State your case: How Georgia makes a New Year's Six bowl

Let's be real here.

If ever there were a season in which Georgia wasn't expected to win a championship or play in a big bowl game, that would be news.

So, yes, the Dawgs should absolutely be in the discussion as one of the teams in 2015 who could make a run at a New Year's Six bowl and maybe even a spot in the College Football Playoff. They're the early favorite in the SEC's Eastern Division race and are starting to show up with regularity in the top 10 of the early preseason polls.

There are a lot of reasons to believe that 2015 will be the year it all falls right for Mark Richt, entering his 15th season as Georgia's head coach. He was a big winner this offseason. Not only did he get a raise and an extension, taking him to $4 million per year, but he got a lot more cash for some of his staff members, namely defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who went to $1.3 million annually.

If there were questions about whether Richt was on shaky ground with the upper administration at Georgia, there shouldn't be now.

He has a team returning in 2015 that should again be lights out on offense with sophomore running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel returning (Keith Marshall, too) and a veteran offensive line that returns four starters.

The Bulldogs were a load running the football last season against everybody, with or without Todd Gurley. Chubb was playing at a different level when the season ended a year ago. Is there a more explosive returning player in the SEC?

Defensively, Pruitt has a lot more pieces to work with, especially in the front seven. The Dawgs have two true freshmen coming in -- defensive tackles Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter -- who should make an impact right away. They're also stacked at outside linebacker with returning veterans Leonard Floyd, Lorenzo Carter and Jordan Jenkins.

Look for Georgia's defense to be much more disruptive in Pruitt's second season in Athens. The Bulldogs should be as good as they've been in a while, both up front defensively and at outside linebacker.

The schedule also tilts in Georgia's favor. That early-season nonconference game with Clemson comes off, and the Dawgs don't have to play South Carolina until the third game. That's significant because Georgia has suffered at least one loss in its first two games in five of the last six seasons.

What could go wrong

The combination of a first-year offensive coordinator and first-year starter at quarterback is never ideal, but that's what Georgia will be facing in 2015. Brian Schottenheimer replaces Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator, and the quarterback battle will come down to third-year sophomore Brice Ramsey and redshirt freshman Jacob Park.

No matter which way Schottenheimer decides to go, he's going to be working with an inexperienced quarterback. Ramsey has a big arm and is more of a pocket passer. Park also throws it well, but is one of those guys who's also comfortable running around and trying to make a play.

With the Bulldogs' running game and offensive line, it should be easier to break in a new quarterback. But problems at the quarterback position usually mean problems for the whole team.

There's also a three-game stretch to kick off October that looks nasty. The good news is that Georgia gets Alabama and Missouri at home, but those games are sandwiched around a trip to what should be an improved Tennessee team on Oct. 10. Getting through that stretch unscathed will be a chore, and there are also trips to Auburn and Georgia Tech in November.

The secondary will bear watching as well, especially with cornerback Damian Swann gone. He wore several different hats for the Dawgs, and there aren't a lot of upperclassmen back there.

Georgia's undoing, more times than not, has been losing a game it had no business losing. See the Florida game a year ago.

We'll see if the Dawgs can keep from falling into that trap in 2015.