2018 Georgia football projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
Many fans of college football, as well as industry analysts, will spend this offseason telling you why Alabama is again a favorite this fall. You’ll hear far fewer folks telling you that the Georgia Bulldogs, who fell by a margin of just three points to Bama in the NC game back in January, are quite possibly the safest bet from the SEC to reach the conference title game and the CFB playoff (therefore the NC game).
According to the Hour Glass analytics, Georgia sure looks good in three key areas. With all the names that will go from Bama and UGA in the upcoming NFL Draft, recent recruiting is important. According the HG recruiting stamp, UGA has done the best of any SEC program over the last three years, and that includes the recruiting machine run by one Nick Saban. Additionally, Jake Fromm checks in at third in the conference with a HG QB stamp of 19.8, which is just one point from second place. Then there’s the coaching metric. Saban leads the SEC, and D1, by a wide margin here, but after a wildly successful season last year Kirby Smart now checks in at second in the SEC with an HG coaching stamp of 13.
Additionally, the schedule sets up nicely for the Dawgs this season. In the non-conference portion, Georgia Tech would appear to be the only potential stumbling point, while two of their most difficult assignments in the SEC will be at home against Florida as well as Auburn. Their other SEC Western division foe will be LSU, who could be in line for a tough road this season (more on that in their preview). All in all, Georgia’s schedule ranks as the 12th most difficult in the SEC.
At first glance, the offense looks to be in good hands with Fromm returning after leading his squad to the title game as a true freshman last season. Plus, the impending emergence of D’Andre Swift, who showed flashes of being the man up in the UGA line of RBs. But a deeper glance shows that Smart and staff have some work to do at receiver, as well the offensive line is never easy to piece together when you lose a left tackle the quality of Isaiah Wynn. As far as pass catchers go, Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley and even tight end Isaac Nauta must step up to aid leading returner Terry Godwin. On the OL, the key factor could be how rising sophomore Andrew Thomas handles the move to left tackle after playing well on the right edge in 2017.
Defensively, Georgia will again be loaded with talent. However, will it lose its physical nature with the loss of Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter and others? It’s more likely that the tone-setting group shifts from LB to DB or LB to DL. JR Reed and Deandre Baker will set the tone for the returning/incoming group of defensive backs. Up front Jonathan Ledbetter and Julian Rochester should lead the way in the middle. At linebacker, look for D’Andre Walker and Tyler Clark on the edges, while Natrez Patrick should provide stellar play in the middle of the field.
Quite possibly the most interesting storyline to follow this offseason, and into the season for that matter, is the quarterback position. Even with Fromm, one time a 5-star recruit, coming in last season the Dawgs appeared set at QB with Jacob Eason, also a former 5-star signee. This season Fromm will be backed up by a 2018 5-star signee in Justin Fields. In his class, Fields was considered the top dual-threat QB, so it stands to reason he could carve out a role considering Fromm is mostly known for his ability to distribute the ball through the air. Fields could prove helpful should Fromm sustain an injury, a slump in play or even if the Dawgs needed a more mobile option at QB against certain defenses.
HG analytics pick: 12-0, 1st in SEC East (loss in SEC Championship game to Alabama)
My pick: 12-0, 1st in SEC East (loss in SEC Championship game to Alabama)
2017 Georgia Projections on the Hour Glass: 11-1; Actual finish 11-1 (100 percent accuracy).
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 3rd – Inside our Realistic College Football National Championship Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Kerby Smart on HG Scale: 12th (Smart’s Stamp at 13) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Georgia quarterback play rated 7th in the country out of on our Power Five Scale. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Georgia has a stamp of 19.8.