Georgia Bulldogs: The One Reason Alabama Won't Go Wire-to-Wire at No. 1

By Scott Page
Will Georgia unseat Bama at No. 1?
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide will not be the first team since USC in 2004 to go wire-to-wire at No. 1 from preseason to national championship. And Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs are the reason why.

The two teams are favorites to return to Atlanta in December for an SEC Championship Game rematch, which would be the perfect setting for the Bulldogs to do the deed. But the truth is Georgia could replace Alabama atop the polls a full two months before the conference title game.

Even an undefeated Bama won’t be No. 1 at the end of September if the Bulldogs win their first four games, of which two, if not three, could be against Top 10 teams. When the new polls come out at the beginning of October, Georgia will have played at No. 8 Clemson (Aug. 31), No. 6 South Carolina (Sept. 7) and No. 12 LSU (Sept. 28), which could sneak into the Top 10 by then. If UGA knocks off all three, no other team will have a stronger case for the No. 1 spot.

During that same stretch, Alabama plays only one ranked team – No. 7 Texas A&M (Sept. 14). The Crimson Tide’s other games are vs. Virginia Tech (Aug. 31 in Atlanta), Colorado State (Sept. 21) and Ole Miss (Sept. 28). Wins against those teams will be no match for Georgia’s resume, should it finish September unbeaten.

And even if the Bulldogs stumble early, they could still fight their way into the SEC Championship Game, as they’ve proven in the past. If they do get there and their opponent is Alabama for the second-straight year, there’s no reason to believe the Dawgs can’t take care of business. After all, Georgia was a mere eight yards and a few seconds shy of defeating the Tide last time around. With the grueling schedule they face, the Bulldogs will be as battle tested as any team in college football at the end of November.

Georgia has nearly everyone back from the highest-scoring offense in school history, which fell one touchdown short of the BCS title game. Quarterback Aaron Murray returns for his fourth season as the starter with a chance to break a host of school and SEC passing records. He’ll have plenty of targets on the perimeter in star wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, his counterpart Michael Bennett and tight end Arthur Lynch.

Behind Murray, sophomore sensations Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are perhaps the best running back duo in college football, and they will be running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.

To put it plain and simple, this offense is a juggernaut that will be feared by every opposing defense it faces – including Alabama — if the two meet in Atlanta. You can bet Murray and co. would savor the opportunity to attack a Bama defense looking to replace two All-SEC players in the secondary – CB Dee Milliner (First Team) and S Robert Lester (Second Team).

The question: Can the Bulldogs replace the 12 key defensive players who are gone from last year’s team? That unit was manhandled by Alabama’s offense, which racked up 512 total yards (350 on the ground) in the SEC Championship Game. Perhaps it’s a good thing those guys are gone.

Though there are holes to fill at every defensive position, Georgia is stocked with breakout star candidates like linebacker Jordan Jenkins, defensive end Harrison Smith, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, true freshman safety Tray Matthews and a number of defensive linemen.

Unseating Alabama at the top certainly won’t be easy, regardless of the overwhelming historical odds stacked against the Crimson Tide. The 2004 USC team and Florida State in 1999 are the only two teams in history to hold the No. 1 spot the entire season. And no team has ever won three consecutive national championships. But if any team is going to do it, the Georgia Bulldogs seem to be the one most prepared to stem the Tide.

Scott Page is an SEC football writer for Follow him on Twitter, Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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