national title game two years ago before tripping over its 8 5 feet last year, is ready to make another run at the SEC East title.
How long is a program this good expected to wait?
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Really, though, our faith in Georgia is based mostly on monsters at tailback, led by Todd Gurley, probably the nation's best back when he's not nursing injuries. Gurley missed significant time last year and still gained 989 yards and 10 touchdowns.
We're calling last year's downturn a bad luck blip that started in the first game, when receiver Malcolm Mitchell tore his anterior cruciate ligament while celebrating after a touchdown against Clemson.
"When you lose a guy like that it can be tough," said Georgia Coach Mark Richt.
Georgia's back end let Athens down, finishing T 78 nationally in scoring defense (29 points per game). It was all quarterback Aaron Murray could do to keep the Bulldogs from a full blown disaster.
Our faith in Georgia is not based on Murray returning at quarterback, because he has no remaining eligibility.
The countdown so far: No. 16 Notre Dame, No. 15 Mississippi, No. 14 Stanford, No. 13 Louisiana State, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 11 USC, No. 10 Baylor.
If that wasn't enough, team No. 16 (Notre Dame) made the countdown just days before news broke of alleged academic scandal that has "shocked and disappointed" the big man at the top.
The chorus line behind Gurley is also impressive, led by Keith Marshall, who is returning after tearing his ACL last year against Tennessee. Georgia has also recruited another fine crop of runners.
No, our faith in Georgia is based partly in thinking no team can be savaged by injuries two seasons in a row. It seemed every time you tuned into a Bulldogs game last year they were carting a player to an MRI exam appointment.
Hard to believe, this is Richt's 14th season at Georgia. He left a Florida State program that annually played for national titles under Bobby Bowden.
Georgia ready to make some noise in the SEC
And while it's true the Super 16 may have wasted a valuable ranking position on a team north of the Mason Dixon, the run on SEC schools is about to start.
Murray returned, though, which has squeezed Mason's starring role to 12 regular season games.
ago to create some separation from Murray. The calculation was that Murray would leave for the NFL after that year and the job would be Mason's for two seasons.
"He's really sacrificed a lot for this team," Richt said this summer.
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