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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

Some ESPNers see Georgia as a playoff team

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Everyone pictured thinks Georgia will do well, too. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Everyone pictured thinks Georgia will do well, too. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

The Worldwide Leader leads the world, duh, in analysts on its payroll. This week ESPN prepares for the onset of the college season by asking its many voices to predict the end. Given that Georgia wasn’t even picked by the SEC media to win its division, it comes as a bit of surprise that the Bulldogs are ESPN’s second choice to win the SEC.

Five of ESPN’s 23 assessors picked Georgia. South Carolina and Auburn each drew two votes. The other 14 went to Alabama.

Moving forward, we note that six of the 23 put Georgia in the inaugural four-team playoff, though only Desmond Howard foresees the Bulldogs winning their semifinal and he has them losing the title tilt to UCLA. (Because we all know Jim Mora is such a big-game coach.)

ESPN Insider Travis Haney surveys 20 coaches and finds that Georgia is also a semi-popular playoff choice among that group. The top four picks are Florida State, Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma. Then comes Michigan State. Then comes Georgia — ahead of South Carolina and Auburn, both of which are ranked about the Bulldogs in the preseason Associated Press and USA Today polls. (Georgia is 12th in both.)

From one apparent dissenter, via Haney:

One coach told me that first-year DC Jeremy Pruitt is “a year away” in terms of setting things up his way. “This isn’t FSU,” he said, referring to the talent-rich group Pruitt took over in 2013.

The Leonard Floyd-led UGA front seven is strong, but some coaches are wondering about the depleted secondary. Even veteran CB Damian Swann doesn’t receive rave reviews. “He’s soft,” one said. “He doesn’t go after anyone.”

Moving elsewhere on ESPN.com, we find that Phil Steele, who has named Georgia his No. 1 surprise team for 2014, lists the Bulldogs among his “best bets” to win the national title. At 25-1, Baylor is Steele’s first choice. Georgia, at 18-1, is No. 2.

Finally, the ESPN offshoot Grantland surveys 10 of its analysts. Two pick Georgia to make the playoff. Andrew Sharp picks Todd Gurley to win the Heisman Trophy and Gurley’s team — pause for effect — to Win It All. Although Sharp does, to be fair, offer a caveat: He went with Georgia, he writes, “only because picking FSU would be far too boring.”

From myajc.com: Is Georgia’s run of underachieving about to cease?

From our college football preview: A game-by-game look at Georgia’s schedule. (I pick the Bulldogs to go 10-2.)

From the same college football preview: A breakthrough year for Georgia. Er … maybe.

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