Respected analyst Tony Barnhart projects as much in today's “Mr. College Football” column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here is Barnhart's explanation for picking the Dawgs as his preseason No. 1 team:
“Georgia (11-2 last season, 8 offense, 9 defense): There is no question about the talent in Athens because the Bulldogs have it at every position. They have a veteran quarterback (Matt Stafford) who is going to have a big year. They have tons of talent at running back (Knowshon Moreno, Caleb King). They have more speed on defense than any Georgia team in recent memory. There are, however, some red flags. They could use a little more depth on the offensive line, a proven place-kicker, and a schedule that doesn’t look like the Bataan Death March. Will it be difficult, if not impossible, to go undefeated against that schedule? You bet. But until somebody beats the Dawgs, they have to be No. 1.”
Barnhart tabs Southern Cal No. 2, followed by Missouri at 3, Florida at 4 and Ohio State at 5. Rounding out his top 10 are Oklahoma, Clemson, Illinois, West Virginia and Auburn.
In addition to Georgia, Florida and Auburn, Barnhart lists three more Southeastern Conference programs in his preseason top 30. They are LSU at No. 12, Tennessee at No. 15 and Alabama at No. 29.
Here's what Barnhart has to say about the Vols:
“Tennessee (10-4, 8 offense, 6 defense): The Volunteers have a new offensive coordinator (Dave Clawson) and a new quarterback (Jonathan Crompton) but the offense looks good with a veteran line and at least four quality running backs. The concerns are on defense where the Volunteers cannot afford any injuries at tackle. The Volunteers get Florida and Alabama at home but must play Auburn and Georgia on the road.”
Here is Barnhart's complete top 30:
2. Southern Cal
5. Ohio State
9. West Virginia
13. Brigham Young
14. Arizona State
17. Texas Tech
19. Virginia Tech
21. Wake Forest
22. Oregon State
23. Penn State
25. Fresno State
27. Michigan State
28. Florida State
To view Barnhart's preseason projections column – run in three installments over a span of three days – go to AJC.com and click on the sports link.