It’s game week. How are you feeling about (pick one: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, Georgia Southern)? Before anybody loses a game to commence meltdowns in the fan base, here's my thoughts on each:
Opener: Saturday vs. Louisiana Monroe
Expected result: Easy win.
Positive: The Bulldogs have the best running back in the nation in Nick Chubb and should be improved enough on defense in Jeremy Pruitt’s second year as coordinator to win most of their games.
Negative: I know nobody's talking about it but Mike Bobo did a tremendous job as offensive coordinator, and he's gone now. As for the quarterbacks: The problem isn’t that Mark Richt struggled for so long to make up his mind about who his starter would be (for now). The problem is neither Greyson Lambert nor Brice Ramsey was consistent enough in practices to create clear separation. Lambert, the junior transfer from Virginia, will start the opener but this competition isn’t nearly a done deal, yet. The objective/need is to have a clear starter and some stability on offense by the third game against South Carolina. At some point, Georgia will need a quarterback to win a game, or two, or three, especially with a schedule that includes No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 Auburn (road), No. 16 Georgia Tech (road), No. 24 Missouri, No. 25 Tennessee (road) and unranked-but-it-doesn’t-matter Florida
What I say will happen: They’ll win the East and play Alabama for the SEC title (which is as far as I’ll go for now).
Opener: Thursday night vs. Alcorn State
Expected result: Easy win.
Positive: A terrific quarterback in Justin Thomas, a solid offensive line and renewed confidence surrounding the program after the Yellow Jackets won six of their final seven games last season, including upsets of Clemson, Georgia and Mississippi State and a narrow 37-35 defeat to undefeated Florida State.
Negative: Uncertain strength among their primary ball-carriers after the losses of their top four non-quarterback rushers from a year ago: Synjyn Days, Zach Laskey, Charles Perkins, Tony Zenon. Also, a still-undersized defensive front and a difficult schedule that includes No. 11 Notre Dame (road), No. 12 Clemson (road), No. 10 Florida State and No. 9 Georgia.
What I say will happen: They’ll win the ACC Coastal and have a rematch with Florida State for the conference championship (no prediction, yet).
Opener: Friday vs. Charlotte.
Expected result: Win.
Strengths: The Panthers actually have the realistic potential of five wins on the schedule: Charlotte, New Mexico State, Liberty, South Alabama, Troy. That’s not to suggest they’ll win five games. Or any games. But when you’re 1-23 since joining the Sun Belt and 2-33 in the last three years, you cling to any possibility. Also, they can throw it around a little with quarterback Nick Arbuckle.
Weaknesses: Everything else. Defense. Offensive line. Overall talent and depth Lack of fan support. Lack of financial support. Trent Miles inherited the in-box from hell but he needs to move the program forward this year.
What I think will happen: 3-8. That’s as far as I can push myself.
Opener: Thursday night at East Tennessee State.
Expected result: Actually, possibly a win. (It’s the first game for both programs.
Strengths/weaknesses: It’s the first game, so let’s not go there. But..
What I think will happen: There’s a lot to like with the way the school and coach Brian Bohannon are going about building this program, and having an on-campus stadium can only help in area of fan support. Even as a start-up, the Owls have at least two winnable games on the schedule (ETSU and Point, an NAIA opponent). So: Two wins.
Opener: Saturday night at West Virginia.
Expected result: Loss.
Strengths: The Eagles had no problems in their transition from FCS to FBS last season, winning the Sun Belt title in their first year. They were ineligible to go to a postseason game last year but not this season, so there’s clear motivation. As far as the team, stating the obvious: They can run the ball, and did so on 81 percent of their plays last season.
Weaknesses: The offensive line lost four starters and the secondary is weak. So if an opponent can get ahead with the passing game, it might be difficult for the Georgia Southern to play catchup.
What I think will happen: The Eagles may lose their first two games (West Virginia, Western Michigan) and late in the season to Georgia, but they should have no trouble winning the Sun Belt again.