- Georgia has already accomplished a lot under Kirby Smart, but the Bulldogs are still chasing their first national title since 1980.
Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 3 Georgia.
THE BIG STORY
Over the last two seasons under coach Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have won 24 games, delivered an SEC title and reached the national championship game. The one thing they haven't done, of course, is beat Alabama. What's clear is this: Georgia has closed the talent gap. Smart has his second straight top-two recruiting class and will field his most experienced team, led by third-year QB Jake Fromm. The two SEC powers don't meet in the regular season, but make no mistake: Georgia and 'Bama are on a collision course.
Athens is the place to find future NFL running backs, with junior D’Andre Swift following in the footsteps of Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Todd Gurley. The 5'9", 215-pound Swift racked up 1,049 yards and 10 TDs while splitting time with the now-departed Elijah Holyfield.
Were the Bulldogs' defensive struggles in a 28–21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas—in which two NFL-bound players, CB Deandre Baker and edge rusher D'Andre Walker, sat out—a preview of things to come? Georgia ranked 31st in the country against the run, and a talent gap at D-line between the Tide and the Bulldogs remains. Freshman Travon Walker, a five-star recruit, needs to deliver mightily at tackle.
As spread attacks proliferate, the Bulldogs buck the trend, pounding front sevens on the ground—totaling an SEC-high 3,343 yards last year—to open up the passing attack. The blueprint works because coach Kirby Smart has consistently fielded superior offensive lines, and this year will be no different. Beyond potential 2020 first-round picks in tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, there is Jamaree Salyer, a 325-pounder whom Smart called "the most improved player" in the spring. The former five-star recruit could jump from reserve to starter at right tackle, right guard or center. He's one of the keys to what could be Smart's best offensive line yet.
OVER OR UNDER?
Over 10.5 wins. The Bulldogs have a much tougher path to an undefeated regular season than Alabama—in addition to their clashes against Florida and Texas A&M, they've got a date with Notre Dame—but they're also loaded with just as much talent.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Entering Smart's fourth season in Athens, the Bulldogs are firmly established as one of the country's preeminent programs. But they're still chasing their first national title since 1980.