Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

LIVE: Winston's exit could help Georgia

ATHENS -- Good morning. What a beautiful day for college football ... almost everywhere except Tallahassee.

In case you missed it, No. 1 ranked Florida State late Friday night suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for its entire game tonight against Clemson instead of just the first half for his profane goofball exclamation on campus the other day. It's noteworthy that the announcement was made by FSU's president and athletic director and not coach Jimbo Fisher, whose name wasn't even on the news release.

The decision to suspend Winston for the whole game was the right one, given his off-the-field resume, even if it came too late. The question is how this affects the Seminoles potentially in the playoff race. If FSU wins tonight, it will only strengthen perceptions about the team's strength. If the Seminoles lose, voters can go one of two ways: 1) Treat it as any loss, and therefore a downgrade; 2) Not use Winston's absence as an excuse.

I'm inclined to think it will be the latter. Even though Winston will be on the sideline with a suspension, top ranked teams often lose games because of injuries. There's no difference. Secondly, I'm not sure FSU, in general, or Winston, in particular, are going to elicit much sympathy, given events of the past several months (sexual assault charges and shoplifting crab legs, further fueling perceptions that the school has enabled Winston).

Which leads me to Georgia. Anything that hurts a team north of the Dogs in the rankings helps them. As much angst and anger that came out of last week's loss to South Carolina, I'm here to affirm that defeat will not determine their fate this season. Their second loss would be a different story. The Bulldogs can still win the SEC East, play for the conference championship and make it to the playoffs. But they just can't afford any hiccups.

Should Georgia have won the South Carolina game? Yes. But assuming the Dogs win today against Troy (safe assumption), and if they can sweep the four SEC games that follow again Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Arkansas, I still believe this season will come down to the Florida and Auburn games. That was the case even before this season began. The Gamecocks also have games remaining against Auburn, Florida, Missouri and Tennessee in the conference.

Expect Georgia to empty its bench against Troy once it gets a healthy lead, which it will. I also wouldn't be surprised to see defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt try different combinations in the secondary. This is a game where the Dogs can afford to experiment and still win, easily.

That's it for now. I'll be here live blogging so if you have any questions shoot 'em this way.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.