Checkin' in with Merissa Lynn: Falcons, Dawgs & 2013 - FOX 13 News

Falcons and Dawgs in 2013: Is this our year?

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Could this be the year for football teams in the Peach State? Specifically the Falcons and the Georgia Bulldogs?!
 
It's not out of the question.
 
The Falcons were almost there last year. They looked to be Super Bowl bound after going up 17-0 in the NFC Championship game against the 49ers last year. San Francisco'scomeback was the biggest comeback in the NFC title game (per Elias Sports Bureau). The Falcons ended up being 10 yards short of a win when Matt Ryan's pass to Roddy White in the final minutes of the game was knocked down by the 49ers defense.
 
Fast forward about five months, and these Falcons are focused on the present. Tony Gonzalez is back for another year, and now former Ram Steven Jackson is in the mix.During this week's mini-camp, head coach Mike Smith says he's very confident with his offense heading into their 2013 campaign.
 
"We've got a number of weapons that can attack a defense at multiple levels," said Smith. "Adding Steven Jackson is just another piece to our offense that allows usto attack a defense."
 
Speaking of defense… On the Falcons D, the biggest pickup in the offseason for the Falcons was defensive end Osi Umenyiora. He'll fill in the void in a BIG way asthe team parted ways with John Abraham.
 
Thomas Dimitroff honed in on the Falcons' secondary in the draft. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford are competing for starting jobs alongside Asante Samuel at cornerback.
 
These guys appear to be locked and loaded and will probably repeat as NFC South champs. They've got the talent, the leadership and a nice number of vets and younginsto sort of balance the team out. Another chance for a Super Bowl berth may be on the horizon.
 
As for UGA, many thought the ‘Dawgs best chance at a national championship was last year. They too, were one step away from punching their ticket to the big game lastyear. A win in the SEC Championship game over Alabama and they would have been playing Notre Dame down in South Beach.
 
I wouldn't count this year out, yet.
 
Yeah, they lost a big chunk of their defense. Yeah, a huge part of their defense – Josh Harvey-Clemons – has been suspended for the first game. Yeah, it's not goingto be an easy start for the ‘Dawgs. Right off the bat, they get the two powerhouses in South Carolina. They open their season on the road in Death Valley against Clemson. Then, UGA is home to the Gamecocks – a team that has beat the ‘Dawgs three times in arow. I can tell you from my time in Columbia, those guys don't want that streak to end any time soon. (And, if Jadeveon Clowney can help it like he did last year – he won't let it happen in what will likely be his final season before going to the NFL.)
 
It's going to be hard, but if UGA can get past Clemson and South Carolina, things could start looking really good for Mark Richt and company. If not, expect to seeCoach Richt back on the "hot seat." They'll have a much-needed bye week after those two games before returning home against North Texas.
 
On offense, you know Aaron Murray is back and hoping this team can be a part of something big. I don't think he would have stuck around another year if he didn't believeso. You've got Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley who have a year under their belt. Those two combined for more than 2100 yards and 25 of the ‘Dawgs touchdowns last year. Michael Bennett should be good to go after tearing his ACL last year. He was UGA's leadingreceiver before the injury. Malcom Mitchell should only have to focus on playing offense. Last year he played a little DB as he filled in for some guys that had been suspended at the beginning of the season. In other words, UGA's offense is stacked if you askme. As long as they stay healthy, they'll be one of the tougher teams in the SEC to stop.
 
Depending on which preseason college football poll you look at, Georgia is ranked as high as no. 4 heading into the 2013 season. The Athlon Sports poll has them behindAlabama, Ohio State and Oregon. The Crimson Tide are the favorite to do it again for the 3rd straight year under the helm of Nick Saban. Don't count Ohio State out, those. Those guys could have been in the title game last yearhad it not been for the postseason ban they were dealt following NCAA violations that had been committed under Jim Tressel.
 
So, it won't be easy for the ‘Dawgs, but it could happen for them. I still think the SEC gets into the championship game again, but who it will be? That's the joyof sports – we'll have to see how the season plays out. The highs and lows, the underdogs getting wins… are all a part of it. There is nothing better in my opinion!
 
Georgia is a great state for football, especially right now. No matter what level – high school, college and professional – they're all played at a very high levelin the Peach State. It's going to be another epic season… I can't wait. Stay tuned!

-Merissa
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