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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Season report card: Georgia

By Chris Low

It’s time to grade the Bulldogs, who are coming off their second straight SEC championship game appearance.

OFFENSE: Without a doubt, one of the most underrated coaches in the country is Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. He did another bang-up job this past season, as the Bulldogs set school records for touchdowns (72), scoring average (37.8 points per game) and total offense (467.6 yards per game). Bobo’s got a nice raise coming and deserves it. The Bulldogs started the season with an offensive line that was a bit unproven, but put up 37 or more points in 10 of their 14 games. Quarterback Aaron Murray became the first player in SEC history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, and freshman Todd Gurley led all SEC running backs with 1,385 rushing yards. The Bulldogs generated big plays on offense as well as anybody in the country. They finished the season with 90 plays of 20 yards or longer and joined Texas A&M as the only two FBS teams entering the bowl season with 50 such completions and 25 such rushes. The Bulldogs also overcame the loss of two of their top receivers, Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown, to ACL tears. The obvious blip was the 35-7 loss to South Carolina where Georgia was in danger of being shut out until a meaningless touchdown inside the final two minutes. Otherwise, this would be an A-plus. GRADE: A

DEFENSE: The truth is that the Bulldogs were a lot more talented than they played on defense this past season, which will bear itself out in the upcoming NFL draft. The suspensions to Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings at the beginning of the season took their toll on this group’s chemistry, no question. But the Bulldogs’ inability to stop the run was a continuing problem. They finished 12th in the SEC in rushing defense, giving up an average of 182.1 yards per game. And in their last four games, they gave up 239 rushing yards or more in all four games and more than 300 yards on the ground in three of those four contests. Alabama manhandled Georgia’s front seven in the second half of the SEC championship game, and at one point, ran the same play five straight times. Give the Bulldogs credit for keeping opponents out of the end zone during that pivotal stretch leading into the SEC championship game. Starting with the Florida game, they reeled off five straight games where nobody scored more than 14 points against them. Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones again had a monster season and came up with the biggest play of the year with his strip of Florida tight end Jordan Reed going into the end zone. But there were more than a few times this season that Georgia won in spite of its defense. GRADE: C

OVERALL: If not for the no-show at South Carolina, this would be a solid A, even with some of the issues on defense. After all, the Bulldogs were a tipped pass away from playing for the national championship. It was their first 12-win season since 2002, and they won for the second straight year over Florida -- the first time that’s happened since Georgia won three in a row over the Gators in 1987-89. Yes, it’s frustrating to get so close to playing for college football’s top prize and only have a Capital One Bowl trophy to show for it. And, yes, some Georgia fans (a loud minority) remain convinced that Mark Richt isn’t the answer. But when you win 12 games, play in the SEC championship game, finish in the top 5 in the polls and beat your most heated rival, the season is a success by any standard. GRADE: A-