Handicappers see Georgia as likely to return to College Football Playoff

Georgia Bulldogs

It’s hard to believe that a team losing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel may actually improve at the running back position, but that’s exactly where third year coach Kirby Smart finds himself in 2018.

Last season, the Bulldogs offense had five players with an average yards-per-carry of 5.9 or higher and five players with at least 50 rushing attempts. If you throw out quarterback Jake Fromm’s 55 carries for 79 yards (1.4 YPC), the core running back group ran for 3,748 yards on 571 carries for an insane 6.56 yards per touch.

Losing 68% of your rushing offense production would scare most fan bases, but D’Andre Swift (618 yards/7.6 YPC) returns alongside Elijah Holyfield, Brian Herrien and, oh yeah, the No. 1 RB in the 2018 class, Zamir White. Throw in No. 3 all-purpose back James Cook and the stable of ball carries in Athens is going to be fine

Georgia isn’t void of questions entering the 2018 season, however.

Who steps up to replace Roquan Smith at inside linebacker? Who earns the starting outside linebacker jobs? Which receiver steps up to fill Javon Wims shoes? Will there be a quarterback ‘battle’ and can Cade Mays beat out Isaiah Wilson for All-SEC right tackle Isaiah Wynn’s vacant spot?

When BETDSI became the first offshore sportsbooks to reveal SEC regular season win totals, it did so with a tie atop the conference. Both Alabama and Georgia opened with proposition totals of 10.5 wins. Alabama has the softest schedule in the conference while the Bulldogs have the second easiest. Georgia not only has a manageable schedule, but will navigate the season as favorites in every game.

Austin Peay visits Athens as one of the five sacrificial lambs of the FCS to open the Bulldogs season. The Governors will be near 50 point underdogs between the hedges and that may not be enough. Big spreads will be a common theme for the Bulldogs in 2018. Kirby Smart and company will be 20-plus point favorites in half of their regular season games and should be favored in every game.

The first test for Georgia comes in week two as it travels to Columbia, S.C. opening SEC play facing a Gamecocks squad projected to win seven games and eyeing a third consecutive bowl berth. I have Georgia a 14-point favorite on the road here.

The Bulldogs will travel back to Athens as four touchdown favorites over Middle Tennessee in week three. After making quick work of MTSU, another road trip to Columbia (MO) as two touchdown favorites awaits UGA in week four.

RELATED: Kirby Smart still looking for leadership on 2018 Bulldogs.

Consecutive homes games as 20-plus point favorites against teams from Tennessee and a road trip to LSU line up before Kirby & Co. get a week off. I have the Bulldogs 21-point favorites against the Volunteers and just shy of four touchdown favorites over Derek Mason’s Commodores. LSU in Baton Rouge historically is a tough matchup, but given the questions surrounding the Tigers offense, Georgia should make the trip as a touchdown-and-a-half favorite.

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