Saturday, August 22, 2015

Who Are Your Way Too Early 2015 Playoff Teams?

I'd be interested to hear who folks have as their way too early playoff predicted teams? Off the cuff here's what I have:

Noting that conference championships seems to be highly valued by the committee, as well as marquee wins out of conference, it seems that 4 out of the 5 power conference champs should get a slot. What is strange is that we're eventually going to find a year where the SEC potentially beats up on itself too much to get a team in... or the SECCG underdog surprises the front-runner to keep our conference out of the dance.

1) TCU

With the Big 12 really only having 3 potential bidders (TCU, OU, and Baylor), I think TCU is the strongest of this class. Strong defense and strong QB play, there really aren't too many hurdles for the Horned Frogs. Prognosticators seem to be high on Baylor purely due to their scheme despite the fact they lose Petty. TCU gets Baylor at home in a potentially huge season finale and avoids any large OOC games. Finishing the season at Oklahoma and vs. Baylor will provide the ultimate test. Expect them to be in the mix early.

2) USC

This team clearly seems the most talented from the West, has Kessler returning, and avoids any big time OOC games other than Notre Dame. What is interesting is all the road tests they'll have to face (at AZ State, at ND, and at Oregon). I could see the Trojans getting through the Pac-12 with one loss and getting a spot.

3) Michigan State

Ohio State seems the most talented team coming from the Big 10. With a target on their back the whole year getting everyone's best effort, I think they slip somewhere. This could allow a team like the Spartans to seize the reins. Sure I'm going out on a limb here, but with Connor Cook returning the Spartans should continue to build on their momentum in recent years. They do have to play the Buckeyes on the road, but get a key potential notch in their belt having Oregon in East Lansing early in the season (game 2). With a win here they will certainly be in the mix early in the season leading up to a end of year showdown with the Buckeyes. I think they have the team to get it done.

4) Georgia

Homer pick, but I've sort of wedged myself into this whole. I boldly predicted that LSU would win the West, but you have to figure the SEC Champion will make the 4. To me that comes down to UGA, Bama, or LSU. Tennessee could likewise challenge from the East, but I just don't see them getting through with only 1 loss to make a case. LSU has a weak non-conf and better schedule than Bama being one of the key reasons I see them making the Dome despite the QB questions. Because I have to stick to my prediction of having them in the Dome and I like UGA from the East, and in blind homer fashion I'll take the Dawgs in that matchup. Wouldn't shock me at all to see Bama prove me wrong and get this slot. What is scary is if the SEC beats up on itself and you have two 2-loss teams in the Dome potentially getting overlooked for a slot.

Who ya got?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Is the Party Really Over at St. Simons?

Per an Athens Banner Herald article this week, sounds like the police are going to make a vigilant attempt to crack down on the shenanigans of frat beach.

Full Article Here

"The letter goes on to let the schools and any students planning to spend the weekend on St. Simons Island know that officers with a host of local and state law-enforcement agencies will be patrolling the beach.
The letter also notes medical personnel from Southeast Georgia Health System will be on the beach “to deal with medical issues related to over-consumption,” but goes on to say that those medical professionals will be in place to “provide medical clearance for those arrested who are being taken to jail.”
Further delineating the county’s we’re-not-kidding approach to Frat Beach, the letter goes on to say that county police will be checking for age compliance with the state’s alcohol laws, and will be using computers on-site “to confirm a person’s age if an individual has no ID on his or her person.”
Sobriety checkpoints and the timely availability of a magistrate judge for processing people arrested during the weekend will also be components of Glynn County’s plans for reining in Georgia-Florida revelers, according to the letter."
Let me first say that as a college student, heading down to the beach Georgia Florida week on Thursday Tuesday was one of the greatest things you could ever imagine. Skip a couple classes, head down to SSI, get a couple days in on the beach before the all consuming Friday of glory, Emerald Princess that night, then head off to Jax from the Winn-Dixie parking lot Saturday morning. Partying on a beach with thousands of your closest friends four (or five) years straight is just incredible.

Soph Year SSI

That being said, it sounds like the local police will "attempt" to crack down. This doesn't make me think that thousands of underage partygoers won't venture out to the beach. My motto in college was always "as long as your respectful and not the dumbest one around, you should be ok".  Well it sounds like the local community has had enough, and it will be interesting to see what measures are taken this year.

Nowadays, coming from my 29 year old grownup perspective, SSI doesn't mean drinking as many cheap beers as possible in a 24 hour period. It's golf, a cookout, some drinks, etc. I've also noticed that this thing has gotten a mind of it's own lately. When I went you just went out to the beach with your chairs and necessary supplies. Now there's DJ booths, big tents, and it's really tried to become more of an event than maybe it previously was. Still, this is one of the highlights of college at UGA. It leads to stories that will always be talked about. I'm sure some guys from older generations will say I'm sure glad they didn't pay attention like this when I was in school. Different time, different culture I guess. I hope there can be a fine mix of allowing college students to be college students, and stemming the negativity that has surrounded the past few years. Something tells me that beach will still be rocking around 4:00 Friday before the Cocktail Party.

This would be a good time to YouTube "Frat Beach".

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Two Surprising Stats for the Dawgs

Of course stats and history have no merit on what happens next, just found these two interesting.

UGA is 12-1 in its last 13 SEC home games.

Auburn '14
Vandy '14
Tennessee '14
Kentucky '13
Mizzou '13 (the loss)
LSU '13
S. Carolina '13
Ole Miss '12
Tennessee '12
Vandy '12
Kentucky '11
Auburn '11
Mississippi St. '11

UGA is 8-1 in its last 9 SEC West regular season games (excluding the Dome).

Auburn '14
at Arkansas '14
at Auburn '13 (the loss)
LSU '13
at Auburn '12
Ole Miss '12
Auburn '11
Mississippi St. '11
at Ole Miss '11

I bet a few folks wish history would repeat itself in early October when Bama comes to town.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Surprise Receiver Making Noise

c/o classiccitytoday
Everyone has heard about Terry Godwin making noise at practice, and this proves a good thing giving his highly touted status coming in. The receiver that has been a pleasant surprise turning heads wasn't as expected. I will not take credit for the knowledge that Michael Chigbu has been making noise. Sitting in my office, I have to rely on the guys like Seth Emerson, the Rivals boys, and the folks I talk to around the program when able. What I can say is the Chigbu is perfectly positioned to make a big name for himself this year.
We all know that WR depth was a point of concern this year. Obviously a hopefully healthy Malcolm Mitchell would be the constant, Justin Scott Wesley given a bigger spotlight would be more reliable, and then we're left to hope that someone else would step up... be it Reggie Davis, Kenneth Towns, or Isaiah McKenzie in the slot. When you really look at it, there are bodies but there are also a ton of questions marks. To me the biggest question mark is who can assert themselves as a physical receiver.

Mitchell - 6'1, 195 lbs. great athleticism, but obviously has proven to be tough to count on for an entire year. When healthy he's awesome. People will overlook what a big catch he made last year versus Georgia Tech, and hope for glimpses of what we saw his first year or reminiscing on that Florida TD.

Justin Scott Wesley - 5'11, 201 lbs. - of LSU 2013 lore,  he's proven to be more of a vertical threat than proven route runner. 

Reggie Davis - 6'0, 170 lbs. - showing flashes on returns at times, and like JSW proving more of a vertical threat.

Kenneth Towns - 6'3, 202 lbs. - only seeing meaningful late game action it appears, still very much an unknown.

Isaiah McKenzie - 5'8, 170 lbs. - obviously a dynamic returner, and can be properly utilized in unique sets in the slot or out of the backfield, but hard to be relied upon as an every down WR.

With Godwin mirroring much of what UGA current has in its WR set, Chigbu is positioned to fill a much needed void as big time physical threat who can go get the ball when needed. Coming out of high school in Louisiana at 6'2, 214 lbs. he certainly has the build. Hopefully his body continues to develop now that he has reached the next level. He may have been an overlooked pickup. One metric I always check when evaluating recruits is who else offered them... college coaches tend to be better judges of talent than you or I.  He had offers from the likes of Auburn, Clemson, Miami, both Mississippi schools, Texas A&M, and even UCLA who has been recruiting well of late. Notably absent was his home state of LSU, but still an impressive list. He has the frame to fill a needed role (one in which UGA has been missing over the past few years), and this is the perfect opportunity for him. The positive reports from practice provide further glimmer to this notion. Hopefully we see #82 making some noise this season. It would be more than welcome.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2015 is Lorenzo Carter's Time to Shine

Lorenzo Carter really emerged last season in our eyes as a freshman. He totaled 41 tackles (7th on the team) and finished with 4.5 sacks. While we saw his emergence the nation may not have, but I think that is set to change this year. I have held to the theory the past few years that when one newer UGA linebacker has a breakout season they then will draw more defensive attention the next year. While the stats could decrease, it opens up the door for the other talent to step up in the opening.

This recent progression started with Jarvis Jones. As a newcomer to the Dawgs during his sophomore campaign he had 70 tackles and 13.5 sacks in 2011. He had a great junior campaign as well, but what is noteworthy is the progression of Jordan Jenkins that year. With Jones taking the bulk of the defensive attention in 2012, it freed up Jenkins to emerge as the newcomer of the year with 31 tackles and more notably finish second on the team in sacks. He emerged as the outside threat.

The next year in 2013 it was Jenkins coming in as the outside sack threat (Wilson & Herrera plugging the middle), Leonard Floyd had his chance to emerge as the newcomer. That year he finished with 55 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Having mostly the same unit in 2014 Floyd continued to progress amassing virtually the same stats, but giving us that glimmer of Lorenzo Carter getting his feet wet.

Now with Floyd as the number one linebacker in the corps, he'll garner the bulk of the attention. This sets the stage for Lorenzo to have a breakout year. Hopefully they both provide a two headed monster in the middle third from the linebacking position. With a year in the system under his belt and a full offseason to prep, 2015 is Carter's time to shine.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ranking the Difficulty of UGA's 2015 Games

c/o @FootballUGA

Preface: it's obviously too early, but why not. Also note that this isn't a "power poll" of the opponents, but more so my opinion taking location, timing, etc. into account. Obviously we can't know everything yet such as game times and such. Last year I had @SC #1 and Florida #4, but whiffed on Tech (as did UGA special teams late in the game).

1. at Auburn

Though it seems we've handled them when we should over the last few years, we should know going down to Auburn is never an easy task. Gus Malzahn is going to score points. He did it with Chris Todd, and has proven able with whatever talent he has. Last year we cracked them on defense, but I'm not sure the outcome is the same if the game isn't in a rocking Sanford Stadium. They will supposedly be able to stretch the field vertically this year with Johnson who has a nice compliment in Duke Williams. The offense is now more solidified in the system, and the defense looks to capitalize on the talent it has been amassing with the tutelage of Muschamp. Lastly, it falls near the end of the season. It could be a huge game for Auburn, but despite the size of the game Auburn always proves a hostile environment. They would be #2 in my power poll of opponents, but playing this one on the road vaults them to number 1. Just one of those games I feel like we're not talking about with Bama and Tennessee looming early.

2. at Tennessee

For many, this is the clear number one. I am not devaluing that notion at all. It will be a chance to Tennessee to get that big win they've been searching for on a national stage for a few years now. Going to Neyland is never easy. The only reason I have this one here is my comparison to Auburn, and the positive factors for UGA I have listed against Bama below. We do match up well against the Vols who averaged giving up 160 rush yards per game last year. They also should be plenty beat up having played at Florida and vs. Arkansas in the two weeks before (though we come off the Bama game). This game isn't hiding in the shadows behind Bama this year, as UGA certainly knows it's importance looking down the schedule. After two years of really ugly games, we should expect another. They are number 3 on my power poll of opponents, but #2 on the schedule list.

3. Alabama

This is the most talented team we will play this year. However they are in this position in my mind for a couple reasons. One, it's at home. If you don't think Sanford will be rocking well then you think people will have over served themselves during the day and half the crowd won't make it into the stadium. It's a perfect chance for UGA to reassert themselves (and Sanford Stadium for that matter) as a foe to be reckoned with. Two, it's timing in the season. I'd rather get them as early as possible than the alternative. With new offensive weapons having to get established better to play them early. Third, it will be Alabama's first road game with said new offense. Their biggest tests prior to are Wisconsin in Dallas and Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa. What will surely be a 3:30 or night game in Athens would hope to prove an eye-opening experience for the young Tide team in a rocking atmosphere. If we can remember to play the man rather than the name (or lack thereof) on the helmets and jerseys it has the potential to be a great day in Athens.

4. at Georgia Tech

I am probably giving this team too much credit from a talent standpoint, but as last year proved if you fall asleep in this one it can be your undoing. Revenge is certainly on the minds of the Dawgs. Even though you'll have about 25 fans cheering against you in Bobby Dodd, it has still proven over time a difficult place to play. The Jackets offense will surely be in end of season form, but our young defense should have a year of experience (plus a test vs. GA Southern the week before) in defending the option. I don't know why, but I'm very scared of this one... and I feel just as bad saying that.

5. Florida

The talent may not be there, and the O-Line is very very thin. After last year, I revert to the notion that you can never predict this game. With a who knows what the heck is going to happen offense in Gainesville, playing them later in the season can only help the Gators get more established. The defense should still be fine this year. I may be giving this team too much credit, but I will not understate that we all know you never know what happens in this game.

6. South Carolina

It feels strange putting them here, but this may be the year we become less scared of the Gamecocks. Getting this one as a night game in Athens certainly helps the cause as SC will be breaking in a new QB in a hostile environment. We're about due for a game that isn't close in this one. I feel like this is finally the year. If this game was away it would be in the top 3 or 4, but one should assume that the Athens home field advantage is the biggest factor in this one.

7. Missouri

It wasn't so pretty the last time they were in Athens, but we played much better obviously last year in Columbia. I think it's time to reset the course of Missouri in the SEC East. Getting them at home is a plus, and with key departures at WR and on defense they may struggle a little more this year. It won't be easy, and turnovers are always key versus a team you feel more talented than. The game also comes after the Bama / @Tennessee gauntlet, so hopefully the Dawgs still have something left in the tank before the bye week.

8. Kentucky

Sandwiched between the all important Florida and Auburn games, this could be a week where you're happy to just stay healthy and advance with any winning result. At times last year Kentucky showed glimpses of being able to play with anyone, having an excellent start to the season with a near win over Florida and win over the Gamecocks. Towards the end of the year they trailed off with blowout losses to LSU and Tennessee (UGA's was a blowout, but if you recall not really until the 2nd half). Towles will return who should lead a decent offense with a Stoops defense, but having this game at home makes it less dangerous than the bi-annual what the heck is going to happen game in Lexington.

9. at Vandy

Something in me wants to be scared of the outside factors of a second week 3:30 CBS away game, but after watching Vandy last year I feel a little less scared. Still it has the makings of a potential letdown game even in a win for the Dawgs, but it also could be another chance to develop momentum heading towards the Gamecocks in week 3. Their offense was anemic last year and seemed to lose a ton of momentum with the Franklin departure. I expect this year to hold more of the same for the Dores.

10. Georgia Southern

I could have honestly ranked them above Vandy in a power poll comparison, but the location places them here. They are picked to finish near the top of the Sun Belt once again and the option generally takes Georgia a bit to warm up to when we play them. They do return their leading rushers and QB, but over the years Georgia has proven to hold serve against the Eagles (though hopefully we don't give up 300+ rushing yards like the last time we played them).

11. Louisiana Monroe

After two years with a tough opponent to open, we revert back to the standard supposed cupcake. It couldn't come at a better time either as we will be breaking in a new QB and young WR unit. The Warhawks were a 4-8 team last year and are predicted to finish 6th in the Sun Belt this year. They return 8 on defense and have been one of the peskier throw away games in recent years. They beat Wake and nearly knocked off Texas A&M last year, but held serve with big losses to LSU and Kentucky. Hopefully the Dawgs can establish a new offensive rhythm against them.

12. Southern

While the Jaguars did reach the SWAC Championship game last year, this is an FBS team that is 0-8 all time versus current FBS teams.  They are a 9-4 team, but don't be fooled they lost to some mediocre teams by a good margin. #halftimeshow

Saturday, July 11, 2015

SEC Preseason Projected Finishes - SEC East

We've all come to know things can get sideways with how the divisions will finish... just look at Mizzou the last couple years, or out of nowhere teams like Auburn two years ago. Two of the main components I like to evaluate are the schedule draw as well as returning personnel. The luck of the draw in the scheduling can go a long way in seeing who gets to the Dome.

I'll also mention this is not a power poll, but a projected finish therefore it's not a reflection on who the best teams are in order. Much of my data was mined from Phil Steele, therefore I'll give credit where it's due.

SEC East

1. Georgia

Not just because of the homer pick, but if you really look at the East this year you have another situation of who just wants to hold serve. Their two biggest early season tests are at home (SC & Bama).  Both opponents will have to implement a new QB into their scheme as well as replace a good amount of folks on defense, and I'd rather face them before they have time to settle into a rhythm. The road slate is tough as well with @UT and @Auburn, but one would really think if UGA gets through their schedule with 2 or fewer SEC losses the rest of the division should get beat up on. Phil Steele did note they have the #37 schedule in the country as well as one of the bottom 4 most difficult in the SEC.

2. Tennessee

Everyone's media darling (as they have been the last few years) to reassert themselves. I think they certainly will be a formidable foe (after the last two games vs. them how could you not say that), but finishing 2nd in the East doesn't equate to real resounding success this year. They do return a ton of young talent. 10 offensive starters with key guys at the key positions (Dobbs, Hurd, North). They problem with Tennessee was their defense last year who averaged allowing 168 rush yards pg. That's not the way to win in the SEC. They will shock someone and get that big win they've been seeking this year to have a great season, just not sure it's the one that pushes them to the Dome yet. Arkansas and @Bama is a tough draw from the West.

3. Florida

This team is a complete enigma this year. Their only bright spot is they do return 7 starters from what was a pretty solid unit last year. The McElwain era of offensive genius will need to start very quickly, as this was their detriment last year. To further hamper this their O-Line has a 10 combined career starts, and even worse as of this Spring they only have 7 O Lineman on scholarship. Not exactly and optimistic stat heading in to the SEC war of the trenches. Still I think they find themselves here merely because the rest of the division may be pretty abysmal this year. Their West slate features Ole Miss in the Swamp which should be a win, but then traveling to LSU. 

4. Missouri

Another complete who knows. They somehow found themselves in the Dome the last two years, but it seemed we never believed they were a team that deserved it. They do return Mauk which I'm still not sure if that's a good or bad thing. They do lose some key personnel on defense at key positions. The West slate isn't awful getting MSU in Columbia and traveling to Arkansas. I think this is the year that Florida and Tennessee garner wins against the Tigers amidst their other losses to knock them down a few pegs.

5. South Carolina

This is the team in my opinion that takes the downturn this year. For the first time in a while the QB position is one of uncertainty. They only return 4 starters on offense, and 8 from a defensive unit that struggled mightily at times last year.  Their road and Western slate may do them in traveling to UGA, UT, A&M and then drawing LSU in Columbia. In my opinion we're looking at a 5-loss potential conference team here.

6. Kentucky

Finding themselves here because they can't be as bad as Vandy. Towles does return at QB, they return 2/3 top RBs, and their top 2 WRs. They draw Auburn and @Miss St from the West and have tough division games @SC and @UGA. They have the potential to pop someone this year, and despite all Stoops is doing with what he's got it's more of the same for the Cats.

7. Vandy

When you're trying to build a program, it's never fun to travel to SC, UF, and UT, having 7 straight games to finish the season with 4 of those on the road. Their potential starting QB left football this year. Their were times last year when Vandy looked abysmal...a la the Temple game. The departure of Franklin has hit them hard, and this year will be more of the same.