Gators game preview: Georgia

ESPN’s GatorNation brings you the 30 things you need to know about Florida’s upcoming 2012 season. For 30 weekdays we’ll preview games, talk about trends, spotlight players and positions, and give you pretty much everything you need to know to be ready for the season before the Sept. 1 opener against Bowling Green.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- GatorNation is previewing each of Florida’s 2012 opponents. Today is Georgia (Oct. 27 in Jacksonville, Fla.).


2011 record: 10-4 (7-1 SEC), lost to Michigan State 33-30 (3 OT) in Outback Bowl.

Coach: Mark Richt, 12th season (106-40).

Series record: Georgia leads 47-40-2 (Note: Georgia records indicate Bulldogs lead 47-39-2).

Top returners: QB Aaron Murray (238-403-14, 3,149 yards, 35 TDs); RB Isaiah Crowell (850 yards, 5 TDs); LB Jarvis Jones (70 tackles, 13.5 sacks); S Bacarri Rambo (55 tackles, 8 INTs).

Did you know? Murray needs just 14 more TD passes to surpass David Greene's school record (72).

Scouting the offense: The Bulldogs are stacked at the skill positions with Murray, Crowell and WRs Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell. It’s the OL that’s a concern. Only two starters return, and the Bulldogs may end up starting a true freshman at RT. Georgia couldn’t muster a physical running game last season and that may be an issue again in 2012.

Scouting the defense: Coordinator Todd Grantham returns 20 of the top 22 players from last season’s defense. Jones highlights that list. He’s a phenomenal pass-rusher who also plays the run pretty well. The secondary is loaded with play-makers. The defense has the potential to finish in the top five nationally again.

Three things to watch

  1. No team has been better at using its tight ends than Georgia, but that spot is uncertain heading into 2012 after the loss of Orson Charles to the NFL. True freshman Jay Rome appears to be the heir apparent. His development early in the season will be one of the keys to the offense.

  2. Georgia’s special teams were terrible last season. Blair Walsh missed a school-record 14 field goals last season, and the Bulldogs were burned by several fake punts and long returns. Richt did not hire a special teams coordinator and will continue to spread the duties throughout the coaching staff. Richt said he’s going to use starters on special teams, so that should help.

  3. Crowell had some maturity and durability issues last season, but the coaching staff raved about his work ethic and attitude in the spring. If Crowell truly has matured he can become one of the best backs in the country. If not, then prized recruit Keith Marshall may end up as Georgia’s top back.