Kirby Smart’s maiden voyage as the head coach at Georgia wasn’t a disaster, but it was far from a full-fledged success. Things ended on a positive note with a bowl victory over TCU, but the Bulldogs finished with a disappointing 8-5 record that left many fans in Athens clamoring for improvement.

With that said, the good folks at Pro Football Focus are seeing an uptick coming from the Dawgs in 2017, including a run to the College Football Playoff that could be in the cards. In the piece, it is noted that both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel spurned NFL interest to return to school for another year and, beyond, it is quite fair to think that quarterback Jacob Eason might be able to take a massive leap in his sophomore campaign.

Still, it is actually Georgia’s schedule that provides PFF with some of the reason for optimism:

“On paper at least, Georgia’s schedule is set up for them to start the year strongly. Their second game sees them travel to take on Notre Dame, and despite their struggles a year ago, it should provide an early season test for the Bulldogs. After that their biggest challenges are on the road at Tennessee and Florida, in two games that will likely be key in the race for the SEC East crown, and a late-season trip to Auburn that will give us a clear view of how much of a threat Georgia can be in the College Football Playoff race. If they can pass those tests on the road, they’ll likely find themselves in the SEC Championship against Alabama, LSU or a rematch against Auburn, and a win there would almost certainly see them with a spot in the playoff.”

Many people have invested in the Bulldogs in the form of handicapping wagers, sending Georgia’s future odds tumbling in the best possible way. Whether Smart, Chubb, Michel and Eason can put it all together in 2017 remains to be seen, but it should be a much more enjoyable season for folks clad in red and black.

After impressive recruiting effort, darkhorse contender favored to make a College Football Playoff run Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Rowland is a lifelong Atlanta sports fan that also grew up in a Michigan Wolverines household. He previously worked with FanSided, SB Nation and UPROXX sports and covers college football for FanBuzz.
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