The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.
No. 13 Georgia
Ten-win seasons aren't what they used to be.
Take Georgia, and last year, and what was expected compared to what actually (smattering of applause) transpired. The Bulldogs' 10-3 finish was sort of like a fish you catch but toss back in the lake because it's too small.
Mark Richt is 82-22 in eight seasons at Georgia and he seems genuinely thrilled to be getting a ninth.
"I'm amazed I'm still here," he joked at this year's Southeastern Conference media days. "It's a very volatile business and volatile league."
Tell it to Phil Fulmer (out at Tennessee) and Tommy Tuberville (out at Auburn).
Georgia got all it wanted last year in terms of close-up attention: a top NFL pick in quarterback Matthew Stafford, a blur of a tailback with an unusual first name, Knowshon Moreno, and the nation's No. 1 preseason ranking.
Georgia wasn't nursing one of those cushy SEC nonconference schedules, either, playing at Arizona State in September -- the school's first regular season trip west of the Mississippi since 1960.
Rankman caught Georgia's act on a Saturday night in Tempe and really thought the team was the dog's meow.
But then Alabama scored 41 on Georgia in a win at Athens, and Florida scored 49 in victory at Jacksonville, and archrival Georgia Tech, running some newfangled triple option, scored 45 on Uga's turf.
Georgia avoided having to walk home from the Capital Bowl by handing the Big Ten (Michigan State) one of its six bowl defeats.
Georgia collapsed under the collective pressure. There were injuries, too, starting with the loss of star left tackle Trinton Sturdivant to knee surgery, turning the offensive line into a game of musical chairs.
There were off-field troubles and chemistry issues, with Richt even suggesting the team relied too much on superstars Stafford and Moreno.
We think Georgia will be a lot more comfortable this year working from preseason No. 13. Joe Cox isn't Stafford at quarterback, but he's a capable senior. And sophomore Caleb King is no Moreno, but nor is he a banana slug.
The offensive line should be better, and the defense had better be better.
Georgia has the countenance of a solid-to-great SEC team with a schedule made by a practical joker. Three of the Bulldogs' four nonconference games are against Bowl Championship Series teams, starting (gulp) at top-10 Oklahoma State. Georgia also welcomes Arizona State to Athens and concludes the regular season at Georgia Tech.
"That's pretty tough when you consider who you play in conference," Richt said.
That play list includes the usual SEC dream-wreckers: South Carolina, at Arkansas, Louisiana State, at Tennessee, Florida and Auburn.
The funny thing: Georgia could finish 10-3 again with no one questioning the Bulldogs' resolve.
Bitter in 2008 could be better in '09.
The countdown so far: 25. UCLA; 24. Nevada; 23. Notre Dame; 22. Oregon State; 21. Florida State; 20. Nebraska; 19. North Carolina; 18. Utah; 17. Georgia Tech; 16. California; 15. Virginia Tech; 14. Alabama; 13. Georgia.