Top 25 Countdown
No. 14 Georgia
• Last Season: 10-3 (defeated Mich. State in the Capital One Bowl).
• Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense.
• Key Game: vs. Okla. State, Sept. 5.
Why They're Worth Watching
Gone are first-round picks Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, who helped make Georgia preseason darlings in 2008. The expectations are lower in 2009, but the defense will likely be better after allowing 24.5 points per game last season (59th in the country). The entire 2008 offensive line returns, and it is bolstered by the return of left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who missed last season with a knee injury. On defense, 10 of 11 projected starters are juniors and seniors, including standout junior linebacker Rennie Curran (115 tackles, three sacks, both tops on the team) and junior safety Reshed Jones (76 tackles and a team-high five interceptions).
Player to Watch
A.J. Green, Soph., WR
Green caught 56 passes for 963 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman and will contend for all-American honors in 2009. He will no longer benefit from Stafford's deep passes, but Green's large frame (6 feet 4, 207 pounds) will be a welcome target for new quarterback Joe Cox.
Why They're Vulnerable
Losing Stafford and Moreno leaves enormous holes to fill at quarterback and running back. Cox, a fifth-year senior, takes over at quarterback without either the arm or the hype of Stafford, although his experience in the offense will help. The running game will suffer without Moreno, so expect Georgia to rely on a passing attack. Georgia lacks much of a pass-rushing presence from its defensive line, which needs senior tackle Geno Atkins to return to his 2007 form after struggling in 2008. Shunning the cupcake scheduling tactics of their Southeastern Conference brethren, the Bulldogs will face Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Georgia Tech.
-- Zach Berman