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College football top 25 countdown: No. 5 Georgia

After falling just five yards short of playing in the Bowl Championship Series title game last season, the Bulldogs face a tough schedule as they try to make a run at a championship.

August 23, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Georgia Coach Mark Richt is setting his sights on winning the BCS national championship.
Georgia Coach Mark Richt is setting his sights on winning the BCS national… (Jason Getz / MCT )

Georgia is slotted at No. 5 because that's how many yards the Bulldogs fell short last year of playing (and we presume beating) Notre Dame for the national title.


That's less than three fathoms, if you can fathom that.

The game-ending call will be second-guessed for years. Georgia, down 32-28, was at Alabama's eight with the clocking clicking inside 15 seconds.

With no timeouts left, roughly 99.8% of us sitting at the Georgia Dome that day for the Southeastern Conference championship game expected Georgia to rush to the line and spike the ball.

Instead the Bulldogs bumbled like bees back into position and snapped a play, hoping to catch Alabama players on their heels.

The pass from quarterback Aaron Murray, though, an intended fade route for Malcolm Mitchell in the right corner of the end zone, was tipped and misdirected.

Chris Conley instinctively caught the ball but was short of the goal line.

The clock expired and Alabama ran like crooks out of a jewelry store.

Georgia Coach Mark Richt watched the edited game tape immediately afterward and then the full TV version later in the summer.

He wanted to get an emotional sense from a fan's perspective.

The outcome, though, never changed.

"It was certainly gut-wrenching to see again the way it finished," Richt said at SEC media days in July.

Murray was motivated enough to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season.

"I came back to win a championship," he said. "I want the SEC championship; I want the national championship."

Getting back in position to win again may not be as easy this time.

The Bulldogs, in fact, could be out of the race before September ends.

Georgia opens against two top-10 opponents: at Clemson on Aug. 31 and home the next week against South Carolina.

"It forced us to have a great off-season," Murray said. "We've just got to be in midseason form Week 1 and 2 of the season."

If the Bulldogs survive that, they'll still have to deal with Louisiana State on Sept. 28 and Florida on Nov. 2.

Georgia optimism is rooted in eight returning starters from, perhaps, the nation's most lethal offense.

It was interesting this week that coaches named Murray, not Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, to their preseason all-SEC first team.

It was considered a snub at Manziel, but not considered enough was the fact Murray is a well-deserving senior who has thrown for 95 touchdowns in his career.

Murray leads an offense that averaged a nation-best 7.09 yards per play last season. The Bulldogs have two "home-run" running backs in sophomores Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. As freshmen, they combined for 2,144 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Georgia has plenty of skill receivers and also returns all five starters on the offensive line, a unit that has plagued the team in recent years.

The defense, which replaces eight starters, needs to grow up fast with Clemson and South Carolina up first on the schedule.

Overcoming the loss of All-American Jarvis Jones and leading tackler Alec Ogletree won't be easy, but there is plenty of talent waiting to fill those voids.

There's every reason to think Georgia can win the SEC East and get back to Atlanta for a rematch against Alabama.

All it needed in the off-season was to find five more yards, right?

"I think Georgia's back where it needs to be," Murray said.

Top 25 so far: 25. Oklahoma; 24. Wisconsin; 23. Fresno State; 22. UCLA; 21. Texas A&M; 20. Notre Dame; 19. Oregon State; 18. Oklahoma State; 17. Arizona State; 16. Nebraska; 15. Louisiana State; 14. Florida State; 13. Michigan; 12. Boise State; 11. Texas; 10. Northwestern; 9. Florida; 8. Louisville; 7. Clemson; 6. South Carolina.

Twitter: @DufresneLATimes

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