Kirby Smart’s team ended 2016 unranked. They will not begin 2017 the same way.
Alabama is an unsurprising #1 in the inaugural Amway Coaches Poll released today, and your Georgia Bulldogs check in at #15 in the first ranking. While Georgia’s preseason rankings generally fill me with the kind of fear and dread Soren Kierkegaard would find a bit over the top, this one seems about right to me. Georgia does in fact return most of its key contributors from an 8-5 team that was a hair’s breadth from 9-4, and within sight of 10-3.
While I still think 2018 may be the year Kirby Smart really gets it going in Athens (more on that a little closer to kickoff, I have visual aids and everything . . .) #15 is where you rank an SEC team you expect to finish 9-3 in the regular season, maybe make it to Atlanta but not win there, and then move on to the Outback Bowl. That sounds like a pretty decent, middle-of-the-road crystal ball prediction for the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs.
The ‘Dawgs are one slot behind Stanford, and one ahead of the loathsome Florida Gators. LSU is the top SEC vote-getter not coached by Nick Saban (okay, not currently coached by Nick Saban), checking in at #12. Auburn is behind them in 13th because sure, “a new quarterback and a defense that loses Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams” is synonymous with “huge leap forward.” Remember, Auburn being ranked in the top 15 is a leading indicator. It’s good evidence that the Plainsmen will be good next year under whoever takes over for Gus Malzahn. You heard it here first.
Ohio State at #2 strikes me as a little high, but heck, I’m not sure who else I’d put in that spot so fine, let’s go with it. Southern Cal at #4 looks like a classic example of ranking a team based upon them doing big things in their bowl game that may not be replicable the following season. Texas at #23 looks like a case of “big school, tons of money, hotshot coach, let’s rank ‘em!” Texas will better their 5-7 mark from 2016, but if the Longhorns are better than an 8-5 team in 2017 I’ll trim Bevo’s hooves with a butter knife. You can find the full rankings here. Until later . . .