Georgia Bulldogs: CFN College Football Preview 2021

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·13 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Georgia football season with what you need to know.

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Georgia Football Schedule Analysis
– Georgia Bulldogs Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 8-2 overall, 7-2 in SEC
Head Coach: Kirby Smart, 5th year, 44-12
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 8
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 4
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 4

Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Offense

The offense was good. It couldn’t keep up with Alabama or Florida – which was everything – but it managed to roll through most of the other games and it found its guy going forward.

The O averaged a pedestrian 424 yards and 32 points per game – good by normal standards, but not for a national championship-level SEC team – and now the hope is for all that to change because of …

JT Daniels. The former superstar USC recruit was still getting past a torn ACL suffered at the beginning of 2019, but once he stepped in and took over, the Georgia offense took off with a more dangerous passing attack.

Now Daniels is firmly entrenched in the starting job, but the Dawgs have good prospects behind him in Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff, and last year’s starter for a bulk of the year, Stetson Bennett. Unfortunately the passing game is missing the main target.

George Pickens is a future NFL starter who led the team with six touchdowns, but he’s out for a while – and maybe the year – after suffering a knee injury this offseason.

Kearis Jackson led the team with 36 catches for 514 yards in the slot, Jermaine Burton is a solid deep threat, and on the way from LSU is Arik Gilbert, a former super-recruit who should be a game-changer of a target.

The offensive line is stacked. Four starters are expected back – starting with Jamaree Salyer at one of the spots on the left side – with a whole lot of talent across the front line that was good last year and now should be a whole lot more consistent.

It’s Georgia. The running backs are outstanding. The top five runners return – all came up with 193 yards or more – led by 779-yard, 11-touchdown junior Zamir White along with James Cook, who averaged 6.7 yards per carry.

What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Georgia Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Defense

Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Defense

The defense was outstanding except for the two games it absolutely had to have – that was sort of a problem considering the program had national title dreams.

Alabama rolled for 41 points and 564 yards, Florida cranked up 44 points and 571 yards, and that was it.

However, the D destroyed everyone else – only two other teams got past 300 and no one else got past 360 – finished No. 1 against the run, and allowed just 321 yards and 20 points per game overall.

The Dawgs restocked the shelves in a hurry, the talent is incredible, and expect it all to come together in another fantastic run. It starts with …

The secondary keeps on rolling. It lost a few key veterans and a whole lot of speed at corner with Tyson Campbell now with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Eric Stokes a Green Bay Packer, but in comes Derion Kendrick from Clemson to take over one spot and be the next big Georgia draft pick at the position.

Tykee Smith is transferring over from West Virginia to work at one of the safety gigs to go along with veterans Lewis Cine – who finished second on the team with 52 tackles – and 26-tackle Christopher Smith.

The pass rush was the best in the SEC, but Azeez Ojulari is now a New York Giant and there wasn’t much coming from the defensive front. LB Adam Anderson can work in a variety of linebacker spots – he was second on the team with 6.5 sacks – and Nakobe Dean returns in the middle after leading the way with 71 stops.

There’s more than enough talent for the rest of the four in the 3-4, helped by the expected rise of former super-recruit Nolan Smith into a playmaking star on the outside.

The front three once again is full of NFL size and depth as a brick wall against the run. Jordan Davis is a massive body on the nose, Devonte Wyatt is a 315-pound force on one end, and sophomore Jalen Carter is a next-level talent as a 3-4 end if he doesn’t see time on the nose.

What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Georgia Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best Georgia Bulldogs Offensive Player

QB JT Daniels, Jr.
There’s a bit of roll slowing that might need to be done with the former USC super-recruit – he was okay as a high school senior starting as a college freshman, blew out his knee in the first game of his sophomore season, and has seen just four games of work since.

However, he was a big-time get for the Trojans for a reason. All the NFL tools are there, he was terrific taking over the Dawgs down the stretch, and he’s adding a dangerous downfield passing element to the offense for the first time in the Kirby Smart era.

2. RB Zamir White, Jr.
3. WR George Pickens, Jr.*
4. OT/OG Jamaree Salyer, Sr.
5. WR/TE Arik Gilbert, Soph.
*Pickens is injured, but there’s a chance he returns late in the year.

Related

2021 Georgia Football Schedule: Analysis, Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Best Georgia Bulldogs Defensive Player

DT Jordan Davis, Sr.
Go ahead and add a few more players to the top five list of defensive players – LB Nolan Smith and S Tykee Smith will probably early all-star honors – but there’s no wrong answer here. The Dawgs are just that talented.

With Davis, it all might all depend on his weight. If he can check in at around 325ish, look out – but 340 is fine, too.

The future NFL anchor is an immovable force for the nation’s best run D, and he can occasionally get into the backfield, too.

2. CB Derion Kendrick, Sr.
3. LB Adam Anderson, Sr.
4. LB Nakobe Dean, Jr.
5. DE Travon Walker, Jr.

For more Georgia football and latest recruiting news, check out UGAwire.usatoday.com.

Top Incoming Georgia Bulldogs Transfer

CB Derion Kendrick, Sr.
There’s a very, very good case to be made for former LSU star tight end recruit Arik Gilbert, and go ahead and argue for former West Virginia safety Tykee Smith. Kendrick, though, has the upside and potential to be Georgia’s best player, not just the best defensive back.

The Dawgs lost a few corners to the NFL, but they got one through the transfer portal.

The 6-0, 190-pound former Clemson Tiger started his career as a top wide receiver recruit before turning into a two-time All-ACC corner. Over the last two years he made 63 tackles with three picks and 11 broken up passes. He’s a first round cover-corner who’ll lock down one side of the field.

What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Georgia Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Georgia Bulldogs Biggest Key: Offense

Georgia, you know that downfield pass thing you discovered with JT Daniels …

Keep doing that.

Since Kirby Smart took over in 2016, Georgia averaged over ten yards per throw 13 times in the first 62 games before JT Daniels stepped in.

By national championship-level comparison, Alabama averaged more than ten yards per throw eight times last season alone, and Ohio State hit the mark four times in the eight games.

Georgia went 17 straight games without averaging ten yards per pass. Daniels stepped in, and boom. The offense averaged well over ten yards per throw in three of the last four games, with the lone outlier a layup win over South Carolina when the ground game rumbled for well over 300 yards.

The running game will be terrific, the defense will be outstanding, and the pieces are there – even with George Pickens hurt – to keep pushing the ball deep.

Open it up and good things will happen.

Georgia Bulldogs Biggest Key: Defense

Come up with a stop on the longer drives. It’s hard to nitpick the 2020 Georgia defense.

It was amazing against the run, it only got roasted by the otherworldly Alabama and Florida offenses that burned everyone, and it consistently got the job done …

Except when teams got inside the 20.

It wasn’t a problem early in the season because Georgia just never let anyone go on a march. Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee combined to get into the red zone just twice, and the Hogs and Tigers each came away with a field goal.

The Bulldog defense held one drive inside the 20 without points, but it was a big one – a missed field goal in Cincinnati’s 24-21 loss in the Chick-fil-A Peach.

22 trips in the red zone, 21 trips that ended in opponent scores, including three Alabama touchdowns and three more from the Gators. Worst of all, out of the 20 times teams got inside the 20 over the final seven games, 14 ended in touchdowns.

Georgia Bulldogs Key Player To A Successful Season

WR Jermaine Burton, Soph.
Kearis Jackson will once again be a go-to target, and freakishly-talented transfer Arik Gilbert will work in a variety of ways, but the Dawgs need to somehow replace the all-around star power and playmaking ability of George Pickens.

Pickens led the team with six touchdown catches after leading the team in catches, yards and scores in 2019, but he suffered a knee injury this offseason and is questionable to return.

That raises the bar for Burton, a 6-0, 200-pound sophomore who was third on the team with 27 catches for 404 yards and three scores. He’s got the speed and the talent, and now he’ll get the opportunity to grow into a bigger role for the Dawg receiving corps.

Georgia Bulldogs Key Game To The 2021 Season

Clemson (in Charlotte), Sept. 4
Of course the showdown with Florida in Jacksonville on October 30th is everything in the battle to win SEC title, but there’s a chance that it might not really matter to Georgia’s playoff chances. On the flip side, lose, and there’s probably no margin for error.

Here’s how this might work.

Clemson has a relatively easy schedule – it should rip through everyone after the Georgia game and should be heavily favored to win the ACC title and possible go to the CFP again.

If Georgia wins the opener against the Tigers, it can afford a loss along the way. Of course the goal is to win the not-called-a-cocktail-party and go on to take the SEC title, but losing to Florida might not be the worst thing in the world.

If the Gators win and end up going off to the SEC Championship, Georgia misses Alabama – or whatever comes out of the West – and is probably in the playoff by going 11-1 with that win over Clemson if Clemson does what we all think it’s going to do, and …

Just beat Clemson. Do that, and the tone is set for the rest of the season and cements the argument that it deserves to be in the CFP over the likely ACC champ – if it comes down to that.

Georgia Bulldogs Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2020 Georgia Bulldogs Fun Stats

– 4th Quarter Scoring: Georgia 59 – Opponents 16
– Rushing Yards Per Game: Georgia 174.2 – Opponents 72.3
– Red Zone Scoring %: Opponents 21-of-22 (95%) – Georgia 28-of-36 (78%)

NEXT: Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Georgia Bulldogs College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

It’s become too easy to focus on what Georgia hasn’t been able to do under Kirby Smart.

It hasn’t won a national title, it’s 0-3 against Alabama, it’s 3-2 against Florida, and for all the talent, all the NFL star power, and with everything in place to challenge for multiple national titles, there’s been just one trip to the College Football Playoff with one SEC title …

But Georgia has been knocking hard on that door.

2017 … 2nd and 26. Sorry, Dawg fans.

Georgia was one historic pass in overtime away from a national title.

2018 … Yeah, yeah, yeah, the fake punt, but it took a legendary performance from Jalen Hurts for Alabama to beat Georgia in the SEC Championship. (I still contend that the call could’ve worked – Justin Fields had three open receivers.)

If the Dawgs could have pulled through, they’re in the College Football Playoff and almost certainly go on to play for the national title.

2019 … LSU happened. Georgia- who lost the SEC Championship – and the rest of college football, ran into a buzzsaw. I’ll still argue that it was one of the four best teams at the end of the regular season despite finishing 11-2.

2020 … Alabama happened. I’ll still argue that Georgia comes up with at least 20 more points in the Florida game – a 44-28 loss – if JT Daniels was able to go instead of Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis, and …

That’s the deal, though. That’s the genius of Alabama under Nick Saban, Clemson under Dabo Swinney, and throw Ohio State under Ryan Day and Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma in there, too.

It’s so hard to get to a College Football Playoff, much less win it in the era of Crimson Tide and Clemson dominance – and whatever that LSU juggernaut was in ’19 – but the powerhouse programs find a way to put themselves in the position for big things every year.

And so has Georgia under Smart – eventually that one big break will come.

The program has everything in place under Smart but the trophies in the case.

Set The Georgia Bulldogs Regular Season Win Total At … 10.5

There’s no reason for Georgia to not be in the preseason four-best-team discussion each and every year now, but it’s become the new early 2000’s-Texas under Mack Brown – all the talent, but always coming up just short.

Eventually, though, the Longhorns got the Vince Young season. Georgia fans are ready for their turn.

The defense is going to be another killer. Once again there’s NFL talent across the board – restocking the shelves through the transfer portal – and the offense should get back nine starters, not including WR George Pickens. The O got itself some new star players, too.

Clemson might be on the schedule to start the season, but there’s no Alabama, no Texas A&M, and no LSU.

The true road games? Three programs in transition – Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt – and Georgia Tech.

There’s no reason to not win the East, go 11-1 or better, and be in a position to get into the College Football Playoff with a win.

There’s no reason Georgia can’t win the national title.

What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
Georgia Football Schedule Analysis