We're right about two months away from the start of college football season, and the "preseason top 25" rankings issued by the nation's pundits have started to evolve from February time-killing exercises into serious attempts to predict how the 2010 season is going to shake out. I've dug up about 10 such rankings from the usual suspects -- Phil Steele, Athlon, ESPN, et cetera -- and combined them into a composite top 25 you can dig into here, but the relevant info for Georgia fans is that the Dawgs check in at #23 in the composite ranking. Not spectacular, obviously, but perhaps cause for a glimmer of hope after a disappointing (and somewhat tumultuous) 2009.
Here's where Georgia checks in among the individual rankings:
#15 -- Athlon Sports
#19 -- Phil Steele
#20 -- ESPN (Mark Schlabach)
#23 -- ESPN (College Football Live)
Now, granted, there's only so much we can actually glean for this -- the actual preseason AP and coaches' polls won't be out for another six weeks or so, and a lot more voters will be throwing their rankings into the mix. But there are a couple of causes for optimism buried in the numbers here.
The first is that, according to the composite rankings, Georgia is a comfortable #2 in the SEC East. Florida, obviously, is way out in front, but South Carolina is way behind at what amounts to #31; the only predictor who has them in his rankings at all is Phil Steele, who puts them two spots behind Georgia. The Gamecocks have more returning talent than any other team in the SEC, but the pundits still seem to be pretty skeptical; even Steele, in his preview magazine, points out that South Carolina needed three close wins just to get to 7-6. Tennessee and Kentucky, meanwhile, have yet to appear in any of the preseason rankings.
Second is the schedule. Even the most rabid Dawg-haters out there will admit that Georgia has played a couple of formidable schedules in recent years -- in 2008, they faced six teams ranked by the AP in the preseason; last year they faced four. The 2010 Dawgs face four teams in the composite top 25, but their average rank is #16; last year the average preseason rank was #9. If nothing else, the Dawgs have an easier road to travel this season, which should come as a relief after playing schedules ranked 7th and 11th in the nation by Jeff Sagarin.
Then there's the fact that three sets of rankings -- Athlon's, Mark Schlabach's, and Phil Steele's -- have the Dawgs ranked above Georgia Tech. Hey, it's June. You take what you can get.