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February 20, 2012

SEC Spring Preview: Georgia


The next time Missouri plays a game it will be as a member of the Southeastern Conference. Over the next few weeks, PowerMizzou.com will introduce Tiger fans to their new league. We will do a question and answer session with our counterparts at each SEC school prior to spring football. Today, we start with Mizzou's first SEC opponent. Get a preview of the Georgia Bulldogs with Anthony Dasher, managing editor of UGASports.com.

The feeling in most places seems to be that UGA is right on the cusp of getting back to being one of the top programs in the country, where they were for quite a few years. Are the Bulldogs good enough to be in that conversation this year?

Dasher: "We'll see. Georgia returns nine of 11 starters from a defense that ranked fifth nationally a season ago. On offense, quarterback Aaron Murray will be a three-year starter and before his career is over will likely hold every major Bulldog passing record. His 35 touchdown passes last year established a new single-season record. Much like 2011, the schedule also shapes up very favorable as Georgia does not have to face Alabama, LSU or Arkansas for the third year in a row."

What are the strengths of this team?

Dasher: "Georgia's defense should once again be the strength. Will linebacker Jarvis Jones finished with 13.5 sacks last year, just one-half sack off David Pollack's single-season mark. Up front, nose tackles John Jenkins (350 pounds) and Kwame Geathers (355 pounds) give Georgia two of the biggest at their position. Offensively, as mentioned earlier, Murray is a three-year starter, although he needs to cut down on the turnovers. He threw four pick-sixes last year."

What questions have to be answered in spring ball?

Dasher: "Georgia must replace three starters off the offensive line - left tackle Cordy Glenn, center Ben Jones and right tackle Justin Anderson. The Bulldogs seem to have enough bodies, but the players vying for that playing time have limited - if any - collegiate experience. The team's running back corps will also get a long a long look. Sophomore Isaiah Crowell was a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, but he struggled with injuries and was suspended for the game against New Mexico State. Should Crowell bounce back, the Dawgs should be just fine, although another player to watch is freshman Keith Marshall, Rivals' No. 2 all-purpose back last year. Incoming freshman Todd Gurley could also push for early playing time."

What's the UGA take on the game at Mizzou? Obviously everyone in Columbia is fired up to have a marquee game so early in the season to kick off the SEC era, but what's the attitude in Athens?

Dasher: "From what I can tell, I think Georgia fans are very excited about the trip. Many I know have already made plans for attending the game. During a trip two years ago to Boulder, Colo., Georgia brought approximately 7,000 fans and it wouldn't surprise me to see that many make the trip to Columbia. As for the game itself, there's certainly intrigue, but a little uneasiness as well being that it will be the first meeting between the two schools and nobody really knows what to expect."

Finally, give me your take on the SEC East. Where does Missouri fit in and is the division on the road back to making the SEC a more even split along divisional lines?

Dasher: "The East should be very interesting. It's my guess you'll see either Georgia or South Carolina receive the bulk of votes to win the division. After that, it's anybody's guess. Right now, I would predict Missouri to be picked somewhere in the three to four range in the SEC East with Florida being the main challenger for that honor, although the Gators will be breaking in a new quarterback. Tennessee has a fine QB in Tyler Bray, but I believe has too many holes elsewhere to contend. Watch out for Vanderbilt. The Commodores, believe it or not, appear to be a team on the rise under second-year coach James Franklin and have just signed an excellent freshman class. Kentucky, with apologizes to my friends in the Bluegrass State ... still has a long way to go."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor of UGASports.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyDasher1.

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