Kenneth Harrison

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Down Here

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL season is underway and there is a lot of room for improvement for several teams. We are going to take a look at the AFC South and preview the Week 2 matchups.

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville: This sounds crazy to say but the Colts acquired Matt Ryan to win games like this. Last season with a playoff berth on the line in Week 18, Indy lost in Jacksonville (3-14) to a bad team. That’s when they realized they had to move on from Carson Wentz and upgrade the quarterback position.

On paper it looks like the Colts have a complete team and they only need solid quarterback play to make a deep playoff run. They tied division rival Houston in Week 1, 20 – 20. Matt Ryan did throw for 352 yards and a touchdown in his debut but he also had two turnovers.

The Jaguars are coming into the season with optimism. Doug Pederson is the new head coach and he’s the man that finally brought a Super Bowl to Philadelphia. Trevor Lawrence is also expected to drastically improve in his second year in the league. The Jags lost to Washington 28 -22 to start the season.

The Colts are looking to send a message to Jacksonville and they will win convincingly.

Houston @ Denver: The Texans are expected to be a bad team but they put up a very good fight against Indy. The game ended in a tie but they did lead 20 – 3 going into the fourth quarter.

Lovie Smith is in his first year as head coach. He served as associate head coach and defensive coordinator for the Texans for the 2021 season. The defense recorded 25 takeaways in 2021, tied for tenth.

“Obviously we didn’t lose the game, but it kind of feels that way since we were up, we were doing so many good things in the beginning and then they came back,” Houston linebacker Christian Kirksey said.

Quarterback Davis Mills threw for 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions and completed 62% of his pass attempts.

Receiver Brandon Cooks led the team with 7 receptions for 82 yards. Houston struggled running the ball, gaining 77 yards on 28 attempts.

We all know the Broncos have Russell Wilson now but I don’t think they are an elite team.

I pick Denver to win but not a blowout.

Tennessee @ Buffalo: This is a Monday Night Football game so we expect it to be good.

They played Monday night last season and the Titans won, 34 – 31. Some things have changed since last year though because the Bills are the favorite to win the AFC.

They started the season by blowing out the defending Super Bowl champion Rams on the road, 31 – 10. Josh Allen looks like he might win MVP this season.

Tennessee lost a close game to the Giants 21 – 20 so they are looking for their first win of the season. Derrick Henry played his first regular season game since his 2021 foot injury. He rushed for 82 yards on 21 carries. Ryan Tannehill is looked at as the weak link, which is why they drafter quarterback Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 draft.

They also traded star wide receiver A.J. Brown to Philly on the first day of the draft so they are missing a key weapon.

I expect Buffalo to win by double digits.

The 12th Man

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Texas A&M seems to always be on the cusp of becoming a great program.

When they moved to the SEC in 2012, they beat Alabama and Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy. They used that momentum to sign five-star players like Kyler Murray but he transferred after his first season.

They moved on from coach Kevin Sumlin and replaced him with Jimbo Fisher in 2018.

Fisher won a national championship at Florida State and he was expected to do the same with more money and resources at his disposal in College Station.

So far, he’s done a decent job, going 34 -14 in his first four seasons. His best season was in 2020 when the Aggies went 9 – 1. Last season A&M went 8 – 4 but they were the only team to beat Alabama in the regular season. That means A&M has lost four or more games in 23 of the last 26 seasons.

They had the top ranked recruiting class in the nation in 2022. Nick Saban famously said they “bought every player” with name, image and likeness deals. That started a public feud that will make this season’s game interesting.

“We saw each other at the SEC meetings [in Destin, Florida]. I have great respect for Nick, had a great friendship with Nick,” Fisher said. “I respect him very much, and we all learn from different circumstances in which we have, and I have no ill will, no anything to him.”

The offense was 11th in the SEC averaging 392 yards and 29 points per game. Starting quarterback Haynes King broke his leg in the second game last season and missed the remainder of the season.

He was replaced by Zach Calzada but he transferred to Auburn in the offseason. Max Johnson transferred in from LSU where he threw for 27 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

I expect Johnson to be the starter going into the season, but they also have five-star freshman Conner Weigman.

Junior running back Devon Achane should be the focal point of the offense. In 2021 he rushed for 910 yards, 9 TD’s and averaged 7 yards per carry. The offensive line should be better at four of the five positions.

Senior wide receiver Ainias Smith is the leader of the receiving corps. He had 90 catches and 12 scores over the last two seasons. Five-star freshman Evan Stewart should become the deep threat.

Defensive back Antonio Johnson was named a preseason first-team All-American after a breakout 2021 season.

The Aggies open the season with an FCS opponent, Sam Houston State. The next game is against Appalachian State. Both will be blowout wins.

Week 3 #16 Miami comes to town and I don’t think the Hurricanes will put up much of a fight.

The next game is at AT&T Stadium versus Arkansas. The Razorbacks were good last year but I expect A&M to win.

October begins at Mississippi State for an easy win.

Things get drastically harder when they travel to Tuscaloosa. Alabama will get their revenge.

The Aggies play their third consecutive away game at South Carolina. I expect this to be a tough game.

A&M returns home with games against Ole Miss and Florida. I expect them to lose one of those games.

The final three games are at Auburn, U Mass and LSU. Both Tigers have fallen on hard times, but they still have some talent on the roster.

I think Texas A&M will win eight games again this season, if things go right possibly nine. They should be much better going into 2023.

 

 

 

 

Hootie Who 2022

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Kennesaw State started playing football in 2015.

The Owls have had immediate success, making the playoffs four times. Head coach Brian Bohannon has been there from the beginning, going 63–18.

They played in the Big South Conference previously. They joined the ASUN Conference this season, formerly known as the Atlantic Sun.

Junior quarterback Xavier Shepherd is on the preseason Walter Payton Award watch list, which is for the best player in the nation in FCS. Shepherd is ASUN Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and ASUN Preseason All-Conference.

He played in seven games last season and passed for 640 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 556 yards and 12 scores.

KSU had a very good 2021 season, going 11–2. One of those losses was to a Power 5 FBS school, Georgia Tech. They are trying to focus on having deep playoff runs at this point. The Owls advanced to the second round of the FCS Playoffs, losing 32-31 to #7 East Tennessee State.

They tried to address some concerns by adding talent in the offseason. They signed 25 players in the class of 2022 and 17 of them are from Georgia. Five of them are offensive linemen so they have added depth up front.

“Every year we are trying to get better, and I think that’s the case with this year’s class. It’s a great group and our staff did an awesome job,” Bohannon said. “When you are playing late in the year and you are balancing recruiting and the playoffs, it’s challenging, but we have gotten used to that around here, which is a good thing. It is a great group of young men that we have signed, and we are also going to add another good group in February. I am excited about what is going on with Kennesaw State football right now.”

KSU should be a well-rounded team with a strong defense, allowing 19.5 points per game last season. The Owls return eight of their 11 top tacklers, led by LB Evan Thompson, who broke the single-season school record with 118 total tackles.

In the FCS preseason Top 25 poll the Owls are ranked sixth.

The season starts Thursday September 1st at Samford. This will be a win.

Things get much harder the following week at Cincinnati. The Bearcats had an undefeated regular season last year and made the College Football Playoffs. They lost a lot of talent from that team but as an FBS team they have more talent and scholarship players. The Bearcats will win big.

After a bye week the home opener is against Wofford. KSU beat them 31-10 in 2021 and I expect a similar outcome in 2022.

The first conference game is October 1st at Jacksonville State. JSU is transitioning to move up to FBS so they do have more scholarship players. They are eligible to win the conference title but not eligible for the FCS playoffs. Kennesaw State beat the #17 Gamecocks 31-6 last season. I think it will be closer this season and Kennesaw gets the W.

The next two games are home conference games against North Alabama and Central Arkansas. Both should be wins but fairly close.

The next three games are non-conference against Tennessee Tech, Charleston Southern and UT Martin, all wins.

The season will end against ASUN opponents Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky. These are both games KSU will be favored in.

Best case scenario is going 10-1 in the regular season. I think they will need to win at least two playoff games to make this season successful.

Prowling Panthers

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Georgia State Panthers started playing football in 2010, so they are a relatively new program. They have made it to five bowl games, which is impressive.

They started last season 1 – 4 and looked like they were dead in the water. They finished the year by winning seven of their last eight games. They ended the season with a dominant win in the Camellia Bowl over Ball State, 51-20.

GSU returns 15 starters and they are serious contenders to win the Sun Belt title. They were 6 – 2 in conference play in 2021 and they look to improve on that in 2022.

Shawn Elliott is entering his sixth season as the head ball coach in Atlanta. He only has one losing season and an overall record of 30 – 30.

The Panthers return four starters on the offensive line and have the best backfield tandem in the league. Senior running backs Tucker Gregg (953 yards, 9 TDs) and Jamyest Williams (859 yards, 9 TDs) will be the focal point of the offense.

“It’s a great one-two punch,” Shawn Elliott says of his RBs. “And I think we have two or three young backs that may be as good as our all-conference guys.”

Furman transfer quarterback Darren Grainger played well when he became the starter in October. He passed for 1,715 yards, 19 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

He also rushed for 646 yards, 3 scores and averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He’s a good dual threat QB that can take care of the football. He needs to improve on making big plays in the passing game.

Sophomore wide receivers Ja’Cyais Credle and Jamari Thrash combined for 53 catches. Tight end Aubrey Payne scored 7 touchdowns and he was granted a seventh season of eligibility.

The Panthers bring back seven starters from a defense that made some big, disruptive plays with a school-record 36 sacks, 92 tackles for a loss and 21 turnovers forced. They run a 3-4 scheme and the strength of the defense is the linebacking corps. They are led by two all-conference players in Blake Carroll (11.5 TFLs) and Jordan Veneziale (97 tackles, 8 TFLs) along with junior Jamil Muhammad, who had six sacks and a fumble return touchdown. Safety Antavious Lane had 5 interceptions in 2021.

The first two games of the season are well compensated beatings, at South Carolina and home against North Carolina. Surprisingly the game against UNC is the second game in a home-and-home series. They cannot afford any major injuries in these games.

Week 3 is home against Charlotte and this is the first win of the season.

They have a short week with a Thursday night game against division rival Coastal Carolina. GSU will win a close game.

The following week is at Army. The Black Knights won last year’s meeting 43-10 and I expect a similar outcome.

Georgia Southern comes to town to claim the title as the true GSU. This is a rivalry game that I expect GA State to win.

The Panthers travel to Boone, North Carolina the following week for a Wednesday night game at Appalachian State. They will lose by double digits.

The final five games are Old Dominion, at Southern Miss, ULM, at James Madison and at Marshall.

ULM is the only team that was in the Sun Belt last season. Three of those teams are from Conference USA and James Madison has moved up from FCS.

GSU should win all of those games but they might struggle in the cold weather at Marshall. The best-case scenario is eight regular season wins.

Ramblin’ Wreck

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Geoff Collins is in his fourth season as the head coach in Atlanta.

He’s won three games each season at Georgia Tech, making his overall record 9 – 25. To call that not good is an understatement. The fan base was sick of Paul Johnson, but they regularly went to bowl games.

Collins seems too focused on social media posts and branding over actually coaching football. He shared some insight at ACC Media Days about what we can expect in 2022. He was asked what would give the fan base optimism.

“Just excited about the guys that we have been able to add to the organization, whether that means coaches or players. In the last couple of years, we have been able to develop depth on the roster and a lot of leadership, and the way the guys are working. The big focus since the end of last season is how can we play the best brand of Georgia Tech Football on college football Saturdays and that has been the focus of everything that we have done and all the changes that we have made, deep introspection on how we do things, and why we do things. We are excited to keep building and getting to that point.”

Collins was asked about NIL and where Tech stands in terms of offering it compared to the rest of the conference and the Southeast.

“I think one of the biggest pieces is our location. Being in the heart of the city of Atlanta where there are a lot of opportunities for our guys to benefit from the name, image, and likeness. We fully support it as a coaching staff, as an institution, as an administration and we’ve got the system set up with the different collectives. I think all of the opportunities are there in the city of Atlanta and the support that we give our guys is there”

He says the right things but let’s take a look at the schedule and see what games they can win.

The season kicks off Labor Day at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Clemson. Last season the game in Death Valley was close, with the Tigers winning 14-8. I think they’ll be better this season and they will win this game.

The home opener is against an FCS team, Western Carolina. Tech will win big.

Week 3 is home against Ole Miss. The Rebels lost a lot of starters from last season, including quarterback Matt Corral. They will still have more talent than the Yellow Jackets and win.

The first road game is at Central Florida. UCF was 9 – 4 last season in Gus Malzahn’s first season. The offense should be more explosive in his second season and they will score a lot of points.

They travel to Heinz Field to start October on the road. Pitt lost QB Kenny Pickett, who was drafted in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. This game could be close but I like the Panthers.

Tech returns home to face Duke and I think they’ll beat the Blue Devils.

After Duke they have a bye week. The next four games are against Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech and Miami. I think we can mark these all off as loses.

The final two games are in the road at North Carolina and Georgia. They did beat UNC handily last year, so they have a chance. Unfortunately, they’ll get pummeled by UGA again.

The best-case scenario is three wins, but I think they’ll win two games. This should be Collins final season before he gets terminated.

Ramming Through

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Grayson has been one of the best programs in the state over the last decade.

They won state championships in 2011 and 2016. They won another state championship in 2020, going 14 – 0. They only had one game decided by single digits.

The Rams lost a ton of talent from 2020 but they were 10 – 4 in 2021. They made it to the state semifinal where they lost to the eventual champion, Collins Hill.

They play in the highest classification and one of the toughest regions, 4 AAAAAAA. I still think they will compete for a state championship this season.

Senior safety Michael Daugherty is the No. 18 recruit in the state and a four-star player. He’s 6’1, 180 pounds and very physical. He’s committed to LSU.

Linebacker Jalen Smith is a three-star recruit and a Tennessee commit. Defensive end Ravon Johnson is also a three-star player. He’s 6’4 and 220 pounds so he has great size for the position.

The Rams also have talented players in the class of 2024. Guard Waltclaire Flynn Jr. is the No. 11 player in Georgia for the class of 2024. At 6’1 and 290 pounds he’s almost the size of a college offensive lineman.

Joseph JoJo Stone is a four-star player and an LSU commit. He’s listed as an athlete, but he contributes on both sides of the ball.

Grayson also has three-star corner back Zion Ferguson in the secondary.

They start the season Saturday, August 20th at Marietta. The Blue Devils won the state championship in 2019 and they still have some talented players. Senior corner back Jace Arnold is a four-star recruit and he’s committed to Wisconsin. Grayson should win this, but it will be close.

The next week is the home opener against Eagle’s Landing. The Golden Eagles are a 5A team and they were 3 – 7 last season. Grayson will blow them out.

They start September with a neutral site game against Fort Dorchester (North Charleston, SC). The Patriots were 12 – 1 last year so they are pretty good. I think Grayson will win a close game.

They play another South Carolina team the following week, Spartanburg. The Vikings were 9 – 4 in 2021 so they are pretty good but I give the edge to Grayson.

After a bye week the last non-region game is at Lowndes. This is going to be on the road in a hostile environment against a very good team. I think the Vikings will win a close game.

They travel to Newton for the first region game and they will beat them handily.

After another bye week the Rams travel to South Gwinnett. This will be another easy win.

Things get much harder against Brookwood. The Broncos should be a top five team and are led by senior quarterback Dylan Lonergan. He recently committed to Alabama. Last year Brookwood won the game 35-14. This game is a toss-up.

The final two games are at home against Archer and Parkview. Both teams are normally pretty good but they struggled in 2021. They hope to bounce back this year but Grayson will be favored to win.

The best-case scenario for the Rams is 9 – 1, worst case is 7 – 3 with a couple of non-region loses. I think they will advance deep in the playoffs.

Loaded Pack

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Buford has the best football program in Georgia.

The Wolves have won three consecutive state championship, bringing their total to 14. Out of those 14 championships only one came before the year 2001. They have won in every classification and 2022 will be their first season in the state’s highest, 7A.

As you would expect from an elite program, they are loaded with talent.

Running back Justice Haynes is a four-star recruit and the No. 9 player in the state for the class of 2023. He’s 5’10 and 200 pounds so he has a good combination of size and speed.  He’s the son of former Georgia Bulldog and Pittsburgh Steeler Verron Haynes.

Haynes has rushed for 5,873 yards and 72 scores. He is also an elite left-handed pitcher with a 90-mph fastball. He has committed to Georgia.

Offensive tackle Paul Mubenga is a three-star recruit and a Michigan commit. He’s 6’4 and 280 pounds, so he’s huge for a high school player. He needs to develop more power to be an elite player in college.

KJ Bolden is the top player in Georgia for the class of 2024 and a four-star recruit. He’s listed as an athlete, but he plays wide receiver and defensive back. He projects to be a safety in college. He ran 10.76 seconds 100-meter dash.

Junior defensive end KingJoseph Edwards is also a four-star recruit and No. 4 recruit in the class of 2024. He’s 6’5, 235 lbs. and very powerful. He had a great performance at the 2022 Atlanta Under Armour camp.

Fellow junior defensive end Eddrick Houston is the No. 13 recruit in Georgia for his class and also a four-star recruit. Houston is 255-pounds, so he’s bigger than Edwards. He has a great combination of size and strength.

Sophomore linebacker Jadon Perlotte already has about 20 offers. He will be the next great linebacker from Buford.

The season starts August 26th at home against Mallard Creek (Charlotte, NC). The Mavericks were 6-5 last season, so they are an average team. This is an easy win for Buford.

The Next week is also home against North Cobb. The Warriors are a very good team, led by four-star senior QB Malachi Singleton. They played last year in the season opener and Buford won 35-27. This will be another close game that could go either way.

Roman Catholic travels from Philadelphia Week 3 to play the Wolves. They were 3-7 in 2021 so I’m surprised at this matchup. Buford will win big.

The first away game is at Marietta. The Blue Devils have Wisconsin commit, corner back Jace Arnold. This will still be a double-digit win for the Wolves.

Region play begins with the defending 7A state champs, Collins Hill. The Eagles lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, but they will still be good.

Tight end Ethan Davis is the No. 11 player in the state for the class of 2024. I give them the edge in this game.

The last four games of the season are against Mill Creek, Dacula, Mountain View and Central Gwinnett.

The only game I think they are in danger of losing is against Mill Creek. The Hawks are coming off an 11-2 season and they have the top player in the state for the class of 2024, safety Caleb Downs.

Worst case scenario for Buford is they finish the regular season 8-2. I don’t think they will win a state championship this season but they are loaded with talent.

The East Beasts

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are going to take a look and preview the SEC East for the upcoming 2022 season.

#1 Georgia: The Bulldogs finally beat Alabama in the National Championship to win their first national championship since 1980.

They only return 10 starters but they are expected to reload. The defense was historically good but they lost players like linemen Jordan Davis and Travon Walker, linebacker Nakobe Dean and safety Lewis Cine.

Stetson Bennett returns under center and they return three starting offensive linemen. They have two very talented tight ends, Brock Bowers and Arik Gilbert.

#2 Tennessee: Head coach Josh Heupel is entering his second season in Knoxville and he has the program going in the right direction. The Volunteers averaged 39.3 points a game. They also led the SEC in plays of 40-plus yards (23) after only having three in 2020.

Quarterback Hendon Hooker is entering his senior year after having a breakout year in 2021. He passed for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also rushed for 620 yards and 5 scores.

They also return four starting O-linemen. The defense allowed over 200 rushing yards and 33.6 points a game in SEC play last season.

#3 Kentucky: It’s a toss-up between the Wildcats and Tennessee for the No. 2 spot. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen helped them average 32.3 ppg last year. Coen left to take a job on the LA Rams staff. Mark Stoops hired Rich Scangarello from the 49ers to replace him.

QB Will Levis is back and they have a good running back stable led by Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Kentucky ranked fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, 21.7 ppg allowed. They have holes to fill up front and in the secondary. The linebacker unit is talented.

#4 Florida: The Gators are led by first year head coach Billy Napier. They finished 6-7 in 2021 and they should improve this season. Quarterback Anthony Richardson played in eight games last year and averaged 8.1 yards per play, ran for 401 yards and 9 total scores.

Florida should have a solid running back core that includes Louisiana transfer Montrell Johnson and former top recruit Demarkcus Bowman. The Gators finished 10th in the SEC against the run and only had 20 sacks in conference play.

#5 South Carolina: The Gamecocks could be one of the most exciting teams to watch. They have several transfer players including quarterback Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and receivers Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and Antwane Wells (James Madison) to add to a receiving corps already featuring Josh Vann (15.8 yards per catch) and Dakereon Joyner.

They return all five starting O-linemen but that’s still an area of concern. They only averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2021. The defense allowed 175 rushing yards a game.

#6 Missouri: The Tigers have a bad defense and inconsistent quarterback play. The defense allowed 6.7 yards per play, 36 points a game and more than 200 rushing yards a contest in SEC action last fall.

Offensively, the Tigers averaged only 22.6 points and 5.2 yards per play in SEC games last season.

Ends Isaiah McGuire and Trajan Jeffcoat lead the way up front, while cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine and safety Martez Manuel are two building blocks for new coordinator Blake Baker.

#7 Vanderbilt: Are we surprised to see the Commodores here?

Mike Wright and Ken Seals are competing for the QB 1 job.

Vanderbilt ranked 13th in the SEC against the run, last in pass efficiency defense, and surrendered an unpleasant combination of 6.8 yards per play and 35.6 points per game.

Wild West

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Let’s take a look at the SEC West and preview how each team’s season will go.

#1 Alabama: The Crimson Tide are loaded with talent like they are every year. They return Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young and add Georgia Tech transfer running back Jahmyr Gibbs.

There are also a pair of transfer wide receivers, Tyler Harrell (Louisville) and Jermaine Burton (Georgia).

Left tackle Evan Neal departed for the NFL. The offensive line gave up 41 sacks last year and they were very inconsistent. The defense held teams to 20.1 points per game last season and they should be better this year.

#2 Texas A&M: The Aggies had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation in 2022.

The question is can they convert that into winning the West, getting to the SEC Championship and the CFB Playoff? No, but I think they can win double-digit games.

Quarterback Haynes King was injured in the second game of 2021. He returns in 2022 along with LSU transfer Max Johnson and true freshman Conner Weigman.

They need more big plays from the passing game and true freshman Evan Stewart could provide that. Devon Achane rushed for 910 yards, 9 touchdowns and averaged 7 yards per carry in ’21. He should have a breakout year and the offensive line returns three starters.

#3 Arkansas: All-SEC candidate KJ Jefferson returns at QB, four starters on the o line and a solid backfield led by Rocket Sanders.

It’s going to be tough to replace receiver Treylon Burks (66 catches) and the big-plays he used to make. Transfer receiver Jadon Haselwood (Oklahoma) and Matt Landers (Toledo) will compete with Warren Thompson for the top target.

The defense gave up 29.6 ppg in SEC Play last year but they thrived at getting third down stops and limiting teams in the red zone.

They only return four starters but they added several players from the transfer portal. That includes ends Jordan Domineck (Georgia Tech) and Landon Jackson (LSU), linebacker Drew Sanders (Alabama), and defensive backs Dwight McGlothern (LSU) and Latavious Brini (Georgia).

#4 LSU: Bryan Kelly left Notre Dame to take over this program.

The Tigers are 11-12 over the last two seasons so they have a lot to improve. Only six starters return but they typically have talented players in Baton Rouge.

The secondary finished 12th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense last fall. They have several transfer players that should be able to contribute.

Garrett Nussmeier, Jayden Daniels and Myles Brennan are battling for the starting quarterback job.

#5 Ole Miss: The Rebels are coming off of 10 wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance. They lost several key contributors like QB Matt Corrall, running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner and receiver Dontario Drummond.

USC transfer QB Jaxson Dart is expected to win the starting job. They also have several transfers on both sides of the ball.

#6 Mississippi State: The Bulldogs won seven games last year and return 17 starters. QB Will Rogers returns to lead an offense that averaged 378.3 passing yards per game and 29.1 ppg.

They allowed 34 sacks in 2021 and lose both starting tackles.

Having playmakers step up to keep the Air Raid going will be the storyline.

#7 Auburn: The Tigers lost five games to end the season, several players transferred and coach Bryan Harsin is already on the hot seat.

Running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter should be the focal point of the offense.

They ranked 11th in the SEC in scoring last season.

Frantic Atlantic

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

We are going to take a look at the ACC Atlantic division and predict how the teams will do this season.

#7 Syracuse: Dino Babers has had one winning season out of six at Syracuse. That includes 15 conference wins out of 50 ACC games.

The Orange return one of the nation’s top running backs in Sean Tucker (1,496 yards) but big progress in the passing game is needed under new play-caller Robert Anae.

Quarterback Garrett Shrader (781 rushing yards & 14 TDs) threw for less than 100 yards in three of his last four starts.

#6 Louisville: Quarterback Malik Cunningham was one of the best dual-threat players in the country last year and he’s back in 2022.

He was a 62% passer a year ago, throwing for 2,734 yards and 18 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, while also rushing for over 1,000 yards and 20 additional touchdowns, both top 10 numbers nationally.

He lost a few receivers that transferred but the Cardinals also had some talented players transfer into the program. Wide receivers Tyler Hudson (Central Arkansas) and Dee Wiggins (Miami) should be good playmakers on the outside.

Tight end Marshon Ford (49 receptions) has a chance to be an All-ACC first-team pick.

They also return four starters on the offensive line.

#5 Boston College: The Eagles started 4-0 last season before the wheels fell off and they lost four consecutive games.

They finished at 6-6 and won just one ACC game at Chestnut Hill.

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec went down in Week 2 and he didn’t return until November. He’ll be back this season with running back Pat Garwo III and receiver Zay Flowers. They only return one starter on the offensive line so that is a big concern.

They return 7 starters on defense and they only gave up 22.2 points a game last fall.

#4 Florida State: The Seminoles made progress in head coach Mike Norvell’s second year in ’21, finishing 5-7. I don’t expect them to compete for the conference title, but they win total should increase.

Quarterback Jordan Travis passed for 2,074 yards, 15 touchdowns and 6 picks.

The season opener is in New Orleans against LSU. The Tigers are coming off of a disappointing season with a new head coach so FSU can win that game and set the tone for the season.

#3 Wake Forest: QB Sam Hartman returns after leading the offense to 41 points per game last year.

The Demon Deacons have talented receivers like A.T. Perry, Taylor Morin and Donavan Greene. They also return four O line starters.

Defense is where they struggled the most in 2021 and it’s still a big question mark.

#2 NC State: The Wolfpack return 17 starters, which is the most of any team in the ACC from a squad that went 9-3 last fall.

That includes quarterback Devin Leary (35 TDs, 5 INTs) and one of the nation’s top linebacker units anchored by Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas.

They must replace its top two rushers (Bam Knight and Ricky Person) and elite left tackle Ikem Ekwonu. They averaged a league low 3.3 yards per rush in 2021.

#1 Clemson: The Tigers had their streak of consecutive ACC titles snapped at six and failed to make the CFB Playoff for the first time since ’14 last season.

Offense was a problem last year and five-star QB DJ Uiagalelei completed 55.6% of his passes for 9 TDs and 10 picks. In theory he can’t get any worse and if he plays better Clemson will be back in the Top 10.

 

 

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