Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Where have you gone, Georgia?
It’s been a while since less was expected of a Georgia football team entering the season.
But that’s what happens when you lose Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno early to the NFL, and the chief rival in your division is returning virtually everybody from a national championship team.
It’s Florida and everybody else in the Eastern Division, but Georgia junior linebacker Rennie Curran sort of likes being that team that's lurking in the shadows.
“It’s a humbling experience to be in that underdog role, but we like that role,” said Curran, whose 115 tackles last season were the most by a Georgia defender since 1998. “It lets you know that you have to work yourself up, and that’s all this team is about this season … working ourselves up.
“The big game for us is the next game.”
Right off the bat, we find out a lot about these Bulldogs, who travel to Oklahoma State on Saturday in one of those openers that can shape a season one way or the other.
Curran likes the fact that it’s such a tough opener, especially with what happened to Georgia’s defense a year ago. The Bulldogs gave up 38 or more points in four of their last five regular-season games. Their tackling was poor all season, and it was kick in the gut to a program that has long prided itself on rock-solid defense.
“We’re not used to having people run the ball on us, and everybody knows the tradition Georgia has on defense with guys like Thomas Davis and Boss Bailey, those legendary guys that came before us,” Curran said. “You want to make them proud, and we didn’t do that last year. We weren’t disciplined at times, made a lot mistakes and a lot of penalties, missed a lot of tackles and didn’t play well.
“We’ve got something to prove this year. We’ve got that chip on our shoulder. We’re going to get this defense back to where it needs to be. Going against an offense like Oklahoma State’s gives us a great opportunity to make a statement to the nation and show what we’re about as a defense.”
There’s also the Big 12 vs. SEC debate that will no doubt be a big part of this game. Who wins: SEC defense or Big 12 offense?
“We’re going to go out there and play faster, player tougher, play SEC ball and see what happens,” Curran said. “Any time you’re going against a team with this many good players, you’ve got to go in and get them frustrated, shut down the run and make them one-dimensional.
“If we can do that, it’s going to be a long day for them.”