This will be a good season for Georgia if ...

The offensive line stays healthy

Georgia’s depth up front is paper-thin. After losing starters Clint Boling and Josh Davis to graduation, the Bulldogs lost starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant to a career-ending knee injury in the spring, and potential starters A.J. Harmon and Brent Benedict transferred in the summer. That left the starting five of LT Cordy Glenn, LG Kenarious Gates, C Ben Jones, RG Chris Burnette and RT Justin Anderson as the only remaining linemen with any game experience. But as offensive coordinator Mike Bobo pointed out, the Bulldogs won the 2002 SEC championship while starting the same five linemen all season, and Georgia’s first five players form a solid group.

Tailback Isaiah Crowell is as good as advertised

Nowhere was attrition worse for the Bulldogs in the offseason than at tailback. They were supposed to return their top three rushers from last season in Washaun Ealey, Caleb King and Carlton Thomas, who combined for more than 1,500 yards. But Ealey was nudged out the door, King could not maintain his academic eligibility for a final season and Thomas was suspended for the first game for an unspecified violation of team rules. That left redshirt freshman Ken Malcome and sophomore Brandon Harton as the only returnees.

Mercifully, converted linebacker Richard Samuel agreed to switch back to tailback to provide depth and experience. But make no mistake about it, Isaiah Crowell is the one who needs to come through here. The freshman was the No. 1 running-back prospect in the country coming out of Carver-Columbus. If he can overcome the injury bug, learn the system and be even half as productive as when he averaged 11.7 yards per carry as a high school senior, the Bulldogs will have the big-play threat in the running game they desperately need.

The Bulldogs win their first two games

After the first two games, Georgia’s schedule smooths out rather nicely. The Bulldogs open against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game on Sept. 3 at the Georgia Dome and then face South Carolina at Sanford Stadium. If they can take care of business in those two games, it could serve as a catapult for the rest of the season. Georgia avoids Alabama, Arkansas and LSU from the SEC West, and Ole Miss and Tennessee are its toughest road games. So it’s possible the Bulldogs could build tremendous momentum heading into Jacksonville on Halloween weekend.

Of course, the converse of that is if UGA loses both games, the heated criticism of coach Mark Richt will return to the forefront and could negatively impact the rest of the season. Then again, Virginia Tech lost its first two last season before reeling off 11 wins in a row to claim the ACC championship.

Nose-guard play is drastically improved

Georgia’s lack of a dominating inside presence in the middle of its 3-4 defense was the chief culprit to its undoing in 2010. The Bulldogs weren’t awful on defense last year. In fact, they were in the top half of the SEC in total defense (fourth), rushing defense (fifth) and passing defense (fifth). Georgia’s problems came in not being able to get off the field on third downs. It was last in the SEC on third downs, with opponents converting 42 percent of the time.

Enter John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. This pair of 350-pounders is set to take over at nose guard this season. Jenkins is a junior college All-American who transferred to UGA and is expected to give the Bulldogs the type of interior push Auburn got with Nick Fairley and Alabama with Terrance Cody. Meanwhile, Jenkins’ mere addition as a signee seemed to motivate Geathers, who was named defensive MVP of spring practice and never relinquished first string to Jenkins in preseason camp.

These mammoth defenders tying up blockers will free new linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree to make plays and open alleys for puttting pressure on quarterbacks. In turn, UGA’s improved secondary shouldn’t have to cover as long. In theory, the Bulldogs should have a better chance of getting off the field quicker.

Aaron Murray can find a go-to wide receiver

Georgia lost its two most productive receivers from last season, including sensational playmaker A.J. Green. But the Bulldogs are not going to stop passing. So quarterback Aaron Murray, one of the more accurate passers in the country, simply has to identify some new targets. Junior flanker Tavarres King is Green’s heir apparent with 47 career catches, and tight end Orson Charles is a matchup nightmare for opponents. But it was junior split end Marlon Brown who created all the buzz in preseason practice. The former five-star prospect from Memphis appears to have come into his own since last season and drew continuous praise in the weeks leading to the season opener.

Freshman Malcolm Mitchell also showed a big-play propensity in the preseason. Along with experienced reserves Israel Troupe and Rantavious Wooten and tight end Aron White, Murray should have more than enough targets.