The SEC wrapped up its 2017 Media Days a week ago today, and as is tradition, the media turned in their voting ballots on which teams they think will win the East and West divisions of the league as well as their predictions on who just might be crowned the conference champion. Georgia was voted to finish atop the East and Alabama was the overall favorite to once again finish first in the West. Which means, if those preseason predictions hold true, the Bulldogs would face the Crimson Tide in the SEC Conference Championship Game. So, can Georgia win the SEC in 2017?
The media voted Alabama, by a mile, to take home the conference title in 2017. Just how confident were the media voting Alabama SEC Champions in 2017? The Tide received 217 points and the next closest team was Auburn with 11 followed by Georgia with 6. But CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee doesn’t see it that way. He voted Georgia to take home the title and beat Auburn on December 2nd to do so.
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart weighed in on the topic of the Bulldogs being favored to win the East as he fielded questions from the media in a short presser before a donor event on Wednesday night in Atlanta at The Intercontinental. He was quick to remind everyone to not get ahead of “ourselves.”
“To be honest with you, I’ve never gotten much into predictions. For me, that’s your guys’ job,” Smart said. “I respect the job you do, but we’re going to work as hard as we can on us. We only control what we can control. We definitely don’t control what you guys pick to be the champions of the East. I don’t need to remind you guys of your batting averages of that I’m sure.”
The “batting average” Coach Smart is referring to is the fact that the media has only correctly picked the SEC Champion four times in the last 20 years. That is a .200 “batting average” for the media, and that means Barrett Sallee has about a 1 in 5 shot at being correct.
And what about me? While I am not so sure about Georgia winning the conference championship this year until we know what kind of team these 2017 Bulldogs are going to be, I do think they have a shot at winning the SEC East and getting the chance to play for a SEC title. In order to do so, though, the offensive line will have to perform better, and Coach Sam Pittman has his work cut out to improve his unit. There will be 3 new starters up front, technically 4 with Gaillard moving over from guard to center to replace Brandon Kublanow. The Bulldogs will also have to improve their 37.5 yards per punt average on special teams and do a better job of flipping the field so the defense doesn’t have to defend such a short field. And for that defense to be stellar, it will have to be much better at stopping teams in the red zone, forcing more FGs than TDs. While all those are valid concerns, there is an air of expectation that this year’s group of Dogs will perform better than last year.
Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel decided to forgo the NFL Draft and return for their senior season at UGA along with linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter, and my guess is that they did not return to finish in second. Quarterback Jacob Eason is no longer a freshman and the game should slow down for him this year, and because his signal caller is not so green, Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney should be able to open up the playbook. Then the defenses returns 10 starters. So color me red and black, pass me the Kool-aid, here’s to hoping that Georgia will be helping to break in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the ATL on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017.
If that indeed were to happen, and me overstating the obvious here, as a Bulldog fan, myself along with my fellow red and black donning brethren, we could all be heard singing “Glory to ‘Ole Georgia” and yelling “Go Dawgs! Sic’em!” for at least a week, maybe more, from sea to shining sea and on every corner of this big, blue marble.
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