Can Dawgs Survive SEC Fatigue?

ATHENS - I always take a look at what Mark Schlabach has in store with his Way-Too-Early Top 25.

This time he’s got Georgia as the highest-ranked SEC team coming into 2015. It always takes a little time for me to process pre-season projections because this time of year I see all of the hurdles in the way… everything that can and will prevent a perfect season.

But I think Schlabach is probably correct in what he’s saying. Georgia, in my opinion, is certainly not the top team in the country. There are too many question marks coming into the season - new quarterback, new offensive coordinator, difficult schedule. I feel certain Georgia isn’t the number one team in the country (I don’t know who really thinks they are).

But I don’t think they are a playoff team, either. At least not right this second. That’s where some folks that I talk with all of the time disagree with me.

“So if you read what he’s got, and Georgia is the top team in the SEC,” one person said to me, “you are telling me they are going to leave the SEC champion out of the playoff? No way.”

No way? Yes, there’s a way. Georgia is the last SEC champion to not play for a national title. In fact, two of the last three SEC champs not to play for it all were the Dawgs. So, no way? Yes, way.

Now, yes there is a way, but it is hard to imagine an SEC champ not playing in the playoff. Perhaps that SEC champion has three losses. Perhaps Ohio State, as defending national champs, will get their ticket punched even if they don’t deserve it (Florida State). Perhaps the committee will feel like they have to include either Baylor or TCU this time - or both. Perhaps Oregon will be too good to leave out. Perhaps Michigan State will make it in as a division runner up in the Big Ten.

Perhaps SEC fatigue will take full form - and the national drumbeat will go against the conference rather than for it.

That there are four spots in a playoff is better for everyone - including these Dawgs. Thrice Georgia certainly would have played in the playoff (2002, 2007 and 2012) under Mark Richt. Perhaps they would have played in 2005 as well, but one can’t go backwards to try to figure out what could have been when it wasn’t available at the time.

A lot of Georgia’s fate will depend on when they lose any game they lose. The schedule, as usual, is full of pitfalls, but is relatively advantageous in September.

A three-game stretch vs. Alabama, at Tennessee and vs. Missouri has the potential to elevate or hurt Georgia’s chances. Two of those three games are in Sanford Stadium, which has been a difficult place for opponents to win. The game with the Gators looms on Halloween. Then trips to Auburn and Atlanta for Tech will be challenging for these Dawgs.

Another ten-win season should be in sight for Georgia - even with the challenges it has in front of it. This team certainly could have gone 12-1 (South Carolina and Georgia Tech) in 2014; at worst it could have gone 9-4 (Tennessee).

The Bulldogs played at a high level in 2014 and had one real bad stinker.

My guess? Schlabach is right - Georgia will finish in the top ten and will play in the SEC Championship. I think this team is one year away, but Ohio State can tell you that things often come early and when you least expect it in this college football world we live in today.

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