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September 19, 2008

Mailbag: Could this be Georgia's year?

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Even though President Jimmy Carter was voted out of office, everything else was just peachy in Georgia in 1980.

The Bulldogs were undefeated and college football's national champions. Larry Munson was stepping through metal chairs and predicting property damage on Jekyll Island. Herschel Walker, that glorious running back, was just a freshman.

More perfect seasons and national championships were sure to follow.

Well, 28 years later, the Bulldogs still are waiting.

Could the wait be over? Could this be the year? And could get the Bulldogs get the national title without an unbeaten season?

Those questions and more are in this week's mailbag.

Title hopes

Jonathan in Lavonia, Ga.: Is there any chance that Georgia can go undefeated and win the national title? If not, what will be their record and who beats them?

Of course there is a chance. The Bulldogs already are one-quarter of the way there with a 3-0 record, but they will get their stiffest test to date Saturday against Arizona State in Tempe.

Based solely on quantity and quality of returning starters (eight offensive, nine defensive), a compelling argument could be and was made that Georgia had the best talent in the country this season. But then offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant and defensive tackle Jeff Owens suffered season-ending injuries. Few teams can lose two players of that caliber without negative effects.

Yet, there has been no indication that the Bulldogs are substantially weakened. Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford are off to great starts, and any team with a big-play running back, efficient quarterback and solid defense is going to have a good year.

But the question is whether Georgia is good enough to go unbeaten.

The main issue always has been the Bulldog' schedule, which is the most difficult in the nation. Again, the Bulldogs will get a strong test against Arizona State, but their greatest challenge will be a four-game stretch against LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn all away from home in the second half of the season.

Based on the schedule, I don't expect Georgia to finish unbeaten. My guess is they're most likely to lose at either LSU or Auburn.

Still, Georgia should get a shot at the national championship if it can get through that schedule with just one loss and an SEC championship. Of course, that's provided there aren't two undefeated teams from "Big Six'' conferences.

In the mix?

Glen in Phoenix: This year is producing a lot of big-name quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, etc. If Arizona State gets to the Rose Bowl or better, could Rudy Carpenter win the Heisman?

Although last week's loss to UNLV certainly hurts, Carpenter would attract a lot of attention if he can lead the Sun Devils to an upset of Georgia this week.

Despite the UNLV debacle, Carpenter has gotten off to a good start this season 975 passing yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 71.3 completion percentage. His history would indicate that will continue.

Carpenter is a fourth-year starter who has improved each season. Last season, he passed for 3,202 yards and 25 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his attempts. If Carpenter produces better stats this season, he could get into the Heisman discussion - but he will need stellar performances against high-profile opponents.

Whether Carpenter will surface as a realistic Heisman contender will be ascertained in the Sun Devils' next four games Georgia, California, USC and Oregon.

If he has impressive performances against those teams, Carpenter could rise among the contenders. If he plays well and the Sun Devils win all those games, he could emerge as the leader.

Talking Texas

Stephen in Minneapolis: If Texas runs the table and I know that's a big " if " do the Longhorns deserve to be in the BCS title game? And what do you think of their chances for running the table?

If Texas finishes unbeaten, the Longhorns probably would be in the BCS Championship Game. That would mean the Longhorns would have posted victories over four opponents that currently are in the top 25 Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas Tech and Kansas.

An undefeated Big 12 champion would be hard to omit from the BCS title game, especially considering Texas won the national championship just three years ago.

But I don't think the Longhorns can go undefeated. Texas should be thrilled if it's able to post an eighth consecutive 10-win season. I have my doubts about that, too.

Just be patient, though. The Longhorns could have a really big season in '09.

Time to be tested

Justin in Florida: What do you think of the Florida State defense this year? I think they played well last year and only improved in the offseason. I feel our offense will improve, and we might have a good look at a 9-3 season, but it will be our defense that does the most damage. What do you think?

The Seminoles join Iowa, Florida, LSU, USC, Connecticut and Indiana as the only teams to allow one touchdown or less this season.

Don't get too excited about that yet, though. FSU has faced punching bags Western Carolina and Chattanooga. That reveals absolutely nothing.

But defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews typically fields a solid unit, and this season shouldn't be different. Andrews is pushing the Seminoles to create more turnovers. They'd better, because I'm still not optimistic about the Seminoles' offense.

If Florida State is going to approach nine victories, as you predicted, the defense will have a play at a high level even in the sluggish ACC.

Scouting the Sooners

Cindy in Ada, Okla.: What do you think of the Oklahoma Sooners this season?

The offensive line is huge, experienced and good. The receivers are fast and proven. The running backs are big-play threats. And quarterback Sam Bradford is one of the best in the country.

Defensively, I think the Sooners could be vulnerable in the secondary, and their linebackers don't strike me as being overpowering.

But it's not as if OU has a porous defense. The front four with Auston English and Gerald McCoy will ensure that scoring on the Sooners won't be easy, and that's all they really need.

Oklahoma's offense is so good that it might take 35 points for an opponent to have a chance at an upset.

In 10 years under coach Bob Stoops, the Sooners have lost just twice in Norman - so don't expect any losses at home. That would indicate OU's greatest threats will be Texas (as usual) in Dallas and the regular-season finale against Oklahoma State.

I would anticipate seeing Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game again.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.
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