ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia will begin the 2008 football season as top dog in one of the major polls.
The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the preseason USA Today Coaches' Poll released Friday.
The Associated Press preseason poll will be out Aug. 16.
The Bulldogs return 17 starters -- including star tailback Knowshon Moreno and third-year starting quarterback Matthew Stafford -- from an 11-2 team that finished last season on a seven-game winning streak and beat Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl 41-10.
"Being No. 1 in the coaches preseason poll does have significance since it's one-third of the formula to decide who plays in the national championship game," coach Mark Richt said. "But the postseason poll is the one that is the most important. However, I know the ranking is exciting for Georgia football and hopefully we can do our part to stay in the race."
The Bulldogs received 22 of 61 first-place votes and 1,438 total points. It's the first time the Bulldogs have entered a season with a No. 1 target on their back.
"The hype is out there," defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "Everybody will say this and everybody will say that about Georgia. If we go out and lose to Georgia Southern (Aug. 30), who's going to think about Georgia? We're going to drop from the polls. We won't even be ranked."
GOOD FOR GEORGIA
Five of the past six teams ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll made it to the championship game. Southern Cal, the preseason top pick in 2007, wound up in the Rose Bowl.
BAD FOR GEORGIA
Only one of the past six preseason No. 1 teams went on to win the national championship. That was Southern Cal, which won the national title for the 2004 season.