Georgia Bulldogs back at No. 4 in coaches’ poll

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart prepares for the SEC Football Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart prepares for the SEC Football Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

The USA Today coaches preseason coaches’ poll released Thursday looks much like the final one from last season, with Clemson at No. 1 and Georgia at No. 4. But it’s not likely to stay that way before the Bulldogs finally take the field.

The ACC (Sept. 7) and Big Ten (Sept. 3) conferences will begin play before the SEC gets under way Sept. 26, and the Big 12 might, too, as the Power 5 conferences all decided to go their own way this season in an attempt to play amid the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic. The Pac-12 also is starting its season Sept. 26, and all five of the autonomous leagues are playing primarily intraconference games.

Alabama was the SEC’s highest-ranked team at No. 3, followed by Georgia, No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Florida and No. 11 Auburn.

The coaches ranked Georgia No. 3 to open last season. The Bulldogs finished 12-2 after losing to South Carolina in the regular season and eventual national champion LSU in the SEC Championship game and defeating Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.

Georgia has begun the past three seasons under coach Kirby Smart ranked among the nation’s top four teams. The Bulldogs have finished second, eighth and fourth, respectively, while posting a 36-7 record.

Georgia opens the delayed 2020 campaign with first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken having to rebuild an offense that will have to replace quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D’Andre Swift and four starters on the offensive line. But the Bulldogs also are expected to field one of the nation’s top defenses, returning eight starters and more than 30 players that recorded 100 or more snaps last year.

Preseason camp will begin Aug. 17 for the Bulldogs, who have been working out as a team in Athens since July 15. The SEC is expected to announce its new 10-game, all-SEC schedule sometime in the next week. At that time Georgia will find out the two Western Division opponents it will add beyond the eight SEC teams already on its schedule.

Georgia was scheduled to open the season Sept. 7 against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But the SEC voted last week to drop all non-conference opponents. For the Bulldogs that meant losing games against Georgia Tech, East Tennessee State and Louisiana-Monroe.

USA Today preseason coaches poll

(first-place votes in parentheses, followed by total points)

No. 1 Clemson (38), 1589

No. 2 Ohio State (17), 1555

No. 3 Alabama (4), 1495

No. 4 Georgia, 1345

No. 5 LSU (6), 1330

No. 6 Oklahoma, 1315

No. 7 Penn State, 1199

No. 8 Florida, 1176

No. 9 Oregon, 1164

No. 10 Notre Dame, 1012

No. 11 Auburn, 898

No. 12 Wisconsin, 887

No. 13 Texas A&M, 807

No. 14 Texas, 703

No. 15 Michigan, 687

No. 16 Oklahoma State, 524

No. 17 USC, 521

No. 18 Minnesota, 494

No. 19 North Carolina, 415

No. 20 Utah, 241

No. 21 Central Florida, 232

No. 22 Cincinnati, 229

No. 23 Iowa, 204

No. 24 Virginia Tech, 143

No. 25 Iowa State, 135

Others receiving votes: Tennessee 111; Boise State 111; Arizona State 88; Kentucky 73; Memphis 71; Baylor 66; Washington 65; Louisville 62; Miami 58; Appalachian State 31; Navy 17; Virginia 13; Air Force 12; Mississippi State 9; Texas Christian 7; Washington State 6; Tulane 5; California 5; UL Lafayette 3; Southern Methodist 3; Nebraska 3; Stanford 2; Pittsburgh 1; Kansas State 1; Indiana 1; Duke 1.

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