HOOVER | The Georgia Bulldogs took national champion Alabama to the wire last December in the SEC Championship Game, losing 32-28 and finishing just 5 yards away from a winning score at the end.
Georgia went 12-2 last season and is the pick of the media to win the SEC Eastern Division again.
Head coach Mark Richt returns for his 13th season at Georgia.
"That's exciting for me to still be at Georgia," Richt said Thursday at SEC Media Days. "It's a lot of fun."
Last year's run to nearly topple Alabama from the top of the SEC heap is a motivating factor for Georgia.
"We got a taste of how close you can get and not quite get it done," Richt said. "The goal for us is to get to Atlanta (for the SEC title game) as it always is."
The Bulldogs have 10 starters returning on offense, including quarterback Aaron Murray, who has passed for more than 3,000 yards in each of his three previous seasons as the starter.
"Aaron Murray, great player, has had all the competition in the world in SEC games throughout his career," RIcht said. "He's a 365-day-a-year quarterback. Every day he's got a plan to get better.
"He's a very, very gracious ambassador for Georgia and we're blessed to have him."
Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are back after combining for more than 2,100 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns last year.
"Murray knows that a great running back and a great running game is his best friend," Richt said.
The Bulldogs have to replace seven starters on defense, including stars like linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree.
Georgia's schedule will be tougher this season, starting with the opener at Clemson followed by a key SEC East home game against South Carolina. The Bulldogs also play Florida in the East and have LSU at home.
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Deal ends 08.31.13