Why is Georgia Loved and Nebraska Dismissed?
Over the next few weeks we'll see a number of the major prognosticators and college football publications making their predictions for the 2014 season. Already, you can see that Nebraska might sit outside of a lot of people's top 25 while Georgia is often ranked among the top 10 or 15 teams in the country. Considering that the last live college football action that took place for these schools saw the Huskers defeat the Bulldogs, you have to wonder why is that the case?
Both schools must replace three starters on the offensive line, both bring back standout running backs, and both return quarterbacks that got some playing time after a starter was lost to injury. Defensively, things look a bit brighter for Georgia as they replace just three starters to NU's five. But then, the Bulldogs also replace their defensive coordinator while the Huskers will at least have the benefit of continuity.
In terms of impact players lost from 2013, the list for Nebraska is Quincy Enunwa, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Ciante Evans, Jason Ankrah and perhaps Avery Moss. For Georgia, the list is tight end Arthur Lynch, flanker Rantavious Wooten, defensive end Garrison Smith, safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, and corner Shaq Wiggins. Not wildly different in terms of what was lost.
And yet, Georgia is something of a darling while NU is largely dismissed. Certainly, the schedule plays a factor. Many of the bigger games are at home for Georgia including Clemson, Auburn, and Georgia Tech. South Carolina looks like the only real tough true road game, though perhaps Missouri deserves some credit. The Huskers face their three toughest opponents on the road in Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Fresno State may not be easy either. Miami could provide a tough test in Lincoln as well. Still, for a team that consistently wins 9 or 10 games, it's not clear why Nebraska fell so far behind a team they beat so recently.
It may come down to the quarterbacks. Hutson Mason has clearly been a better passer than Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong. But Armstrong has been clearly the better runner. Mason went 1-1 as a starter while Armstrong went 7-1 in his starts. Mason may have the greater pro potential but as college quarterbacks go, they don't seem all that far apart.
Of course, there's also the conference factor. SEC teams have been getting a lot of respect in recent years while Big Ten teams really haven't.
Still, there's an argument to be made that the Huskers belong in the same vicinity rankings-wise as Georgia. They beat the Bulldogs when both teams were substantially similar to how they'll look in 2014. There will be time for Nebraska to prove they can still win at least 9 or 10 games and the Bulldogs may show they aren't quite ready to win 11 again either.