Much like his mentor Nick Saban did at Alabama, Kirby Smart had some struggles in his first season as a head coach for the Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs went just 4-4 in SEC play and only beat one conference foe by more than one score. Despite this, many observers think that the Dawgs are the favorites in the SEC East and Vegas reflects this sentiment as well. Now it’s time to see whether Smart will be like Saban and show that he was worth the money in his second season on the job in Athens, or if he will be just another one of Saban’s acolytes that don’t live up to the hype outside of Tuscaloosa.
2016 Record: 8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS, 6-7 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 8.5
National Championship Odds: +4650
Odds To Win SEC: +900
The Smart era got off to a rocky start after the season opening win against North Carolina. Georgia beat Missouri and Nicholls State by a combined three points and then proceeded to drop four of their next five games. The Dawgs lost to three of their four big rivals (Tennessee, Florida, and Georgia Tech) but losses to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt might have hurt more than anything. The school can hang its hat on a win over a Top 10 Auburn squad and a bowl victory over TCU, but more was expected in Smart’s first year.
It didn’t take long for the Jacob Eason era to get underway in Athens. Eason was the top-rated quarterback recruit of 2016 and seized the starting job for the rest of the year after Grayson Lambert struggled in the season opener against North Carolina. Eason had his fair share of struggles, but played relatively well.
Georgia has a history of producing talented running backs and had two guys that will be playing on Sunday splitting the load in the backfield. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel each averaged at least five yards per carry last season and were strong, powerful runners. The duo helped ease the pressure off of Eason’s shoulders and combined for almost 2,000 yards.
Eason was pushed by newcomer Jake Fromm for the starting job this season, but Smart announced that he had won the quarterback battle and was set to start come Fall. He has the potential to be the best quarterback in the conference in just his second season and will have one of the most talented tight ends in the country to lean on in Isaac Nauta.Chubb and Michel are each back for their senior seasons too, giving the Bulldogs a pair of great runners to rely on. Both are bruisers that are at least 220 pounds and will wear opposing defenses down over the course of games.
The most improvement should come from the defense in Smart’s second year. Ten starters return from last season and they will have a better idea about what Smart wants from each of them. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Georgia had one of the best defenses in college football in 2017.
Saturday, September 2: Georgia vs. Appalachian State
Saturday, September 9: Georgia at Notre Dame
Saturday, September 16: Georgia vs. Samford
Saturday, September 23: Georgia vs. Mississippi State
Saturday, September 30: Georgia at Tennessee
Saturday, October 7: Georgia at Vanderbilt
Saturday, October 14: Georgia vs. Missouri
Saturday, October 28: Georgia vs. Florida (in Jacksonville)
Saturday, November 4: Georgia vs. South Carolina
Saturday, November 11: Georgia at Auburn
Saturday, November 18: Georgia vs. Kentucky
Saturday, November 25: Georgia at Georgia Tech
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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