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Georgia Bulldogs preview

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Georgia's Nick Chubb threatened the SEC freshman rushing record last season. Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Bulldogs have won 10 or more games in three of the past four years, twice capturing the SEC East crown. This season they’re looking for even more. Georgia hasn’t won the SEC since 2005, but with 13 returning starters, the Dawgs will be early favorites to retake the East from Missouri.

Offense

How the Bulldogs beat you: Just feed bullish running back Nick Chubb. The sophomore-to-be was one of the nation’s best last season, rushing for 1,547 yards (7.1 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns in only eight starts (all 100-yard performances). “I don’t feel any pressure,’’ Chubb says. “I know we have guys behind me. The team’s got my back, and I have four other great backs with me.’’ Fellow second-year stud Sony Michel (410 yards, 5 TDs) and senior Keith Marshall, who is at full speed after back-to-back season-ending injuries, provide strong depth behind Chubb.

How you beat the Bulldogs: With a new starting quarterback and a new O-coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer, teams should bring as much pressure as they can and make whoever earns the starting job as uncomfortable as possible. Redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey (333 yards and 3 TDs last year) is the early favorite for the spot, but don’t rule out redshirt freshman Jacob Park or junior Faton Bauta. “We believe in running the ball and having a great balance in the passing game,” coach Mark Richt says. “We’re going to be a team that can throw the ball well when people pack the box, and when they try to stop the passing game, we’ll be able to run it well.

Defense

How the Bulldogs beat you: Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will try to frustrate opposing offenses with his terrorizing trio of outside rushers: Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Lorenzo Carter combined for 15½ sacks, 25 TFL and 59 quarterback hurries in 2014. Georgia’s secondary, which returns three starters, also improved tremendously in Pruitt’s second year, especially with takeaways: The defensive backfield had 15 of Georgia’s 16 INTs and forced 6 fumbles (recovering 3 of them). The Bulldogs led the SEC and were tied for fourth in the FBS with a turnover margin of plus-16.

The secondary will be stacked with experienced vets, but the Bulldogs have a lot of questions up front. Before early enrollees Michael Barnett and Jonathan Ledbetter arrived, Georgia had just six scholarship defensive linemen to work with this spring. Inexperience up front will put more pressure on Georgia’s rushing defense, which ranked eighth in the SEC in conference play, allowing 172.9 yards per game and 4.4 yards per carry. Wearing down that line will

also create pressure for Georgia’s inside linebacker unit, which loses longtime starters Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera (225 combined tackles last year).