The Great Debate: Georgia vs. Alabama

Tyler Andrews (@TylerAndrews92)
Kyle Sandy (@KyleSandy355)


UGA Run vs. Bama D

A: I think we can both agree that the game will be won and lost in the trenches with the front sevens of each team trying to stop the opposing team’s running game. Nick Chubb is great and all, but has he faced a defense like Alabama’s? The answer is no. Sorry, but the Tide is a little better than Vanderbilt, who is the best team the Dawgs have played all season…seriously.

Alabama might not have the vaunted defense it once had, but it is still pretty darn good. Through four games this year the Crimson Tide has allowed just 56.8 yards per game on the ground – that’s a miniscule 2.0 yards per carry! Alabama hasn’t given up over 120 yards per game on the ground over a season since Nick Saban’s first year in 2007.

The best defense UGA faced last year was that of the lowly Florida Gators. As a team the Bulldogs rushed for 141 yards on 32 carries; that’s not going to cut it against Alabama. And do I need to remind Georgia fans of how that game turned out? Florida won 38-20 and gashed the pups’ defense for 418 yards with two slightly above average running backs. What is Derrick Henry and a healthy Kenyan Drake going to do?

G: When you think of SEC football you think of ground and pound offenses and hard-nosed defenses. This matchup displays power against power. Georgia has Nick Chubb who has managed to run for 100 yards in 12 straight games. He can beat you in physicality, speed, and even as a receiver. And don’t forget about the change of pace back in Sony Michel who may be Georgia’s most dangerous player on offense. Together they have combined for 822 rushing yards, 185 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in four games. The physicality of Georgia’s offensive line coupled with their two-headed monster in the backfield is something that cannot be stopped. A defense can only hope it can be maintained, especially when this isn’t one of Saban’s of old. And never forget about Keith Marshall.

 

Bama Run vs. UGA D

A: That “devastating” Bulldog defense people in Athens are trying to sell you on doesn’t even measure up to Bama. The Tide have played two ranked teams in current No. 19 Wisconsin and No. 3 Ole Miss. In those games the Badgers rushed for 40 yards on 21 carries while the Rebels gained 92 on 32 totes.

Georgia allowed 174 yards on 39 carries to South Carolina and even Vandy eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Henry rushed for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In his last healthy season in 2013, Drake gained 694 yards on 7.5 yards per carry. So far this season the duo has combined for 637 yards and nine scores. Last year UGA allowed 166.8 yards per game on the ground and heading into Saturday they have given up twice as much as Alabama has with 107.3. Good luck wrapping up the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry. By the way, last time these two teams met, in the 2012 SEC Championship, the Tide rolled for 350 yards rushing.

G: The days of Georgia having an underperforming defense are no longer thanks to the leadership of second-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Last year the team showed glimpses of greatness and this year has been all about sustaining that greatness. The Dawgs have given up only three rushing touchdowns all season and runners are averaging only 3.1 yards/attempt against a team that has had the opportunity to play a ton of second and third-string players in their blowout wins. On the opposing side, Alabama’s Derrick Henry is a great back. Henry is averaging 6.3 yards/carry and has eight rushing touchdowns. But, when Alabama faces a good defense like Georgia and they are in a third-and-long situation with a below-average quarterback, their running game cannot bail them out. I look for Georgia’s defense to set the tone early against the run and force Alabama to beat them through the air, which is something I don’t believe the Tide can do. I also expect a breakout game from middle linebacker Jake Ganus.

 

QB Comparison

A: With Alabama loading the box on defense, Greyson Lambert will be forced to beat the Tide. The bullets haven’t started flying against Lambert yet and he has never seen a defense quite like Alabama. He started 0-for-7 against Vanderbilt and was yanked for Brice Ramsey. The South Carolina game was an aberration, an outlier, a fluke. I have a sneaky suspicious the real Greyson Lambert who was a turnover machine at Virginia will rear his ugly head in this big game. Jake Coker has proven he can be competent against good competition, going 15-of-21 against Wisconsin for 213 yards and a touchdown. He threw for three touchdowns and ran in a score against Ole Miss, but was marred by two interceptions. The rumor on campus however was that Coker was running a 102 degree fever all day.

G: Both UGA and Alabama entered the season with quarterback questions. Since Week 2, the schools have gone in completely different directions. Alabama switched starting quarterbacks before their game against Ole Miss and it turned out to haunt them. Georgia questioned whether Greyson Lambert could lead them after two below-average performances. His 24-of-25, 330-yard performance against South Carolina erased that doubt. Not only would I give the edge to the quarterback that is hot right now in Lambert, but I also give the edge to the team that has their guy and not a circus with two cowboys.

 

History

A: They say history repeats itself. If that’s true, it’s not a good sign for Georgia. We all remember the SEC Championship and of course, how can we forget the “Blackout” gimmick UGA used in 2008? That one really worked well between the bushes. The Dawgs entered the half down 31-0 and limped to a 41-30 loss. Overall, Bama has taken the series 37-24-3. Since 1960, the Crimson Tide has gone 14-7 against UGA. Oh and by the way, Alabama has 15 National Championships to Georgia’s one.

G: Since 2008, the last time these two played in the regular season, their stories have been vastly different. Alabama has won three national titles and three SEC titles. Georgia has lost twice in the SEC title game and had a 6-7 season. The last time these two played in the 2012 SEC title game, Georgia came within four yards of winning and going to the National Championship. When they were blown out at home in 2008 in the blackout game it was much of the same misery felt by all Dawgs fans. But, that’s why I am confident in their task this weekend. Georgia is due for a big win. Georgia is due for a good performance against Alabama. A good team like Georgia who always recruits well and is always hovering in the top ten is due to finally breakthrough and play up to their potential against a big-time opponent.

 

Coaching Comparison

A: When it comes to the sidelines, I’ll take Nick Saban, his four national championships, Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart over Mark Richt’s goose egg in the cabinet, Brian Schottenheimer and Jeremy Pruitt. Just look at Richt’s debacle against Georgia Tech. He inexplicably pooch kicked with 18 seconds left up three. Then he left fans aghast with his decision to call a timeout with 4 seconds left and the play clock at 3 seconds when Georgia Tech was lining up for the tying kick. Instead of a 58-yarder, Harrison Butker attempted a 53-yarder and the rest is history.

G: It’s hard to say a coach that has won four titles is not as good as one that has yet to win one or even play for one as a head coach, but I am going to say that anyway. In his 15th season, Richt has already compiled 140 wins, a .745 winning percentage and nine 10-win seasons. He won a national title as offensive coordinator at Florida State. But, most importantly he is the ultimate players coach. His good deeds, devotion to faith, and loyalty to his players has to pay off some day. I see him as a Bowden or an Osborne who just takes longer to win that first title. Richt has proven that he is great and nobody can take that away from him.

Home Field Advantage?

 A: In terms of hitting the road against UGA, there isn’t much to worry about. Since ’07, Bama has nine wins on the road against ranked teams. Included in that is wins at Death Valley (LSU) three times, Sanford Stadium (UGA), Ole Miss, Arkansas, Beaver Stadium (Penn State), The Swamp (Florida) and Kyle Field (Texas A&M).

G: The wounds of 2008 are still fresh in the minds and hearts of UGA. Nobody in recent memory has done what Alabama did to the Dawgs on their home field. Not only is redemption on the minds of the UGA faithful, but their 35-year title drought is too. UGA is 74-15 at home under Richt and I would bet on that even facing a team like Alabama.

Prediction

A: 31-21
G: 38-28

*UPDATE*

Alabama won 38-10.
UGA QB’s combined to go 11-of-31 for 106 yards and 3 INTs.
Jake Coker: 11-of-16, 190 yards and 1 TD.
Derrick Henry: 26 carries 148 yards 1 TD (Long of 30).
Nick Chubb: 20 carries 146 yards 1 TD (Long of 83).

The SEC: More Of The Same

Two weeks ago the NCAA College Football AP Poll had an unprecedented 10 SEC schools in the Top 25. Fast forward two weeks later and only six remain. That was short lived.

That is how today’s society is with sports and topics beyond it. Everything is a knee jerk reaction put together to draw attention and gain ratings. I will stop you right here with this disclaimer: If you are an SEC fan, you probably won’t like this piece.

While everyone else will hold a party and blow smoke up each other trying to proclaim the SEC as the dominant conference it once was, once again, it is a level playing field in 2015. The once powerful conference has continued to regress towards the mean. The pollsters tried to throw 10 teams at the nation and hope it would stick to the wall like a spitball, but of course, it hasn’t stuck.

Auburn entered the season ranked No. 6 in the nation with a quarterback deemed the next Cam Newton – a Heisman Trophy winner, National Champion and No. 1 overall pick – in Jeremy Johnson, after he threw just 37 passes last season. Makes sense right? Anoint an unproven guy as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation because he plays at a major school. So how has the hype lived up? Try 473 yards passing on 59.7 percent completion to go along with a sparkling 5:6 touchdown to interception ratio while being sacked five times.

This is not your daddy’s SEC. The once formidable defenses have turned into mush. The steady quarterback play has deteriorated into arguably one of the worst out of the Power 5 conferences. Think about it. If anyone one of Ohio State’s trio of quarterbacks transferred to an SEC school, they would automatically become the best QB in the conference by head and shoulders above the rest. The wimpy little Big Ten that everyone picked on the past decade now has the reigning national champs and three quarterbacks better than anyone the SEC can put out. What a brave new world we are living in.

Defense? Anyone?

Speaking of the transfer quarterbacks how about Greyson Lambert? An unmitigated failure at Virginia who couldn’t beat out Matt Johns for the starting job, decides to transfer to Georgia to hand the ball off 40 times a game. This ACC reject, not good enough to play at lowly Virginia, comes in and sets an NCAA completion percentage record against South Carolina, going 24-of-25 for 330 yards and three scores.

So obviously the Ol’ Ball Coach must have been focused on stopping the run right? Make Lambert beat them through the air. UGA managed to run for 246 yards as well. So what’s this tell you? Is Lambert a Heisman Trophy hopeful now? In my opinion, it is just another damning instance of how far the SEC has fallen. Lambert couldn’t handle ACC defenses last year, but joining the weak SEC is the remedy that cures all. This is the same quarterback who produced a 20-for-40, 261-yard, two touchdowns and two interceptions stinker against a North Carolina team that gave up 39 points per game last year and ranked 119th out of 128 teams in defense. And please don’t get me started about last year’s UCLA game and how many times he threw interceptions in the red zone. Once the bullets start flying and the Dawgs play a competent defense, I think his stat line will look a little different.

Let’s look at No. 25 Missouri now. The Tigers beat Arkansas State 27-20, then UConn 9-6, but somehow they are still ranked and have only dropped one spot since the preseason polls came out. What about Arkansas and the trash talking Hogs led by Bret Bielema? He criticized Ohio State for not playing anybody. Maybe he should try worrying about his own team first? Losses to Toledo and Texas Tech have dropped the preseason No. 18 out of the rankings.

On Saturday Alabama got thumped by Ole Miss (who tried to give the game away) and dropped from No. 2 to 12. Seems harsh, but okay. Then Ole Miss jumps from No. 15 to No. 3 and has gotten 11 votes to be No. 1. Talk about a knee jerk reaction. Leaping to No. 5-7 would be warranted but hopping over Baylor and TCU? It’s a little much.

At the end of the day, ESPN and the “experts” out there have once again tried to sell you a bill of goods and a check they can’t cash. I encourage you all to not live by groupthink, but to come to conclusions on your own and realize, this is a whole new ball game.

The one SEC school that I do buy, is No. 8 LSU. If they can find consistent quarterback play, they could be the one team out of the SEC to make the Playoffs. Other than the Tigers, I think it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding the conference and that opposing teams, coaches, fans and analysts should start looking at the names on the back of the jerseys and not on the front.

(Photo by Brett Duke, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune)

What Football Means To Kennesaw State

The weather is starting to cool down, the air is beginning to get a little crisp. That can mean only one thing: College Football is here and more importantly, a new tradition will begin in Kennesaw, Ga.

Just eight days from now, Kennesaw State University will kick off its first ever football game. What a ride it has been to get here. Founded in October of 1963, the long arduous journey to blossom into something special and gain the respect of neighboring schools and nationally is finally starting to come to fruition.

Kennesaw State is no longer a joke. The ribs and jabs of calling it “High School 2.0” or “13th Grade” is over and has always been a fabricated over exaggeration. Students in the area complain about it being a small school, they whine that it is too close to home, they laugh about the athletics program not having a football team and they scoff at the idea of Kennesaw having a night life.

Sorry, but the worm has turned. Kennesaw State is not some nobody school in the middle of nowhere. It is less than an hour away from the internationally known metropolis of Atlanta. If the city is your thing, you are right there within arm’s reach. Heart of the city not your style? Don’t worry, you still have that hour cushion and don’t have to mess with driving through downtown.

“The school is too small.” KSU is closing in on 33,000 students. That’s right. I didn’t add an extra 3. Kennesaw is knocking on the door of becoming the LARGEST school in the state of Georgia and with football coming, possibly a revitalized basketball program with a former NATIONAL COACH OF THE YEAR and an expanding campus, the sky is the limit for the unknown gem of the south which features a beautiful campus.

And yes, I might have mentioned, Kennesaw State will be fielding a football team. The memories that will be made here will be countless and the students and alumni will be visiting Fifth Third Bank Stadium in droves. Myself, a May 2015 graduate, will just have missed out on all the fun. Will I be able to attend some games? Who knows. A busy work schedule which often leaks into the weekend will most likely prevent me from going to games and also the growing distance between myself and friends in the area will play a factor.

But for those who live in the area or go to school still, this is a golden era of Kennesaw State. Every time I drive past campus, there are new buildings being constructed and new projects in the works. New exits are being built to bring you directly into the heart of Kennesaw. Who would have thought that 20 years ago?

The growth of KSU is constant

The growth of KSU is constant

Football brings a feeling of hope and optimism in the air. Major sports can do that. Sports are not just players lining up playing a game. They are student-athletes doing something they have strived to do for years and realizing the achievement of playing college ball, a goal they have had since they were three and four years old, is something they can never have taken away from them.

Sports bring people, cultures and communities together. It is a rallying point. In war torn countries, groups visit and bring soccer balls or footballs or anything with them to get the youth and even adults involved. It is an escape from the real world which sometimes can be scary. All this competition and involvement helps keep kids off the streets and gives them something to look forward to. Sports can heal and sports can advance.

As Kennesaw State ushers in this new era, think about the big picture. Don’t count wins and losses the first year. This is a program under strong and passionate leadership of Brian Bohannon. He understands what this is. This is not just football and recording wins and stats, this is a process of building men and building everyone involved with the program.

It is a chance to connect with the community and raise morale. The baseball team did this two years ago, but it was too late in the season and the fan base wasn’t aware of the chance to jump onto the bandwagon. It was short-lived, making it to the College World Series, but again, it is sports bringing the community together to rally behind something.

With football on the horizon, the area will continue to grow. Tailgating on Saturday mornings and a sense of pride will run rampant in Kennesaw. No longer will students have to wear garb of other schools. No more wasted trips to Athens, no more bandwagon hopping of whoever the No. 1 team in the nation is. This area will now have a team they can call their own, through thick and thin. The football program has people excited and ready to buy into what this school can now sell.

For those still in college, cherish the moments that are soon forgotten and overlooked. That random Saturday day game vs. Point University may not seem significant at the time, but the excitement, preparation, trials and tribulations of getting ready to go to a game in Kennesaw’s inaugural season is something you can tell your kids forever. The importance of living in the moment is something we lose as a society. Heads buried in phones, noses stuck in social media in a rat race to get the most likes; sometimes it really is better to stop and smell the roses and take life day-by-day and try not to take for granted all the little things in life.

A beautiful campus, a top ranked cafeteria in the Commons, a continually growing Greek Life system, an athletics program that finally looks to be on the right track, this looks like the perfect time to buy stock in Kennesaw State and see what happens. These next five years will be crucial for the development of Kennesaw, but the sky is the limit for this once over looked University.

The Curious Case of Krysten Hammon

Coach Trent Miles and staff thought they had a winner last season. Krysten Hammon, a Dickinson, Texas, product looked to be the running back of the future for the Panthers. The freshman ran for 74 yards on 13 carries in a 38-37 win over Abilene Christian in week one and followed it up with a 123-yard, two-touchdown game against New Mexico State. It seemed like quarterback Nick Arbuckle would have a reliable running game to balance his passing attack. Wrong. Hammon would get dismissed from the team, but still his total of 197 yards would rank him as Georgia State’s third-leading rusher in 2014, highlighting the fact that in his absence the Panthers could not move the ball on the ground.

Hammon was suspended at first, but then was granted his release from his scholarship as he tried to transfer. Eventually Hammon enrolled at Blinn Community College and then at Kansas, but he only took one one-hour class and paid his way. According to Doug Roberson of the AJC, “Despite his absence, he was frequently in contact with coach Trent Miles. Miles had steadfastly refused to allow him to return until a few days ago when he was meeting with everyone involved with the program.”2937150

This was August 5 when Hammon apparently re-joined the team. Just three days later, the reunion ended as quickly and as out-of-the-blue as it occurred. Less than a week into camp, the coaching staff had had enough. “We tried to give Krysten a second chance, but he did not live up to the standards necessary to be a part of our program,” Miles said. “We wish him the best.”

So what is next for Hammon? Clearly he is a talented back but cannot seem to see eye-to-eye with coaches. Even though there is depth at running back, quality always trumps quantity and the Panthers have just lost their best running back yet again.

Hopefully Hammon can find peace at his next stop if he so chooses to continue to play football. College is a time for growing and understanding who one really is. Right now Hammon’s reputation is being called into question for his struggles to stick with a school. It will be interesting to see where this mercurial talent resurfaces and when.

Sandy’s Spiel’s NCAA Football Preseason Top 25

Preseason Top 25

  1. TCU (12-1)
  2. Ohio State (14-1)
  3. USC (9-4)
  4. Oregon (13-2)
  5. Baylor (11-2)
  6. Alabama (12-2)
  7. Florida State (13-1)
  8. LSU (8-5)
  9. Stanford (8-5)
  10. Michigan State (11-2)
  11. Auburn (8-5)
  12. Wisconsin (11-3)
  13. Georgia (10-3)
  14. Oklahoma (8-5)
  15. Ole Miss (9-4)
  16. UCLA (10-3)
  17. Clemson (10-3)
  18. Virginia Tech (7-6)
  19. Notre Dame (8-5)
  20. Utah (9-4)
  21. Oklahoma State (7-6)
  22. Georgia Tech (11-3)
  23. Miami (FL) (6-7)
  24. Boise State (12-2)
  25. Louisville (9-4)

NCAAFB: Take The SEC or Take The Field?

The 2015 college football season begins in a month and the USA Today Coaches Poll has come out with a Top-Five of: 1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Alabama, 4. Baylor, 5. Oregon. In total there are eight SEC schools in the Top 25, six Pac-12 schools and three apiece from the Big Ten, Big 12 and ACC.

So who is the best conference? Do you pick a team from the SEC or do you take the field? Last season’s implementation of the College Football Playoff was a great success and left controversy on who should be the final team in. Ohio State stunned Alabama with its third-string quarterback and then thumped Oregon in the title game 42-20.

Late last season marked a shift of power from the once mighty SEC to the rest of the nation. The ‘Bucks stunned the Tide, but at least it was a close game, 42-35. Georgia Tech from the SEC’s “little brother” conference the ACC, stomped Mississippi State 49-34 in the Orange Bowl on New Years Eve. The Peach Bowl was even more embarrassing with TCU humiliating Ole Miss 42-3. Elsewhere, Florida squeeked past East Carolina 28-20, LSU fell to Notre Dame 31-28 and Wisconsin edged Auburn in overtime 34-31. The SEC did pick up wins in the lesser bowls, but the conference’s marquee programs struggling with teams from perceivably “weaker” conferences was eye opening.

So here we are, 2015, in a brave new world with an even playing field. Once again SEC teams load the polls, but who will be the top dog when it’s all said an done? Alabama is always a favorite and opens up at No. 3. Gone is Amari Cooper, gone is T.J. Yeldon, gone is Blake Sims, gone is Landon Collins, the list goes on and on. Last season Alabama had a one-dimensional passing game. Every single target was going to Cooper. Now that he is gone, will it open up more of the offense and also allow the Tide to run the ball more with Derrick Henry as the lead back? Time will tell. Alabama goes into the season with an inexperienced quarterback; a problem many SEC teams will have yet again this year.

Auburn enters at No. 7 in the polls but also has question marks under center. Jeremy Johnson threw just 37 passes last season but already is being compared to Cam Newton. Leading rusher Cameron Artis-Payne is gone after a 1,608 yard season and the top returning rusher is wide receiver Ricardo Louis who gained 226 yards on the ground. Jovon Robinson steps in as the lead back after being ruled ineligible coming out of Junior College last season. In 2013 at Georgia Military College, the current day junior ran for a NJCAA single-season record 2,387 yards. If Johnson can get a grip of the offense at quarterback and Robinson can stay on the field, Auburn has a chance to make a playoff push.

My first pretender out of the top five SEC schools is Georgia who ranks No. 9. Year-in and year-out the Bulldogs enter the season overrated and are nothing more than a second tier team in the SEC. No quarterback and a one-dimensional offense will sink the Dawgs again. Either Brice Ramsey or Greyson Lambert will start at quarterback. Ramsey threw 39 passes last season as coach Richt and staff refused to get the potential future of the team some much needed snaps in blow out games last year. Greyson Lambert joins the program after starting at Virginia in 2014. Picturing the former Wayne County star in the SEC is a scary thought. Lambert routinely made bad decisions with the Cavs and was a turnover machine. Multiple games he would split time with Matt Johns under center and failed to make a convincing statement that he was the true QB1. He threw 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and failed to make easy throws. If he starts for UGA, expect the Bulldogs’ running backs to have to carry the load 45-60 times a game. It doesn’t matter how good Nick Chubb is, if the quarterback can’t alleviate pressure on the run game and keep defenses honest, eight men in the box will be zoned in on No. 27 every play.

LSU at No. 13 is primed to emerge from the SEC if Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings can put together a consistent season at quarterback. Nine offensive starters return including sophomore Leonard Fournette, who ran for 1,034 yards and 10 scores his freshman campaign. All of coach Les Miles’ top receivers return and enough is back on defense to be another Top-10 unit.

The mercurial play of Bo Wallace will not be an issue for No. 15 Ole Miss, but they still will be inserting an inexperienced SEC quarterback with whoever gets the job. JUCO-transfer Chad Kelly should have the inside track on the job after throwing for 3,906 yards and 47 touchdowns last season. The defense will carry the Rebels this year as they search for their first double-digit win season in 12 years.

So with all that said, the SEC should be a lock to have a team win the National Championship, right? Sadly, I have to go against the grain in the south and pick against the beloved conference yet again.

Defending champ Ohio State returns all three quarterbacks with Braxton Miller making the switch to wide receiver. Coach Urban Meyer has been drooling about Miller’s athleticism and will surely find a way for the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year to make a massive impact outside. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones both continue to battle for the starting job, giving Ohio State an embarrassment of riches and three guys (including Miller) that would instantly become the best quarterback in the SEC if they had transferred.  Ezekiel Elliot burst onto the scene after rushing for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore and will continue to terrorize defenses. If the Buckeyes can survive an early suspension of First-Team All-American defensive end Joey Bosa (13.5 sacks) and others during their rematch with Virginia Tech in the first game of the season, Ohio State could easily roll to another College Football Playoff.

My personal No. 1 ranked team, who slides in at No. 2 in the Coaches Poll is TCU. A whopping 10 offensive starters return to a Horned Frogs offense that averaged 46.5 points per game in 2014 — second-best in the entire nation only to Baylor who stunned the Frogs and kept them out of the Playoffs with a 61-58 victory. Trevone Boykin enters his senior season as a Heisman front-runner. He threw for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns while gaining 707 yards and eight scores on the ground. Josh Doctson is Boykin’s favorite target after snagging 1,018 yards worth of passes and 11 touchdowns. Senior back Aaron Green also returns to the backfield after gaining 922 yards and nine scores on a 7.1 yard per carry average. The defense takes a hit with the loss of Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallet but the Horned Frogs still have free safety Derrick Kindred (80 tkls, 4 ints) and defensive end James McFarland (7 sacks) and are reloaded for another run. Last year’s Playoff picture and results could have been very different if TCU has somehow snuck in.

Nov. 27 will decide the Big 12 and will determine who makes the College Playoff with No. 4 Baylor visiting TCU. Seth Russell is the favorite to replace Bryce Petty at quarterback. Petty is a massive blow, but nine starters return on both offense and defense. Shock Linwood ran for 1,252 yards and 16 scores as a sophomore and will be asked to carry the load again while Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon seek back-to-back 1,000-plus yards receiving. The defense will be anchored by the massive Shawn Oakman, who stands 6-foot-9, 280 pounds. Oakman will continue his meteoric rise up draft boards after collecting 11 sacks last season.

Two teams I am high on come out of the Pac-12 and will likely knock one of themselves out of contention on Nov. 21. USC ranks No. 10 and Oregon slots in at No. 5, although I place USC at No. 3 and Oregon at No. 4. The sanctions have lifted off of USC and the program finally looks ready to not disappoint. Seven starters return on both offense and defense led by Cody Kessler. The senior threw for 3,826 yards, 39 touchdowns and just five picks as a junior. He will have new running back behind him in Justin Davis and plenty of new faces at receiver after the loss of Nelson Agholor, but Kessler is good enough to make inexperienced players around him better. The defense will need to hold up its end of the bargain after allowing 25.2 points per game last season. Leonard Williams is gone from the defensive line, but Rasheem Green is a highly touted prospect and Iman Marshall is one of the best defensive backs in this year’s class.

Both the Trojans and the Oregon Ducks will need to survive Stanford who is ready to compete for the Pac-12 Title again. Oregon loses 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota but Vernon Adams has been a star for years with FCS Eastern Washington and has mind boggling totals of 8,477 yards passing and 90 touchdowns over his past two seasons. Head coach Mark Helfrich has refused to speak about the transfer recently though, as apparently he has yet to officially enroll. If that is the case, it will be a huge blow for the Ducks and Jeff Lockie will be pegged as the starter. Oregon’s top five receivers return as well as running back Royce Freeman, so weapons will be aplenty for whoever takes over.

With a rundown of all the top teams in the nation in my opinion, I feel like the balance of power and the playing field has become level and no longer shifts in the favor of the SEC. I like TCU going into the season and the quarterback concerns with every single SEC school will come back to haunt them once they play the best-of-the-best from other power conferences. It’s tough to accept in the south, but there has been a changing of the guard and the race for the National Championship is wide open with the roads most likely running through the Big 12 and the Big Ten, no longer the SEC.

Who’s The King Of The South?: A State Of Georgia NCAA Football Preview

The state of Georgia remains in flux regarding who really is the team to beat. In total there are four FBS schools in the peach state: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.  Both UGA and Tech are established programs with rich histories and a national title to their name. Georgia Southern just completed its first year as an FBS program after dominating the FCS and winning six national championships. After three seasons in the FCS, Georgia State joined the big boys in 2013 and has struggled mightily compiling a 1-23 record. The Panthers didn’t have much success in the FCS either, finishing just 10-23.

Georgia Tech won the state championship last year with wins over hated rival Georgia and a nail-biter over upstart Georgia Southern, but will the guard shift back over in favor of Georgia, or will Georgia Tech once again remain atop of the state? Or maybe Georgia Southern, who is now bowl eligible, will steal the show.

Georgia State Panthers

Georgia State (1-11) will likely suffer through another rough season. In 2014 they snagged an exciting 38-37 season opening win against Abilene Christian, an FCS school, but lost 11 straight to end the season and still search for their first win ever against an FBS school. The Panthers rely on gun-slinger Nick Arbuckle who threw for 3,283 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. Arbuckle is back for his senior season and already holds multiple school passing records. Wide receivers Donovan Harden and Robert Davis will remain top targets outside. Harden caught 60 balls for 885 yards and seven scores last year and is a pre-season All-Conference First Team selection. The running game suffered after freshman Krysten Hammon was dismissed from the team early in the season and led to a rushing attack that averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. Joel Ruiz was recently ranked as a top five tight end prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft and will be a bright spot on the team.

Georgia Southern Eagles

Georgia Southern (9-3) rolled in their first season in the Sun Belt, winning nine games but were unable to make it to a bowl since it was their first season. The Eagles finished a perfect 8-0 in conference and have established themselves as the team to beat in their new home. Southern easily could have finished 11-1, but late game letdowns led them to a 24-23 season opening loss at North Carolina State and a 42-38 loss at Georgia Tech in a thriller. Quarterback Kevin Ellison returns to run the triple option under center and orchestrates the nation’s No. 1 rushing attack which averaged 381.1 yards per game – 39 more than Georgia Tech. Ellison and running back Matt Breida both rushed for over 1,000 yards and breakoff big plays regularly. The defense will be the deciding factor while playing out of conference teams. The Eagles will be able to outscore all their Sun Belt opponents but once they play the likes of West Virginia and Georgia, their defense will need to hold the powerful athletes of the Big 12 and SEC. Eight defensive starters return including four players who racked up three sacks apiece in 2014.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech stunned and stung opponents en route to an 11-3 season and a blowout Orange Bowl victory over Mississippi State on New Year’s Eve, 49-34. Quarterback Justin Thomas was masterful running the triple option but he will now be without backs Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days. Also departed are wide receivers DeAndre Smelter and Darren Waller. The Jackets will need to find a way to replace their stable of veteran backs and also find big play wide receivers. Juniors Marcus Allen and Dennis Andrews should get a bulk of the carries while senior Broderick Snoddy returns with the most experience after a gruesome leg injury a year ago. Sophomore Ricky Jeune may be the next in a long line of big receivers to make an impact out wide. At 6-foot-3, 214 pounds he has size similar to those who have starred at the position before him. Defensively, eight crucial starters return. Leading tackler PJ Davis is back at linebacker after a 119 tackle campaign his sophomore season. KeShun Freeman brings back his 4.5 sacks that led the team a year ago at defensive end and should see even more success after his Freshman All-American season.

Georgia Bulldogs

UGA (10-3) won 10 games last season but lost in overtime to Georgia Tech, 30-24. Nick Chubb returns and will carry the ball as much as possible. Chubb exploded onto the scene with a 1,547 yard season in the absence of Todd Gurley. Georgia will remain one dimensional on offense unless a quarterback steps up. If one doesn’t the Dawgs will fail to win the SEC East yet again. Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta have all battled for the job. Hutson Mason was a game manager last year and the Dawgs likely won’t have strong quarterback play again. Lambert was prone to head scratching mistakes at UVA and now will face SEC defenses that cause major concerns. Ramsey is the favorite to start and has the most upside but his mettle has yet to be tested. UGA will be without last year’s top two tacklers but have a talented linebacking corps and the nation’s top ranked player in Trent Thompson coming in to anchor the defensive line. Lorenzo Carter, UAB transfer Jake Ganus and Leonard Floyd highlight the linebacker position. Junior Tim Kimbrough is expected to see a lot of time and the talented true freshman Roquan Smith will likely get a shot as well.

What Does The Future Hold?

It will be interesting to see what happens this season. The Dawgs always come in as the prohibitive favorite, but they will be tested in back-to-back games to end the season, hosting Georgia Southern and then visiting Atlanta for a rematch. Much like they did with Tech, don’t be surprised if the Eagles push the Dawgs to the brink with their offensive onslaught. Georgia allowed 399 rushing yards to the Jackets in last year’s defeat and will need to find a way to stop the bleeding this year when they face the two best running teams in the nation. If UGA is able to survive it would surely benefit them as they face the Jackets’ triple option the following week.

It will be a three team race for the battle of state supremacy. There will always be bad blood when Georgia Tech plays Georgia. The Eagles want to start a rivalry with both big schools and not be viewed as a little brother or a non-factor in the state and last season’s game with Tech was a good starting point. If Southern can continue its ascension into elite status in the Sun Belt, they very well could blossom into a BCS buster much like Boise State and Northern Illinois in the past. If that happens, the shift of power in Georgia could greatly change if the Eagles are competitive with both the Jackets and Dawgs. Expect the last weeks of November to be can’t miss action in the state of Georgia and an interesting turning point for the future of football in the south.