No. 14 Georgia

Last winter, Kirby Smart scored a big victory in the recruiting wars. That may not translate onto the field this fall. But the second-year Dawgs coach is building.

Gould Headshot square

With 10 starters back from a very good defense, the former Nick Saban assistant already has a lot of pieces in place. The offense will need to step up its game if the Bulldogs are going to move past Florida and win the SEC East for the first time in five years.

But with sophomore Jacob Eason back at quarterback after gaining a year of intense experience, there’s reason for optimism. The offensive line needs to come together. But with ballcarriers Nick Chub and Sony Michel back, a little blocking could go a long way.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

With 20 straight bowl appearances and a 58-22 record the last six seasons, including four in double-digits, Georgia has been in the hunt. But expectations are high, and never mind that Alabama, which has ruled the SEC for a long time, shows no signs of releasing its grasp.

Smart, who played defensive back at Georgia, turned down some good offers before leaving the Alabama defensive-coordinator job to be his own boss.

Somebody has to move past Saban at some point. It might not be this year, and it might not be the Dawgs. But Smart certainly is in the discussion to be that guy. And at Georgia, he’ll have all the necessary ingredients.[/membership]