Georgia football is easily predicted to make Atlanta in way too early 2022 SEC Rankings

The Georgia Bulldogs celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff Championship held at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
The Georgia Bulldogs celebrate after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide during the College Football Playoff Championship held at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /
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Georgia football
Kenny McIntosh runs for yardage against Trey Dean III. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Georgia football and Florida sit atop the SEC East

Georgia Football: 12-0 (8-0)

Expect the defending national champions to have a strong showing in their title defense in 2022 as they will dominate the SEC East once again.

The Dawgs are losing out on some incredible talent to the NFL Draft this season but will also be retaining key pieces on both sides of the ball.

The most polarizing returning player has to be starting quarterback Stetson Bennett. Everybody has their own opinion of the super-senior signal-caller, but his experience in the offense is invaluable — kind of like that trophy he helped secure.

While the Dawgs are losing a bit of depth at receiver with the departure of George Pickens to the draft, as well as Jermaine Burton to the transfer portal, Bennett does retain his favorite targets in Brock Bowers, Adonai Mitchell and Ladd McConkey.

It still would not come as a surprise if head coach Kirby Smart looks to the portal himself to mitigate the losses at the position.

Should offensive coordinator Todd Monken stay for another year, the offense shouldn’t miss a beat.

Defensively, replacing one of the most valuable players in recent memory is not an easy task. With Nakobe Dean likely ending up as a top draft pick, young linebackers like Xavian Sorey and Smael Mondon could be called upon to fill some big shoes — especially since Channing Tindall and Quay Walker are both also declaring for the draft.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the defense, though, as it will retain multiple key contributors that could have considered declaring for the draft.

Pass rushers Nolan Smith and Robert Beal Jr. are running it back for another season. Defensive backs Chris Smith and Tykee Smith are also returning, along with William Poole III, whose late-season under-the-radar contributions played a significant role in the championship run.

Replicating the same type of success that Georgia maintained on defense in 2021 will be a tall task with the amount of talent leaving. Still, the pieces that did stay coupled with the emergence of some of the younger guys who are hungry to contribute will result in a defense that opponents will likely still take pride in simply scoring garbage-time touchdowns.

Back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons are almost unheard of, and Georgia fans are well acquainted with the notorious “any given Saturday” type of games. However, the reality is that the Dawgs have the talent and the coaching to get it done, along with a relatively favorable schedule.

Slip-ups happen now and then, but if a championship run should have taught Georgia fans anything, it’s that success exists going forward.

Florida Gators: 8-4 (5-3)

The Gators will likely be one of the more interesting teams to watch in 2022 under newly hired head coach Billy Napier.

The standard looks to have changed in Gainesville, as Napier has shown serious dedication to recruiting and building a solid support staff around him. Only time will tell once the games get played whether that standard means something or whether it’s more concerned with social media optics than on-field results.

Florida is retaining talent on both sides of the ball and would have been a better team in 2021 if the Gators had a more competent coaching staff.

The Anthony Richardson versus Emory Jones debate will continue, as Jones did not enter the transfer portal as expected to do after the bowl game.

Flordia will have to replace the running back tandem of Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce but will likely be in a good situation with the combination of Demarckus Bowman and Montrell Johnson.

Bowman is a former 5-star who transferred from Clemson, while Johnson followed Napier from Louisiana Lafayette.

Napier has been extremely active in the transfer portal, bringing in multiple Ragin Cajuns. He also notably reeled in defensive back Jalen Kimber from Georgia, who could step in as an immediate replacement for Kaiir Elam.

Ultimately, the Gators could be immediately competitive under Napier if he succeeds in getting the team to buy-in. A reasonable ceiling is a 9-3 finish with a floor around 6-6.

Florida has a rare week one challenge game in 2022 against a good Utah team. The Gators also have a late-season mini-gauntlet as they’ll face Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina in consecutive weeks.

In a season of transition, Gator fans should practice patience while also looking for signs of improvement. Head coaching changes can be problematic if the poor culture established under the previous coaching staff is too much to overcome.