Gator Bait

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Dan Mullen has led the Florida football program back into the spotlight.

Mullen coached UF to a 10-3 record in 2018 and a drilling of Michigan in a bowl game. The Gators have 8 starters returning on defense led by C. J. Henderson, who is the best defensive back in college football. This defense can get after the QB.

The Gators are loaded at WR maybe only second to Alabama in the SEC. Depth is a huge concern on the offensive line where UF cannot afford any injuries.

QB Feleipe Franks is the straw that will stir the Gators drink on offense in 2019. Could Franks end up being the best dual threat QB in the SEC this fall, or will he struggle in the big games like he has against UGA over the past two seasons?

Florida schedule and my predictions:

Aug. 24 vs. Miami: The U isn’t ready for UF this season.

This game is being played in Orlando and Gator Nation will take the place over. When you see how many Gator fans arrive in Orlando, you’ll understand why UCF is hiding from the Gators.

Miami looks to be starting a freshman at QB and C. J. Henderson and company will be salivating at the thought of that.

Miami gets pretty much dominated in this one and the Gators roll to a 34-13 whipping of the Canes.

Sept. 7 vs. UT Martin: UT Martin wilts quickly in the Florida heat. UF rolls 55-10

Sept. 14 at Kentucky: An angry bunch of Gators take a business trip to Lexington and get revenge on a Kentucky team that ended the streak last year in Gainesville.

UF starts another long winning streak against Kentucky and wins this contest 34-17. Gators go to 3-0 on the season and move into the top 6 teams in the country.

Sept. 21 vs. Tennessee: Tennessee gets drilled in Gainesville. The Vols won’t be able to block that Gator defensive front and fall by three TD’s. Let’s say 34-10. The Swamp is never too kind to Tennessee. Gators go to 4-0.

Sept. 28 vs. Towson: Who the hell scheduled this game? Florida 62-3. Gators roll to 5-0.

Oct. 5 vs. Auburn: Are the Gators ready for the spotlight yet? LSU looming and with an Auburn team fighting to keep Gus employed.

The history books show that Auburn has had some success in the Swamp even during the Spurrier years. This one will be a tough contest and Florida wins with a late field goal. 27-24 to go to 6-0 on the season.

Oct. 12 at LSU: The entire nation will be tuned into this one as two top five teams meet in Death Valley. LSU will be a 10-12 win team in 2019. I think the Cajuns eat Gator tail before, during, and after this contest. Florida falls in a tough environment 28-21 to fall to 6-1 on the season.

Oct. 19 at South Carolina: Will there be an LSU hangover? There will be for a half and then some way the Gators rise from the ashes and make a fourth quarter comeback and beat Carolina in Columbia 28-24 t go to 7-1 and set up the game of their season.

Nov. 2 vs. Georgia: The Cocktail Party in Jacksonville is always a great setting for rivals that absolutely hate each other.

Florida has pointed to this game all talking season. Brenton Cox entered the transfer portal and landed at UF after leaving UGA about two weeks ago.

The Gators are raving about the things Cox is doing in practice elevating him to rock star status in Gainesville. In their excitement they are overlooking the fact that Cox fell to third string at his position on the depth chart in Athens before he jumped into the portal.

Florida falls to a UGA team that is more talented and has a better game manager at QB 38-24. Gators fall to 7-2 on the season.

Nov. 9 vs. Vanderbilt: Vandy gets drilled 41-17 in Gainesville. Gators go to 8-2.

Nov. 16 at Missouri: A month ago I picked Mizzou in this game. The closer the season gets I know Mizzou can’t out athlete Florida.

Florida finds a way to win this game the secure a spot in a NY6 Bowl. Florida goes to 9-2 with a 35-30 win.

Nov. 30 vs. Florida State: The Willie T era comes to an end for FSU in The Swamp. Florida gets to 10 wins with a statement 45-17 win over FSU to go to 10-2 on the season.

Florida is back to being Florida again.

Eagles To Soar In 2019?

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia Southern offered one of the best turnaround stories in recent history last season as the Eagles rebounded from a program-worst 2-10 mark in 2017 to go 10-3 last fall, capped by a walk-off victory in the Camellia Bowl.

It was one thing to regain success. Now it’s time to see if the Eagles can retain success.

One thing they certainly have retained is plenty of talent. That begins with quarterback Shai Werts, who returns for his third season as Georgia Southern’s starter in its unique option attack.

Werts made national headlines to begin August when he was arrested for possession of cocaine, but the charges were quickly dropped and Werts – as well as the rest of his team – is eager to focus only on football moving forward.

Werts lost a pair of running backs to graduation, but new projected starters Logan Wright and Matt LaRoache saw plenty of quality action last season.

Also returning is junior Wesley Kennedy III. Kennedy has been a playmaking threat since his true freshman season and will be the most versatile weapon at Werts’ disposal as he can run, catch and block from the backfield or lined up out wide.

Perhaps the most important bit of continuity for the offense comes in the press box. Offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse returns for his second year in Statesboro, making this the first season since 2015 where the Eagle offense retains a play-caller from one season to the next.

DeBesse has shown the ability to build an intricate and effective playbook at his previous stops, so with plenty of returning talent and another year’s worth of familiarity with the offense, there are high hopes that the Eagle offense will go from being merely good last season to dynamic and explosive in 2019.

The offense usually grabs all the headlines in Statesboro, but this fall could feature one of the better Georgia Southern defenses in program history.

The Eagles lost key players at every level to graduation, but – much like with their running back situation – there seems to be no shortage of players filling up the depth chart that have plenty of game experience already on their resumes.

Raymond Johnson III and Ty Phillips adjusted nicely to the switch to a 3-4 front last year and will line up at end and nose tackle, respectively, again this year.

Rashad Byrd came on strong in one of the pivotal middle linebacker spots last season and will now be joined by Furman transfer Reynard Ellis, who frequently looked like the best linebacker on the roster while participating on last year’s scout team.

Georgia Southern is replacing a pair of safeties, but there is again plenty of experience to draw from as Kenderick Duncan and Darrell Baker Jr. have both started games and will be joined by two-season Savannah State starter Donald Rutledge who joined the Eagles as a grad transfer.

The corners will be patrolled by the best 1-2 punch in the Sun Belt – and maybe in the country – as seniors Monquavian Brinson and Kindle Vildor have spent the preseason racking up honors. Both are seen as potential NFL draft targets.

A brutal schedule features road trips to LSU, Minnesota, Appalachian State and Troy, but there is no doubting that the Eagles have the talent and coaching infrastructure in place to prove that 2018 was no fluke.

While the Eagles are predicted to finish third in the Sun Belt East behind Appalachian and Troy – the same result as last season – both of those rivals are dealing with overhauled coaching staffs and the Eagles will be waiting in the wings to seize any chance to get back to the top of the standings.

Growing Gator

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

One college football coach who can mold quarterbacks is Dan Mullen.

At Utah, he created a first overall pick as the quarterback coach. During his time at Florida as the offensive coordinator, he developed two National Championship leaders & one of the two won a Heisman Trophy.

As head coach at Mississippi State, he coached a future NFL Rookie of the Year and a Heisman contender. Mullen has coached big names like Alex Smith, Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, and Dak Prescott. Is Feleipe Franks the next big name?

In 2017 Feleipe Franks was absolutely horrible. In 2018 quarterback whisperer coach Dan Mullen started working his magic with Franks.

Franks played in all 13 games in 2018, he completed 58% of his passes for 2457 yards, 24 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He also rushed for 350 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Franks was less effective in every area when the Florida Gators lost in 2018, and he struggled throwing the ball downfield. Franks completed 24% of his passes 10-19 yards and 15.4% of his passes 20 plus yards.

That’s the bad, here’s the good. In Franks last three games against FBS opponents (South Carolina, Florida State, & Michigan), Franks completed 62% of his throws for 5 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. He also rushed for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns.

With the Gators first game less than 14 days away, Florida fans want to know which Feleipe Franks is going to show up this season.

The schedule sets up such that Franks will get some early tests in the first month, with Miami, Kentucky and Tennessee. Florida fans will know which Franks showed up by the end of September.

Franks was a media darling in Hoover, Alabama at the SEC media day. He showed a combination of maturation, realization, and standardization. Franks is finally seeing his performance reach the level of his work ethic.

Running back Lamical Perine said,” He’s probably one of the hardest workers on the team.  When we have stadium runs, he’s the first one to finish. He’s strong in the weight room. He does a lot of talking. That’s good. That’s usual for a competitive player like him.” If you have ever been in a locker room, you know the importance of your teammates believing in you.

The questions on most Gator fans minds is: can Franks improve those last three games and can he maintain that level of performance in 2019? I think YES!

Dan Mullen’s play calling and Florida’s ability to run the football are two reasons Franks will keep improving. Add to that mix the wide receiver position, there is a lot of talent on the roster, arguably the best in about a decade.

In less than a year Dan Mullen has turned Florida Football’s offense into a productive group. Mullen certainly opened up the playbook’s variation last year. No one can call Mullen’s play calling predictable.

Flashback to November 10, 2018, Franks hushes Gators Fans during comeback win. This was the day that Franks sent a message to a home crowd that booed him earlier. Trailing 31-14 late in the 3rd quarter, Franks became a willing runner, diving across the goal line on fourth down inside the one-yard line to put the Gators ahead for good.

I think this example best describes Felipe Franks as a Florida Gator, a quarterback strong enough to mend a rough start into a smooth finish, and with Mullen’s help, Franks is on his way to being another star QB Mullen can add to his resumé.

Rolling Tide

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Alabama has been the gold standard in college football for almost a century. The Crimson Tide won their first national championship in 1925 and they have more than any other program (17). They also have the best coach in the sport, Nick Saban.

Since showing up in Tuscaloosa, back in 2007 he transformed them into the best program of the past decade. They are the bullies of the SEC and outside of their own fan base most fans have grown tired of them.

They had another undefeated season and made it to the national championship game again. They play Clemson almost every year in the CFP but this time the result was shocking. They were blown out 44-16. This was the worst loss of Saban’s career since he’s been at Alabama.

Bama is led by Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa. He started the season off great but he started getting injured late. His play slipped, possibly because of this or maybe defenses started to adjust to him. He passed for 3,966 yards, 43 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

They normally are loaded at running back but they have a big hole to fill this season. They lost senior Damien Harris and junior Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was drafted in the first round, the 24th overall pick.

The Tide reload every season and they have the top ranked running back in last year’s recruiting class, Trey Sanders. The five-star back suffered a serious foot injury last week and he’s out indefinitely.

The schedule works in their favor. The season starts on the last day of August, a neutral site game against Duke. The game is in Atlanta and this will be an easy blow out win.

This is the first home game against New Mexico State. The Aggies are completely overmatched. The Crimson Tide should score no less than 50 points in this win.

Alabama travels to Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks are an average team so this will be another easy game.

They return home to face Southern Miss. Bama should score 40-plus points and the starters should be able to sit on the bench in the second half.

Ole Miss comes to Tuscaloosa. The Rebels are on probation for three years. They recruited well under Hugh Freeze but that has come to an end.

The talented players from those teams transferred last year. They are a shell of themselves and don’t stand a chance.

Alabama is taking a trip to College Station. Texas A&M has not beaten the Tide since they first joined the SEC in 2012. This is a very one-sided series and that won’t change. This is a very tough environment to play in though.

Tennessee has the worst luck in the SEC. They are the team in the East that has to play Alabama every year. They’ll get demolished yet again.

Arkansas is a bottom dweller in the West. Bama will beat them by at least three touchdowns.

This is the toughest game of the year, home against LSU. Last season The Tigers lost 29-0. I think they put up a better fight but still lose by double digits.

Mississippi State has developed into a solid program over the last decade. They do not have the talent to beat the Tide though.

This is the tune up before the season finale versus FCS Western Carolina. This is another blowout victory.

The season ends at Auburn. The Tigers have so many question marks that I don’t see them being able to compete.

I expect them to finish the regular season undefeated and get back to the CFP.

War Chant

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

1976. Jimmy Carter was elected President, the first Rocky movie was released, and Apple Computer Company was officially formed.

It was also the last time the Florida State Seminoles football program experienced a losing season, until this past year.

Florida State’s decline wasn’t an obvious inevitability, staring you right in the face, but it’s not like there weren’t signs.

Entering last season, the Seminoles’ previous three seasons had all been worse, in one form or another, that one before.

It all culminated in a 2017 season that saw a program, only a few years removed from a national title, forced to play a make-up game against an inferior opponent just to make it to .500, while also losing their head coach to another program; neither of which Florida State was used to.

Obviously last year wasn’t any better, not only from a record standpoint (5-7), but from a competitive one, as well. Their average margin of victory in their five wins was 10.8 points; normally not something to scoff at until you realize none of those victories were against a team that finished the season in the Top 25.

Plus, their average margin of defeat in those seven losses, two of which were to their in-state rivals, was 24.14 points.

At this point I’m sure you’re thinking “I get it, last season was disaster. But, what about this year?” So, what about this season? Well, on paper, it certainly looks like there should be significant improvement.

With Deondre Francois gone, the QB job is James Blackman’s to lose.  Considering the lack of support he received from the offensive line last year, Blackman did well in a role he was somewhat thrusted in to.

There is plenty of talent in the backfield and at the wideout position, the main question on the offensive side of the ball is the offensive line.

Can the line run block well enough to get Cam Akers a few lanes to run through and can they be just competent enough pass blocking to allow Blackman to utilize those weapons on the outside.

Regardless of your opinion on Willie Taggart bringing in Kendal Briles to run his offense, there should be a vast improvement.

On the defensive side it’s more a good news, bad news situation. The good news is they bring 8 starters from last year’s team. The bad news is the defense thought they were playing in the Big 12 conference, or at least they allowed the opposing offense to score like they were.

Does experience help if it wasn’t very good to begin with? With the potential Florida State has on the offensive side of the ball the defense doesn’t have to be reminiscent of years past, but they do have to at least be middle of the road.

The bottom line for the Florida State faithful is that after two of the worst seasons they’ve gone through in roughly 40 years they should start to see the roller coaster begin its ascent back up the tracks.

Their schedule still has a few too many question marks to expect them to win more than seven or eight games, but fans should see the foundation being laid. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind another 42-year streak.

The Big Dawgs

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

UGA is loaded in 2019. Kirby Smart is a recruiting machine.

Smart enters the 2019 season with an overall record of 32-10.

UGA won the SEC in 2017 but lost the National Championship game to Alabama and lost the SEC Title game to Alabama in 2018.

Jake Fromm leads the offense; JR Reed and Monty Rice will lead a faster more athletic defense in 2019. Andrew Thomas will lead the best offensive lineman in the country.  The Swift/Herrien/White/Cook running back rotation will beat teams to a pulp.

Georgia’s talent across the board is well documented. This team should contend for a National Title this season and next season if Jake Fromm returns.

My game by game predictions:

Aug. 31: at Vanderbilt: Season and SEC opener at night in the Music City.

Vandy will be sky high and UGA has not always played so well in Nashville. Jake Fromm and a solid run game will spell doom for the Dores as UGA takes care of Vandy 38-13. George Pickens starts making a name for himself at Wide Receiver.

Sept. 7: MURRAY STATE: UGA drills Murray State 52-7.

Fromm and company will be discussing which band to go listen to downtown after the game midway through the second quarter.

Sept. 14: ARKANSAS STATE: Tougher than expected for a half then UGA pulls away in the third quarter and wins 45-14.

Sept. 21: NOTRE DAME: Athens, Georgia will be the center of the college football universe on 9/21. The Irish roll in and it will not be a cakewalk like most UGA fans expect.

This one will be a war. Zamir White has his coming out party as UGA eats up yards and clock to put ND away 27-17.

If UGA wears the black jerseys, then put the Dawgs on upset alert right now.

Oct. 5: at Tennessee: UT is still two recruiting classes away. Dawgs win in Knoxville 38-17, and UGA takes the lead in the series for the first time in 30 years.

Oct. 12: SOUTH CAROLINA: Carolina’s schedule is brutal, and Muschamp is trying to get them back in the mix in the SEC East. UGA has too much talent and wins at home 41-14 to stay undefeated.

Oct. 19: KENTUCKY: UGA blew out UK’s best team in 40 years in Lexington last year, and UGA is better in 2019. Kentucky is not as good as they were in 2018. Dawgs win 49-17.

Nov. 2: vs. Florida (Jacksonville): Dan Mullen has been popping off about UGA all “Talking Season”.  Kirby isn’t much on talking but look for UGA’s best effort of the season in this one. Dawgs win the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party 35-20 over a good Gator squad.

Nov. 9: MISSOURI: Kelly Bryant didn’t get a national title ring from Clemson last year and he won’t get a victory in Athens either. Dawgs win 38-21.

UGA clinches the SEC East for the third straight year.

Nov. 16: at Auburn: Unbeaten UGA rolls to the Plains and I smell trouble brewing for the Dawgs. Auburn will be solid on defense, but will they be good on offense?

Will Gus still be employed by November? If he is then I smell upset. Auburn upsets UGA 24-21 in Jordan Hare.

Dawgs fall to 9-1. History tells us that UGA lays an egg against someone every season, right? Enjoy this November contest folks. Auburn lobbied the SEC and won and now the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry moves to October in 2020 and beyond.

Heck, maybe with that pansy move UGA rips Auburn a new one, 35-17 and stays unbeaten on the season.

Nov. 23: TEXAS A&M: Everyone is jumping on the Aggie bandwagon. Not me. The Aggies lost their leading rusher and leading tackler, nor am I sold on Kellen Mond at QB.

Senior Day in Athens as UGA rolls 38-24. UGA goes to 11-0 on the season.

Nov. 30: at Georgia Tech: Jackets go to a pro-style offense with option attack players. Georgia Tech will get better fast by focusing on the Atlanta area in recruiting. Dawgs go to 12-0 with a 42-17 blistering of the Jackets.

SEC Championship: UGA finally breaks the Alabama jinx and beats the Tide 31-24 in another title game classic between these two teams.

UGA goes into the College Football Playoff as the #1 team in the country.

Werts Grounded

By: Mike Anthony

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

During every summer, I’m often approached by fans and asked how the football team is doing. There are – of course – all of the quotes that come in about how everyone is getting bigger and stronger for the new season, but I almost always respond to the questions in the same way.

When it comes to the offseason, no news is good news.

If there’s something that grabs headlines ahead of fall camp, it almost always has to do with an injury, eligibility issues or a run-in with the cops.

Georgia Southern fans had those worst fears realized last week as – just minutes before the opening of fall camp – the team made an announcement that starting quarterback Shai Werts was suspended from all football activities following an arrest for speeding and possession of cocaine.

A whirlwind 72 hours followed, and while some things seem much brighter for those hoping to see Werts in action soon, there is also a lot of information that all parties are waiting on.

Georgia Southern made its initial comment on the arrest, but won’t divulge anything more as it is an ongoing legal case. As things currently stand, here is what is known about the situation:

Werts was arrested on July 31 after speeding near Saluda, S.C. He was placed under arrest soon after the police got him out of the car.

While Werts was detained, he was asked about a white substance found on the car hood. He claimed it was bird droppings that he had tried to remove days before. Two separate field test kits returned positive results for cocaine and a charge for possession of less than one gram (a misdemeanor) was added to the initial speeding charge.

Werts maintained his stance on not knowing where the substance came from. He was bonded out of jail and – upon returning to Statesboro – submitted to a drug screening on Friday, Aug. 2. Werts passed the screening and returned to practice with the team on Sunday morning.

No additional information has been released by the Saluda Sheriff’s department and no official update has been given on Werts’ standing with the team. Georgia Southern has maintained that it will proceed by guidelines consistent with the school’s student code of conduct.

So Werts’ situation seems to have improved at least a bit, but now comes the tough part. The legal system can be notoriously slow and – without more information to go by – anyone with an interest in the situation is left to do their best armchair lawyering.

One side will want to know how that substance got on a car if additional tests confirm it to be cocaine. There will also be questions about Werts’ admission to initially exiting the highway when the officer turned to follow him, even if it’s not a crime to make a turn if the officer isn’t identifying himself or attempting to pull you over.

At the very least, there is a question about why the quarterback and emotional leader of an FBS football team is doing 80 miles per hour through a small town just hours before he’s supposed to be in camp.

But there is also a burden of proof.

The report describes Werts and the inside of his car as looking clean. There is also the fact that his screening came up clean and his continued insistence that he wasn’t in possession of anything illegal.

As for now, it would appear that the most boring answer is likely the closest we have to the truth.

There are questions and evidence on both sides. There isn’t enough for the police to press the issue at the moment, but there’s also not enough exonerating information to drop the matter entirely.

The cliche always tells sports fans that there’s a reason they play the games. Frustrating as things are at the moment, that’s also why everyone needs to take a moment and let this issue play out in official legal action instead of social media yelling and rogue internet sleuthing.

Follow The Money

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The first kickoff is two weeks away, but I sit and wonder what it will take for a Non-Power 5 team to receive an invite to The College Football Playoffs.

The University of Central Florida for the last 2 seasons have been undefeated, yet shut out by the College Football Playoff Committee.

Since the Playoffs have begun, only Power 5 teams have received an invite. Unlike College Basketball, which loves the Cinderella story, College Football has required a traditional powerhouse program to play for the National Championship.

After finishing 13-0 in 2017, UCF opened 2018 ranked 21st in the AP and 24th in the ESPN Poll. Teams like Washington, Wisconsin, Miami, FSU were all ahead of an undefeated UCF. When the dust settled on the CFP rankings, UCF (12-0) team was ranked 8th behind 2 loss Georgia & Michigan and 1 loss Oklahoma and Ohio State.

I know UCF’s transient quarterback McKenzie Milton was injured and the committee takes that into consideration, but just look at history; 2007 an undefeated Hawaii team was snubbed for a two-loss LSU. Yes, this was during the BCS.

Why hasn’t UCF received an invite? Maybe I watch too many police shows on TV, but if you want the simple answer “Follow the Money.” The Power 5 Elitist Do Not Want to Share the Wealth!

Power 5 conferences get $54 million each, while Non-Power 5 conferences split just over $84.5 million off Playoff revenue.

Giving a Non-Power 5 a bid would take millions of dollars from the conference that control the playoff (look who makes up the Playoff Committee).

I can hear one of my fraternity brothers now, “UCF does not play anyone!” Scheduling for Non-Power 5 teams has been an issue. In 2017 and 2018, UCF had Power 5 teams Georgia Tech, North Carolina (canceled due to a hurricane) Maryland, and Pittsburgh (which they beat handily).

I get a chuckle out of the talking heads: after UCF this past year manhandled Pittsburgh (45-14), the experts were saying this is a transition year for Pitt.

A month later, when Pitt lost to Notre Dame 19-14, the experts were praising Pitt for a hard-fought loss and a moral victory for the program. This season UCF plays Stanford (the winning Pac 12 team over the past 10 years) at home and Pittsburg (who not afraid of scheduling a home and home) on the road.

I said it once and I’ll say it again “Follow the Money”. Danny White, UCF Athletic Director has been vocal about this Elitist Attitude surrounding college football. In 2017 when White decided to claim a National Championship for UCF, the media went crazy.

Every day for two months UCF was talked about on national TV, Twitter, and Facebook. A study commissioned by The University of Central Florida in March of 2018 estimated the publicity from the school’s unbeaten season and National Title Claim was worth $200 million.

Last week, Danny was at it again when he scheduled a home and home against FAU. It’s was the lead story on many shows.

The question surrounding a two for one with the Florida Gators has been a hot topic. Danny White is open to a two for one with Florida, but Florida doesn’t want to play at UCF. Florida prefers to play the game at the Citrus Bowl.

As a UCF fan, Danny White is a genius, but Power 5 teams fans think he’s a lunatic. I think he’s an Evil Genius, he is setting UCF as the top Non-Power 5 school in the country. If or when there is expansion, UCF will be on top of the call list.

I leave you with this, why do the Power 5 Elitists hate UCF? MONEY

Buzzing For 2019

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr.

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Paul Johnson was the head coach at Georgia Tech for 11 seasons and the program started to struggle in his final years.

There was very little excitement because he recruited poorly and ran an archaic offense that no other Power 5 school uses.

Now, we are entering the first season under Geoff Collins. Prior to becoming head coach at Temple, Collins was one of the nation’s most respected defensive coordinators, serving in the role at Florida, Mississippi State, FIU and his alma mater, Western Carolina.

He is the only coach to ever be nominated for the Broyles Award, given to college football’s top assistant coach, at three different schools.

The biggest change for the Yellow Jackets will be the offense. CPJ ran the old school triple option out of the flexbone. Tech is now an Air Raid team and they do not have the players to do that successfully.

This is basically trying to fit a square peg in a round hole because the players on the roster were recruited to run the old offense. Under Johnson, they typically passed less than 5 times per game.

Now the quarterbacks are expected to read defenses and pass regularly. Quarterbacks James Graham and Lucas Johnson played in the spring game. Tobias Oliver got significant playing time last season but he’s clearly a runner.

I do expect the offense to struggle. Under CPJ the offense was strong, and the defense was always weak. I expect the trend to continue on defense, at least for this season.

Collins is a defensive coach so he might help them improve some, but they still have a lack of talent. In 2018 they ranked 43rd nationally in total defense. They gave up 368 yards per game and 29 points per game.

That stat is frightening when you consider that Tech normally controlled the clock on offense and dominated time of possession.

The season kicks off August 29 at Clemson. This is a Thursday night game so everyone will tune in to watch the defending national champions in Death Valley.

This used to be considered a rivalry game, but it is extremely one-sided now. They haven’t beaten the Tigers since 2014 and that won’t change now.

They begin September at home against USF. The Bulls beat GT last season 48-38. They had superior speed and talent then and I cannot see that being different now. South Florida should win.

An FCS opponent, The Citadel comes to town next. This will be an easy win and it should give the team some confidence.

After a bye week, Tech goes on the road to Philadelphia to face coach Collins’ former team, Temple. The Owls were 8-5 last season. They did lose to an FCS team (Villanova) and they were blown out against the only ACC opponent (Duke) they faced in their bowl game. I think this will be a tough game but give the edge to GT.

The first conference game is against UNC in Atlanta. The Tar Heels are bad; this will be an easy win.

Next, they travel to Durham to face Duke. The Blue Devils have owned this series lately, but they lost their quarterback who was a top 10 pick. I’ll take the Ramblin Wreck.

The next five games will be difficult. They include Miami, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and NC State. I think they have a chance in only two of them, Pitt and NC State.

The season ends at home versus UGA. Unfortunately, the Dawgs will annihilate Tech.

I think it will be tough to become bowl eligible, but the future looks bright.

Become The Villain

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As sports fans we tend to gravitate towards the underdog; it’s human nature. So, when I hear about how we love to build our athletes up just so we can ultimately tear them down, I’m not sure I completely agree.

I mean, if we innately root for the underdog doesn’t it make sense that we would pull against them once they reached the top of his or her profession and ceased the be the underdog?

Some of the most despised teams and athletes we currently enjoy watching fail are the same ones we once cheered for.

I mention all this because in college football Clemson has been that national underdog for the last few years. Not in the general sense that they are the surprise team that came out of nowhere, but because they don’t play in the SEC and have been the only team to consistently put down the sports top program, Alabama.

But, after two national titles in three years and entering a season where they are one of the prohibitive favorites to win it all again, is Clemson in danger of crossing that line from national darling to college football enemy?

Any talk of Clemson being able to repeat as champions begins with Trevor Lawrence. The expectations laid on the rising sophomore’s shoulders are almost unrealistic when you listen to what some people are predicting him to do, but having a game like he did in last year’s title game will do that to a player.

The Tigers lost a fair amount of talent from last year’s team, especially on the defensive side. However, with the talent they have coming back on the offensive side of the ball, and Bret Venables penchant for churning out top rated defensive regardless of who is on the field, I don’t expect them to struggle.

Clemson will have the most talent on the field in every game they’re currently scheduled to play, and it’s really not even that close.

Speaking of the talent gap between them and their opponents, have you seen their schedule? They’re likely to get more of a challenge during practice then they are against their opposition.

There are three games where they could possibly trip up, though. The first is Texas A&M at the beginning of the season, but the Aggies have to travel to Death Valley and I imagine Clemson will be ready.

The rivalry game against South Carolina is another one that can always be tricky, and it is in Columbia this year. Still, like the A&M game I can’t see the Tigers looking past it. Plus, they’ll have two weeks to prepare.

The one we’re I could see them losing is away at N.C. State. The Wolfpack are an underrated team that could give Clemson some trouble, especially if the Tigers haven’t been challenged up to that point. I wouldn’t be surprised if that game winds up being much closer than most pundits think.

Either way, everything is set up nicely for Clemson to make a run at their third national title in four years, turning them into the premier program in college football.

There’s a moment in the The Dark Knight when the character Harvey Dent states “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Clemson’s success doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon; at what point does it live long enough to see them become the villain?

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