#14 in the AP and Coaches' polls, as well as the Blogpoll. #11 in ESPN's Power 16 and #19 in SI's preseason rankings. Predicted to finish anywhere from 1st to 3rd in the SEC East, with a possible postseason berth on January 1st.
That's the preason prognostication by the polls and punditry. Does it mean anything for our season?
This time last year, we were coming off a true "reloading" season--first-year starter D.J. Shockley had replaced David Greene and taken us to an SEC Championship and a BCS bowl. We were looking at a solid defense and a potential quarterback controversy. We entered the preseason at the edge of the top 15.
This year we find ourselves coming off of a true "rebuilding" season--true freshman starter Matthew Stafford beat out Joes Tereshinski and Cox for the starting job, stumbled against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but eventually led us to a record-setting three wins over ranked teams, including a Chick-fil-A Bowl win. We again enter the preseason at the edge of the top 15.
So what happens?
We could try an in-depth breakdown of the season, but every point we could make has an equally valid counterpoint. To wit:
Oklahoma State's highly-touted offense could have a field day against our defense. But if our offense gels they could be equally potent agianst OSU's weak D.
If South Carolina is going to beat us anytime in the near future, it will probably be this year. But our matchup will be quarterback Blake Mitchell's first game of the season, and we did shut them out last year.
Depending on how our, and their, first three games go, we could go into Tuscaloosa expecting a nailbiter or a blowout against Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.
Tennessee will be better this year than last. But so will we.
We can't lose to Vanderbilt again. But they're bound to upset somebody this season. Ditto for Kentucky.
Florida owns us. We own defending national champs.
Auburn has a winning record in Athens. We had a field day against Auburn last season.
Georgia Tech has a new quarterback. Also, Georgia Tech has a new quarterback.
All that to say that while we can probably say with confidence that Southern California will go to the national title game and Florida won't, while we can say that Ohio State will probably overcome its loss of a Heisman candidate and Notre Dame won't, and while we can say that Virginia Tech will probably replicate or exceed their success of last season and Wake Forest won't, we can't say anything about Georgia. We have solid answers and troubling questions on both offense and defense and an SEC East race that could be insane or pathetic. We have plenty of talent...and little experience.
So my official prediction for the season? I say 9-3, with loses to any combination of OSU, USCar, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky or Georgia Tech. Guaranteed wins over Western Carolina, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Troy.
But hey, all this preseason nonsense is all meaningless in the end. The whole point is to tide us over until the regular season, which is indeed less than a week away. So for now I'll try to forget about preseason predictions and focus on what we do know: Football. Begins. Soon.