The Georgia Bulldogs have won the mid-summer college football national championship. Of course, last year USC won the honor and wasn’t playing in the Championship Game come January. In fact, last season, USC and LSU were the only two pre-season top 5 teams to finish in the top 5 (with LSU the ultimate winner). Will Georgia be able to run the table?
The pundits talk about Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford as a future NFL franchise player, but the success of the Bulldogs will primarily rest on the running game. Knowshon Moreno is a pre-season Heisman hopeful, but the team will be better served if newcomer Caleb King is able to contribute as well. These two could be the best running back tandem since Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams at Auburn. The other freshman that could have a tremendous impact is wide receiver A.J. Green. The only junior to be named to USA Today’s High School All-American team in 2006, Green provides Stafford with a big target that could exploit teams keying on the running game. The good news for Georgia is they get both of their SEC East rivals at home, but they will be on the road for both LSU and Auburn. Playing Tennessee, LSU, and Florida in less than a month, a loss is not out of the question, but any more than that will be a disappointment for this team.
Florida has added significant talent to their pedestrian defense of a year ago, but with the majority of their tough games early in the season, this team will be once again playing in a nice bowl game, but outside of the national championship discussion. Tennessee opens up the season at UCLA, and depending on the result the tone will set. It’s not out of the possibility that they will be struggling to stay above .500 halfway through the season. With a new quarterback, a new offensive coordinator, a sub-par recruiting class and the same head coach, Tennessee seems headed to another disappointing season of underachievement. South Carolina remains the stepchild of the East, a geographical indictment more than a coaching one. They stand to be 5-2 or 6-1 entering a home game against LSU, but close the season with games against Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, and Clemson. Midseason crowing seems to be the specialty of Gamecock fans, and this season will be no different.
The SEC west is home to the defending National Champions, as well as one of the nation’s most intriguing coaching carousels. The continuing saga of the return of the hat to Alabama (recently named the most powerful coach in college football), Bobby Petrino’s midnight bailout to Arkansas, and Houston Nutt’s departure to Mississippi will all be headlining in the west, and that’s because football won’t. LSU will repeat as champions of the west, but with one, two or potentially three losses to Florida and Georgia, they will not be in a position to defend their title in January. I wanted to talk about LSU v. Appalachian State, but Cleet activated the shock collar.
It’s possible neither Moreno or defending winner Tim Tebow will bring home the Heisman, but their matchup in Jacksonville may determine who gets the invite to New York, and more importantly who represents the East in the SEC championship game and beyond.
SEC East: Georgia
SEC West: LSU
Conference Champions: Georgia
Below Expectations: Tennessee, LSU
Above Expectations: Alabama, Mississippi (how could they not)
Player to Watch: Knowshon Moreno, Georgia RB
Game to Watch: Georgia / Florida, “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, Nov. 1st