Is Alabama Good For SEC?

jjBy: JJ Lanier news services

When my wife and I moved to Brunswick a little over 13 years ago, I assume that like most people new to town, we drove right by Willie’s Weenie Wagon, snickered at the name, and didn’t think anything more about it.

Needless to say, we quickly learned from the error of our ways, and weekly visits to Willie’s became the norm. We moved away from Glynn Co. 10 years ago, yet anytime we vacation in Florida we always tend to plan our driving schedule around eating at Willie’s.

The only drawback I’ve encountered with this strategy is that because I’m such a big fan of the pork chop sandwich, it almost renders the rest of the menu obsolete, since it’s the only thing I order. Unless I’m in the mood for a pork chop sandwich, I don’t go to Willie’s.

I know this is an odd segue into my story, but I mention this because over the past few weeks I’ve started to wonder if Alabama’s success since Nick Saban has actually been a problem for the SEC as a whole?

I know that sounds like a weird thing to say: having the most dominant team in college football may actually be a hindrance to your conference overall, but just hear me out.

The lifeblood of any collegiate football program is obviously recruiting. It’s much easier to win as an average coach if you are surrounded by talent than it is to be a great coach with little talent around you. Between 2000-2010 there were eight different teams that held the number one recruiting class during that span. In the six recruiting classes since then there has been only one; Alabama.

Nick Saban is on such a roll that at this point he can basically hand pick certainly any defensive player he wants, and probably just about any offense player too, short of the quarterback.

The talent that used to be spread throughout the conference, or to at least three or four different teams each year, is now landing primarily in one area. It’s not a coincidence that the level of talent, and frankly the play, across the conference has been on the decline while the Tide are on track to win their fourth national championship in six years.

Plus, and let’s just be honest with each other here, as long as that list is of things I don’t like about Saban, there isn’t a better coach in the country

It goes without saying that the SEC still has a lot of incoming talent that doesn’t wind up in Tuscaloosa, so please don’t think I’m comparing them to MAC or anything. Every year there are always a few other SEC teams bringing in huge classes, it’s just that the names of those teams change from year to year, and that’s the problem I’m talking about.

When you have one team dominate the talent pool like Alabama has been doing this entire decade, you’re going to see the rest of the conference suffer.

This type of separation usually doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s really only taken shape in the SEC over the past few years, but you can see where it’s trending. If Alabama continues their reign don’t be surprised if the SEC starts to resemble the old ACC (one strong team surrounded by mediocrity).

Oh, by the way, did you know the ACC has a winning record against SEC competition over past three years. I’m just saying…..

Now, who is up for a pork chop sandwich? I’m hungry.

Garcia Trade Favors Braves?

By: TJ Hartnett news services

Left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia has spent his entire MLB career with the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Atlanta Braves announced they acquired the southpaw in exchange for prospects John Gant, Chris Ellis and Luke Dykstra. Gant and Ellis are each right-handed pitchers, while Dykstra is an infielder. ranked Ellis, Gant and Dykstra as Atlanta’s 17th-, 21st- and 29th-best prospects, respectively, in 2016.

Garcia is the headliner in the trade, though he had mixed results in 2016. On one hand, he appeared in 32 games, which tied for his career high and represented significant strides after an injury-marred stretch. He made 20 starts in 2012, nine in 2013, seven in 2014 and 20 in 2015.

He underwent season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and suffered partial labrum and rotator cuff tears during that span. He also dealt with groin issues in 2015.

While Garcia proved he can handle the rigors of an entire season in 2016, he was nowhere near as effective as he was in 2010 and 2011, when he posted 2.70 and 3.56 ERAs, respectively.

He finished the 2016 campaign with a 4.67 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, which were his highest marks since he made 10 appearances as a rookie in 2008. Home runs were one of the biggest problems for the southpaw, who allowed 26 on a Cardinals team that finished 86-76 and missed out on the playoffs.

Garcia represents the latest veteran addition for the Braves pitching staff, which has also added 43-year-old Bartolo Colon and 42-year-old R.A. Dickey in the offseason.

At 30 years old, Garcia is younger than those two righties, but injuries have to be a concern as he racks up additional mileage on his arm.

Still, Atlanta needed to make changes to its starting rotation after finishing 28th in the big leagues with a 4.87 ERA. Atlanta has plenty of ground to make up in the National League East after finishing in last place at 68-93, but addressing the woeful starting rotation was an ideal place to start.

Garcia comes with risks, but he also has a track record that includes a handful of notable seasons.

For the Braves’ part, they’re starting to flip their recent trend: this time they trading prospects for a Major League player. After building up their farm system following the 2014 season, the Braves are starting to make these kinds of moves.

It remains to be seen whether or not they’ll offer up enough for Chris Sale, but if it took these three prospects to acquire an oft-injured lefty coming off his worst season, it will surely take a king’s ransom to bring Sale to Atlanta.

However, Braves fans shouldn’t cry out too much over what they had to give up for Garcia. Gant contributed to the 2016 squad and would likely have done the same in 2017 if he were on the roster, but weighing the best case scenarios against each other: Gant might have been a decent fifth starter at best, whereas if Garcia shows up he could be a great number two.

Ellis was unlikely to make much of a Dent in Atlanta, and after Sean Rodriguez joined the team this week Dykstra had too many people in his way.

Teams hate to trade prospects away, and fans certainly hate to see it, but given Garcia’s potential versus Gant’s, Ellis’ and Dykstra’s, it’s no great loss. More specifically, if the Braves miss these prospects, even if Garcia can’t stay on the field, something has gone very wrong with the many other even more highly-rated pitching prospects.

Time To Reset For Jags…Again

kippBy: Kipp Branch news services

I almost hate to remind myself that I picked the Jacksonville Jaguars to win the AFC South and make the playoffs earlier this year. I would have been better off picking Jacksonville to be selecting in their customary spot in the 2017 draft which is in the top five.

I bought into the hype surrounding these Jags as they spent over $100 million in the free agent market in the offseason to upgrade a defensive unit that had been offensive in previous years.

While the defense has improved drastically into a playoff caliber unit the offense seems to have taken a few steps back. Blake Bortles is not playing like the QB we saw in 2015, the offensive line is horrible, and no running back has stepped up into the go to guy.

Sitting at 2-9 for the season with 6 straight losses with absolutely no shot at a playoff berth Jacksonville needs to fire everyone down associated with this train wreck of a franchise.

Many locals call it the curse of Tim Tebow. The Jags passed on Tebow and have been awful pretty much ever since. Former head coaches like Tom Coughlin leave and win Super Bowls and Jack del Rio is sitting at 9-2 right now in Oakland after being fired by the Jags.

The Gus Bradley experiment has failed with a 14-45 overall record. I’m not sure you pull the plug on Blake Bortles yet after 3 years in the league. The offense has scored over 30 points once this entire season. How is this offense so woeful? Talented receivers, QB, and RB’s make you wonder why this team can’t score points.

Before the loss to the Bills last week head coach Rex Ryan wondered how Jacksonville could be 2-8 at the time. I just cannot figure this team out. They seem to be in just about every game but just cannot figure out ways to close the door. All signs point to coaching as the issue in the River City.

Who could the Jags land as a new Head Coach in 2017? This team needs major help along the OL, and maybe draft a top-quality RB in the draft like a Leonard Fournette in the upcoming draft. The defense is solid. Fan support is horrible.

What if Jack Del Rio was to go on and win a Super Bowl in Oakland? That would mean the first two coaches in Jags history would have rings, but the Jags pulled the plug on both. It is time to start over once again in Jacksonville which has been a recurring theme as of late.

What would someone like a Bruce Arians do with the talent on the Jag roster? Could the Jags go out and bring back Coughlin at age 70 who is the only man who had the Jags sniffing a Super Bowl back in 1999? Would he come out of retirement? Would someone like John Gruden, or Tony Dungy be motivated to step back on the sidelines in Jacksonville with the talent assembled on that roster?

I just know it is back to drawing board again for the Jags, and they need a total house cleaning this time. If something does not change soon we could be looking at the London Jaguars in the near future. Time is now for big changes in Jacksonville.

Terrors Are Going No Where

draytonBy: Drayton Hogarth news services

Unfortunately, the Glynn Academy Red Terrors 2016 season came to a sudden stop against the Northside Warner Robins Eagles.

With the loss of a tremendous senior class, including Miami Hurricanes commits, Dee Jay Dallas and Zalontae Hillery, many expect the Red Terrors to take a major step back in the 2017 season. However, it would be a big time mistake to underestimate the Red Terrors going forward.

Coach Hidalgo has taken the Glynn Academy program to a new level since his arrival three seasons ago. Each season since his initial year of coaching for the Terrors, Hidalgo has heard the doubts that the success of his team will continue after losing players to graduation or assistant coaches moving on to expand their own coaching resumes.

On the Bishop Media Glynn Academy Coach’s Show, Hidalgo was excited about the prospects of the 2017 season and explained why, “I told those kids that anyone who thinks we are just going to go the way of the Dodo is wrong. My first year we lost a great offensive coordinator in Coach Jackson, and they said ‘well, they are done’. Then the next year they said ‘oh they lost Garrison Hurd and Dexter Roberson and they are done’. Now they are saying they are losing a great group of seniors and people around the state will say, ‘oh they are losing Dee Jay Dallas and some great kids, and they are done.’ Well, that’s not the case, we will be back in this position next season. I believe that we have a chance to be a great football team next year because we have kids committed to winning, and have a great group of seniors and some really good young players. We are going to have to develop some kids, but we will be right back in the mix next year.”

One of those great players mentioned above who is moving on to the next stage of his education and playing days, Dee Jay Dallas, also feels that his Glynn Academy teammates will be able to maintain the winning ways established in Dallas’ high school tenure.

The Terrors will struggle some at first but I have faith in my men! They aren’t afraid of any challenge. I think the pride that they carry when they put on the red and white will carry them through the regular season with an undefeated record and into to compete and possibly win a state title.” Dallas told me when asked about the Red Terrors prospects ahead of them in 2017.

Some of those “men” that Dallas is talking about were mentioned by Coach Hidalgo as well. “I think we will be outstanding on defense, both our safeties will return. We return Hunter Hall and David Murray at linebacker, and Tyler Cleghorn, Marlin Taylor, and Isaiah McDonald on the defensive line. We moved Marvin Dallas to cornerback. We’ve got a chance to be really good defensively.”

On offense, Hidalgo feels that the offense will pack a punch with players like Randon Jernigan moving to quarterback, “Randon’s career numbers are likely better than Dee Jay’s given his years at Brunswick.”

Running back looks to be boosted with “getting Tyler Grant back from injury Tyshaun Wallace kid sat out this year with a knee injury who’s a really good running back. Quan Bostic will replace Randon in the slot. We need to develop some offensive linemen. Our 9th grade class has a lot of really good linemen in it. Drez Wilcox will play for us next year, along with 4-5 kids who have chance to be division one football players. Our future is very bright, go back to work, put together a new weight training program, and utilize the new fieldhouse and facilities. The offseason starts tomorrow.”

That is the prevailing reason why the Red Terrors very likely will be back challenging for city, region, and state championships because of the workman like attitude. While the season just ended, the thought is not look at what we did, it is look at what we are going to do.

Who Will Win ACC Title?

By: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

By this time next week we’ll know the conference champions for each Power 5 conference and the four-playoff teams. I’m going to preview the ACC championship game.

The Dr. Pepper ACC Football Championship Game is this Saturday night in Orlando, FL. It’s a matchup between No. 3 Clemson and No. 19 Virginia Tech. Clemson (11-1, 7-1 ACC) is trying to win its second consecutive conference championship and College Football Playoff appearance.

The Tigers have been very inconsistent this year. Some of that is because they are replacing several talented players that are now in the NFL. Coach Dabo Swinney has to get them to play more disciplined and consistent.

“This is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been (at Clemson),” said Swinney. “It’s a little frustrating at times, because I think sometimes these guys are held to a little bit different standard than some of these other teams out there. I don’t know what some people are looking at, but these guys have played well all year.”

That starts with the play of super star quarterback Deshaun Watson. He had a breakout season last year passing for over 4,000 yards and rushing for over 1,100. He only had 13 interceptions in 2015 and he already has 14 this season. His rushing total has also drastically dropped to under 500 yards.

In the loss to Pittsburgh Watson threw for 580 yards completing 74% of his passes but he also tossed 3 picks. The Tigers have played better the last two games so it looks like they might have finally found their niche.

The running game is what helped get them back on track. Junior Wayne Gallman has battled injuries but he’s finally getting healthy. Gallman averages over 5 yards per carry and he helps to take pressure off of Watson.

The Tigers are a balanced team that can also play defense. They rank 9th in the nation in total defense allowing 308 yards per game and 17 points per game.

Va Tech (9-3, 6-2) is doing well under first year head coach Justin Fuente. Fuente is tied for the most wins by a first-year Tech coach with C.P. Miles (went 9-1 in 1905). This is Virginia Tech’s first ACC Championship game appearance since 2011.

“Life has been pretty good, to be honest with you,” said Fuente. “We all have things that we’re trying to overcome, program wise. Change has been incredibly smooth (at Tech), but there hasn’t been anything to me that’s stuck out that’s been a huge thorn in our side.”

Junior QB Jerod Evans leads the Hokies with over 3,000 yards, 26 touchdowns and 5 picks. He also completes 64% of his passes. His top three targets have over 600 yards and four touchdowns each.

Tech is coming off of a two game winning streak so they have momentum going for them. They play well on defense as well coming in at 20th in the country in total defense.

If Clemson wins their guaranteed to make the College Football Playoffs again. The Tigers have a lot at stake so I expect them to feel the pressure. The game will be very competitive in the first half. I expect the superior talent of Clemson to take over in the second half and they’ll put the game out of reach.

Which Band Does Your SEC Coach Compare To?

jjBy: JJ Lanier news services

It’s been a disaster of a year for the SEC. Instead of piling on and writing about how most of the teams have underachieved, or how Joe Alleva screwed up the Orgeron hire, I want to do something a little more light hearted.

Hopefully bring some overdue joy to what has been an otherwise unwelcoming football season for SEC fans.

ESPN recently released a list of all the college coaches along with their favorite bands. Sure, it’s not hard hitting journalism by any stretch, but if you’ve read anything I’ve written over the past two years (and my affinity for anything pop culture) you had to know I was going to be piggybacking off that article.

So, here’s how it’s going to go. Obviously, I’m just going to focus on the SEC coaches, and instead of talking about what band they chose, I’ll assign a group/artist that I think they are most like. In order not to stray too far, I’ll attempt to stay within the same genre.

In alphabetical order, according to school:

Nick Saban. ESPN: Eagles. JJ: Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin is not only considered one of the greatest bands of all time, but their music was in your face and unapologetic, especially whenever they played live. Sound familiar?

Bret Bielema. ESPN: The Temptations. JJ: The Dramatics. Neither are bad, but both are easily forgotten compared to their peers.

Gus Malzahn. ESPN: The Cars. JJ: Maroon 5. I didn’t think either would still be relevant going into 2017.

Jim McElwain. ESPN: Earth, Wind, and Fire. JJ: Earth, Wind, and Fire. McElwain could master all three and Florida fans still wouldn’t care unless he mastered an SEC Championship too.

Kirby Smart. ESPN: The Rolling Stones. JJ: Slash’s Snakepit. Slash left one of the biggest bands in the world and formed the Snakepit. I don’t need to explain the similarities, right?

Mark Stoops. ESPN: Toby Keith. JJ: Sam Hunt. I don’t listen to Sam Hunt and I don’t watch Kentucky football.

Ed Orgeron. ESPN: Creedence Clearwater Revival. JJ: CCR. There’s nothing wrong with Creedence, but much like Orgeron, I have to believe that people in the bayou think much more highly of them than anywhere else in the country.

Dan Mullen. ESPN: U2. JJ: Dan Wilson. If you listened to music at all in the 90’s you had to have heard Semisonic’s “Closing Time”. Wilson was the lead singer of Semisonic. He’s had some minor hits as a solo artist, and has written songs for other groups (Dixie Chicks), but nothing has been as big as that late 90’s song. 2014 is Dan Mullen’s “Closing Time.”

Barry Odom. ESPN: Blake Shelton. JJ: Jason Aldean. Basically, they look like they could be brothers.

Hugh Freeze. ESPN: Chris Tomlin. JJ: Chris Tomlin. Considering the NCAA sanctions Ole Miss may face, Freeze needs to get as close with God as possible.

Will Muschamp. ESPN: George Strait. JJ: Taylor Swift. I’m juvenile and I think it’s funny.

Rodriguez Bargain For Braves

tj1By: TJ Hartnett news services

After striking quickly on both R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon, the Braves continued their offseason feast on Thanksgiving morning by agreeing to a 2-year, $11. 5 million-dollar deal with super utility man Sean Rodriguez.

At first glance, this deal doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Rodriguez is a part-time player, and part-time players usually don’t break the bank in free agency. What’s interesting is that Rodriguez isn’t your ordinary part time player, and that might quickly make this deal a real bargain for the Braves.

To understand what Rodriguez is, we must understand what he was. Prior to 2016, he posted no higher than a .716 OPS in parts of eight seasons for the Angels, Rays, and Pirates. In those eight seasons, Rodriguez only broke 400 plate appearances one time, and only reached double-digit home runs once with 12.

For players like Rodriguez to survive in the majors, they must adapt. If they become too one-dimensional, their days on big league rosters are numbered. Through his athleticism, Rodriguez was able to survive by producing value with his glove. As a result, the 2016 version of Sean Rodriguez was a multi-positional asset that could plug just about any hole in the Pirates lineup.

In 2016, he exploded offensively, putting up an .859 OPS in 342 plate appearances over 140 games. Because of the low number of plate appearances for that level of production, you would think that Rodriguez is a perfect example of a lefty-mashing platoon hitter, but that’s not entirely true.

Of his 342 plate appearances, only 94 came against left handed pitching. When given his opportunities against southpaws, he did his damage with a .286/.415/.519 to go along with four home runs, four doubles, and a triple. Still, only 94 plate appearances shows that the Pirates didn’t think was only deployable against lefties.

In his other 248 plate appearances, Rodriguez still put up nice numbers. With a .265/.324/.507 slash to go along with a healthy 14 home runs and 12 doubles.

Obviously, we don’t know how he would have performed with another 250 plate appearances in 2016. But, we can confidently believe that his lack of an everyday spot in the lineup was not his fault.

In a crowded Pittsburg infield that included Jung-Ho Kang, Josh Harrison, David Freese, Jordy Mercer, John Jaso, and then-top prospect Josh Bell all competing for playing time at just four positions, Rodriguez wasn’t given the plate appearances his performance warranted.

Looking forward for the Pirates, Rodriguez was a luxury that they ended up deeming not worth the $5-7 million per year offers he was looking at receiving on the open market.

For the Braves, however, veteran position players are hard to spot on their roster that’s been stripped down to the bone over the last two years. His value increases on that team with an opportunity to amass over 500 plate appearances while providing good defense at multiple positions.

With his high level of performance and positional flexibility, it’s hard to imagine that the $5.5 million in annual average value he received isn’t a bargain for the type of production he’s capable of at multiple positions.

Like pitch framing, there isn’t a perfect way to account for positional flexibility, how it affects a player’s total value to his team, and how it translates into dollars – just look at World Series MVP Ben Zobrist.

Moving forward to 2017, the Braves secured someone they could plug in at second base and immediately see top-level production. Through the adjustments he made in his swing, Rodriguez could be considered a 20 home run threat for at least 2017.

If he continues to provide the above-average defense he’s known for, Rodriguez could provide the type of value that will make him the free agent bargain of the offseason.

Glynn’s Season Ends

jasonnewBy: Jason Bishop news services

The 2016 campaign for the Glynn Academy Red Terrors ended at the hands of the Northside Warner Robins Eagles, 42-20.

In my opinion, this was not a game that Northside won, but instead a game that Glynn beat themselves. The Terrors turned the ball over four times and the Eagles put up 21 points off of those four turnovers.

Typically, Glynn has been the team forcing the turnovers all season long. It was just not their night.

The Red Terrors went to the half trailing 28-7 and came out in third quarter and scored a TD, giving the Glynn faithful some hope for a comeback. Don’t forget the Terrors came back from a 24-7 deficit last season in the Elite 8 against Stockbridge to advance to the Final Four. The turning point in that game was the Terrors’ goal line stand late in the 3rd quarter which turned the game on its head. That stand will forever be known in Glynn lore as the ‘Stand in Stockbridge”.

However, the Red Terrors would have no such come back against the Eagles. Northside’s defense proved to be just as fast as Glynn’s offense and made it tough on Glynn’s offense all night. The Terrors did actually end up with more yards in the game than the Eagles, but when you turn the ball over four times and once on downs it makes it really tough to win a football game.

After the Terrors scored a late touchdown to make the score 35-20 it looked like there was still some hope for a miraculous comeback. However, Northside scored on an onside kick attempt to push the lead back out to three scores and the Terrors season would end shortly after.

Northside Warner Robins has proven to be quite the thorn in the Red Terrors side as they have now knocked Glynn out of the playoffs 3 of the last 5 years. The Eagles beat the Terrors in 2011 in the first round, then again in 2014 in the Elite 8 and then again, this season in the Elite 8.

The last time the Eagles beat Glynn it was en route to state title. Northside is hoping history repeats itself. The Eagles will play Tucker in the semifinals.

As for the Red Terrors, this most recent run marks the 3rd consecutive year they have made the Elite 8 and the second straight region title for Glynn.

Though, the season is over there was much to be proud of for the Red Terrors.

Looking ahead to 2017 the region will still be the same with BHS, Richmond Hill, Effingham, and Bradwell. The Terrors will be favored to bring home a 3rd straight region title.

I also think it is fitting to say farewell to DeeJay Dallas, I have covered high school football in every corner of this great state for almost 15 years and I have never seen a player more talented at the high school level than DeeJay Dallas. Glynn will miss him but will have a more than capable Randon Jernigan to take the reins next season.

Congrats on a great season Red Terrors.

Former BHS Pirate Darius Slay Makes Big Play For Lions

kippBy: Kipp Branch news services

Former Brunswick High Pirate Darius Slay had quite a Thanksgiving as he led the first place Detroit Lions to another comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings yesterday to keep the Lions moving towards a playoff berth.

The interception with 30 seconds left in the game set up a Matt Prater 38 yard field goal that gave the surging Lions its sixth win in last seven games.

This Lions team without Slay would probably have at least two more losses on the season as Slay’s late game heroics also sealed a win against the Eagles earlier this year. The season sweep over the Vikings now gives the Lions basically a two game lead in the NFC North Division.

Nothing I see out of Darius Slay ever surprises me. He is quite frankly the most gifted athlete I have ever seen walk the halls at Brunswick High School. His 4.3 speed and ball hawking skills make him a super athlete and well worth with the $50 million extension he signed before the season.

Coming off the hamstring injury that caused him to miss two games, Slay seemed to struggle a bit against the Jaguars last Sunday. He more than made up for that yesterday, as he continues to play a big role on a Lion defense that just rises to the occasion when it needs to.

He made a great play in the first quarter that forced an interception that was flagged for a bogus pass interference call, and just seemed to be on top of every snap that went in his direction. 

The Vikings appeared to pick up a third-down conversion with less than a minute left, but Cordarrele Patterson lined up illegally on the play. After the illegal formation penalty, Slay picked off Bradford, who the Vikings traded a first-round pick for right before the season started.

The Lions’ schedule isn’t easy the rest of the way. They still have road games left at the New Orleans Saints, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. But now they have a margin for error. They lead the Vikings by a game and have the tiebreaker. They have a two-and-a-half game lead over the third-place Green Bay Packers. It’s their division to lose now.

Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Lions have just three division titles: 1983, 1991 and 1993. Slay’s big play yesterday keeps the Lions on track to win a division title for the first time in 23 years. Yes 23 years which happens to be Big Play Slay’s number. 

Nobody picked these Lions to be special this year. Heck, they have not won a championship in almost 60 years, but little did I know that a former BHS Pirate would be their lock down pro bowl type CB.

When Slay jumped that route yesterday I sprang to my feet and yelled “that’s a Pirate who made that play”.

Slay even gave a shout out to the Glynn Academy Red Terrors in his post game interview on the field just after the game. That is hometown pride from a home town hero.

Georgia Bulldogs versus Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview

kenBy: Kenneth Harrison Jr. news services

This is a bittersweet time in college football. We’re down to the final week of the regular season. The highlight of this is the many in state rivalry games. We get match ups like Alabama vs. Auburn, Clemson vs. South Carolina, Florida vs. Florida State, USC vs. UCLA and Washington vs. Washington State.

You see where I’m going with this. These games might not decide a spot in the playoffs but they are for bragging rights for the next 364 days. My favorite game is Georgia versus Georgia Tech. This game is called Clean, Old Fashioned Hate for a reason. They first played in 1893 making it one of the oldest rivalries in the country.

This has been a very one-sided rivalry especially as of late. Since the year 2000 UGA is 13-3 against Tech. Paul Johnson is only 2-6 in the series after becoming the Yellow Jackets head coach in December 2007. I think his record is something to keep in mind depending on the outcome of this game.

Georgia Tech (7-4) has had a decent season but it’s a drastic improvement over last year when they finished 3-9. They’re led by senior quarterback Justin Thomas. He’s very good at running the spread option offense that Coach Paul Johnson is known for.

Thomas has over 550 rushing yards and averages 4.6 yards per carry. They don’t pass often but when they do Thomas normally takes long shots down the field. He only averages 6.7 completions per game and he has close to 1,300 passing yards.

Georgia (7-4) is experiencing some growing pains under first year head coach Kirby Smart. They got rid of their most successful coach since the Vince Dooley era last year for not winning enough big games. Smart has to be feeling some pressure especially knowing that it’s tough to reach the unrealistic expectations of the UGA fan base.

The Bulldogs are led by true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. He was Gatorade Football Player of the Year in 2015. His father Tony was an NFL quarterback that also played in a Super Bowl so he seems to have the pedigree for a successful career. He’s only completing 55% of his passes with 13 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He’s going through growing pains now but the experience he’s getting should pay off next season.

We tell our kids all the time: You’re remembered by what your senior class does and what your record is against Georgia Tech. So I think the same case as any rivalry. You’ve got to keep it within the grasp of your emotions. You play with emotion, but you’ve got to play with controlled emotion. You’ve got to make good decisions on the field. You’ve got to prepare well,” Smart said.

Neither team is ranked but I expect this to be one of the best rivalry games this weekend. Both teams are already bowl eligible but the winner can possibly have a nine-win season with a win in this game and the bowl game. That will provide a lot of momentum going into the offseason.

They play in Athens at noon Saturday. I think being at home is a big advantage for Georgia. They also have superior talent to Georgia Tech so I expect them to win. Georgia is having a down year so if Georgia Tech still can’t win this game they should look at changing coaches immediately.