The Georgia Bulldogs will almost certainly have a top 25 team entering the 2016 NCAA season, but where is a realistic starting point for the 2016 team?
The Georgia Bulldogs successfully pulled off another 10 win campaign in 2015 and a top 10 recruiting class, despite losing head coach Mark Richt after the win on The Flats at Georgia Tech in late November. Given the type of football team the Georgia Bulldogs field annually, the Dawgs will almost certainly have a team in the initial AP Top 25 Poll midseason.
Despite finishing 10-3 in 2015, the Dawgs did not make it into the final poll of the 2015 NCAA season. With a new coaching staff in place and several key players moving on to the NFL, where is a realistic starting point in the AP Top 25 Poll for the 2016 Georgia Bulldogs under first-time head coach Kirby Smart?
While the Georgia Bulldogs do have one of the Power 5’s best players in true junior running back Nick Chubb, he is coming off a gruesome knee injury and we won’t know how his body responds until maybe later this summer. If Chubb did not have the ACL tear in Knoxville, there is a chance that the Dawgs could start 2016 inside the top 10 of the AP Top 25.
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Uncertainty with regards to the new coaching staff, its best player coming off an injury, and key pass rushers and offensive linemen no longer on the team will probably keep UGA out of the top 10 in the initial AP Poll in a few months.
All that aside, Georgia did have a great defense in 2015 and brings in the No. 7 recruiting class in the country. UGA will probably end up being a defense-first football team, which could help out in the Dawgs’ initial ranking.
With the all the great players on both sides of the ball returning after a 10-win campaign in 2015, it seems nearly impossible that UGA will start the season ranked in the No. 20 to No. 25 range. Georgia will receive the benefit of the doubt and start the year no worse than No. 20 in the country.
Are the Georgia Bulldogs going to start the year out as the best team in the SEC? No way, but they’ll probably be either the No. 4 or No. 5 team in the conference behind Alabama, Ole Miss, and LSU among others, which in year’s past is good enough to land in somewhere in the teens in the initial AP Top 25 coming out of the SEC.
Realistically, Georgia’s 2016 team will likely start the year out in the No. 12 to No. 18 range, respectable but not as an early season favorite to contend for a bid to the third annual College Football Playoff.
Splitting the difference between No. 12 and No. 18, No. 15 seems like a reasonable starting point for the 2016 Georgia Bulldogs, a team that should go around 11-3 (6-2) in Kirby Smart’s first year in Athens, Georgia.