Category Archives: 2016 College Football Previews
At least its not Shreveport!
Georgia’s disappointing first season under Kirby Smart will end up in a disappointing location (Memphis) against a disappointing opponent (TCU) in a disappointing time slot (noon). Can the Dawgs salvage anything and get the way-too-real ‘bowl bump’ into next year’s preseason top 25?
TCU was considered a darkhorse CFP contender before the season. Then, Gary Patterson’s defense straight up broke, Kenny Hill was Kenny Hill (decidedly NOT Kenny Trill), and the explosive offense of Trevone Boykin’s heyday seemed a distant memory.
In 2014, the Horned Frogs made a surprise run to CFP contention, likely missing out only because the Big XII failed to declare them or Baylor champions. Their scoring margin was a ridiculous 46.5-19.0. After slight regression in 2015, they collapsed to 31.7-27.8 this year. They had two ‘complete’ performances, both in November: a 62-22 cathartic rout at Baylor, and a Charlie Strong-killing 31-9 win at Texas. Each win was followed with a home loss in which the Horned Frogs scored exactly 6 points.
To say this team is bipolar is a stretch– they’re just not very good. They gave up 41 points to South Dakota St., lost to Texas Tech, only beat Kansas by 1, and suffered three blowout losses (WVU, Oklahoma St., Kansas St.). The losses of Boykin and Josh Dotcson slowed what was a devastating offense, and Patterson’s 3-3-5 defense finally succumbed to being a Big XII defense.
Doug Meachem and Sonny Cumbie are co-OC’s, and come from the now-cliche Baylor coaching tree. TCU likes to spread it out and create mismatches in space, pretty much the M.O. for any
Baylor coaching tree Big XII offense. Their iteration relies on a dual-threat quarterback who is accurate and efficient, which Kenny Hill is not. The ex-Texas A&M Heisman candidate completed 61% of his passes–decent, not great– but threw 13 interceptions to 15 TD’s. Dominick Sanders and the secondary should be able to turn him over a couple of times.
He was better on the ground, averaging right at 5 yards per carry in tandem with Kyle Hicks, who wasn’t super-explosive compared to backs past. He also averaged 5 yards per carry, but wasn’t particularly efficient or explosive. The Frogs do have four other backs who will get touches, including freshmen Darius Anderson and Sino Oloniula, both of whom averaged at least 8 (!) yards per touch.
The receiving corps is also just a bunch of dudes, as only Hicks and leading receiver Taj Williams averaged over 3 catches per game. True to
Baylor offense form, they spread the ball out a ton, just not very effectively.
The advantage here goes to Georgia, as they should be able to condense the field against a not-very-vertical passing offense with the most talented D TCU has faced this year.
Like I said, probably Patterson’s worst. There are some names that I recognize from years past still roaming the field, notably DE Josh Carraway (12 TFL, 8 sacks), LB Travin Howard (125 tackles), and DB’s Nick Orr and Denzel Johnson. Carraway is an NFL talent, Johnson is a box safety who helped TCUs run D not fall off the map– they only gave up 4.1 yards per carry.
Opponent passer rating has crept up since an anomalous 2011 season (130+). Besides that year, 2016 represents Patterson’s WORST pass defense, as they recovered from ’11 to go 115, 108, 106, 112…and up to 127 this year. If Jacob Eason can find intermediate routes early, it will open room for Chubb and the boys to do work on the ground, and Riley Ridley et al to find holes downfield. Actually, I’ll go ahead and call that the key to making this a Georgia blowout versus a close win: the intermediate passing game early.
Advantage Georgia here, again. Think a North Carolina or Missouri-level defense, with a month to prepare.
I’m not breaking this down. Instead, I will give you the biggest joy to watch in this matchup, college football’s sweatiest man Gary Patterson.
Recall, if you will, the magic of Gary’s immaculate sweat. In last year’s Alamo Bowl, Patterson changed shirts out of necessity (or maybe superstition, but that’s a hindsight call and thus not applicable) down 31-0 against Oregon. In what was the best comeback I’ve ever seen, TCU stormed back behind Gary’s purple shirt and beat Oregon 45-38 in OT.
So, yeah. This is a blah matchup to cap off a blah season. As long as it doesn’t resemble Georgia’s last Liberty Bowl, we’re good right?
My colleagues here made quite clear the same thing I saw Saturday night: this Georgia team is okay, but probably not great yet. With an amazing inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities, an anemic run game, and a pass D that got shredded for 320 yards IN THE FIRST HALF against Missouri, one can safely state that the confidence gained from the fourth quarter of the opener is more or less gone.
That being said, Georgia is 3-0, and that’s better than any other record possible given the amount of games played thus far.
If you haven’t watched any Ole Miss football this season, you’re just not a big college football fan. They’ve appeared (and lost) in the marquee matchup in two of the season’s three weeks thus far. Assuming you have…you know they can play like a t0p-5 team or a top-150 team.
First half vs. second half Chad Kelly
Chad Kelly is many things: the SEC’s best quarterback, gunslinger (both literally and figuratively), rapper, and…the streakiest damn quarterback I’ve ever seen. When he’s on (see first half vs. Florida State, first half and last 3 minutes vs. Alabama), he’s dynamic.
For a defense that just allowed Drew Lock to–again– THROW FOR 320 YARDS IN THE FIRST HALF– Kelly could pose an issue. Teams have seemed to have trouble matching up with Ole Miss’ rangy receiving corps early, and only adjusting when it becomes evident yet again that the Rebs can’t run the ball.
If Georgia can force Kelly to be efficient– score on 9-10 plays rather than 3-5– he will make mistakes. The Dawgs just have to get some pressure from someone, anyone on the front seven and avoid coverage busts that made Missouri so damn stressful.
Ole Miss D-Line: Awesome
The line you saw creating havoc against Florida State (again, in the first half) and nearly decapitating Jalen Hurts last week is very, very good. For an offensive line that has yet to find any kind of rhythm, this could be…problematic.
They’re led in the post Robert Nkemdiche era by Marquis Haynes, who schooled Cam Robinson a couple of times last week. Freshman Benito Jones has three tackles for loss early on, as well. Nobody else has registered a sack, but D.J. Jones, Isaac Gross, Breeland Speaks, and John Youngblood are by FAR the most athletic D-line Georgia has faced (and will face, until Florida at least).
For Georgia, the line has to hold up at the point of attack, and try some screens out of the backfield to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, and perhaps tunnels or quick hitches to Isaiah McKenzie and Terry Godwin to slow the pass rush.
Advantage: Georgia. Where?
The Ole Miss secondary is hobbled, young, and wasn’t all that good to begin with. The quick hitters early will be key in order to provide Jacob Eason some time to get the ball downfield, because there WILL be openings downfield. You don’t want to get into a shootout with Kelly, but picking spots (as Jim Chaney did very well against UNC, not so much since) is going to be the key to Georgia keeping the Rebs at arm’s length.
Will Georgia Win?
Ole Miss’ strengths through three weeks mirror Georgia’s weaknesses. Georgia has not really established any real strengths yet, though I expect Nick Chubb to get back on track to some extent any time.
For a road game against a tough SEC West opponent, its nice to have a noon kickoff. Nicer still is the hope that Ole Miss is suffering from a bout of confidence issues after taking it on the chin in the second half of both of their notable games.
Normally, this would constitute the throwaway game on the SEC schedule– but with Tennessee set to face Alabama and a game Texas A&M, and Florida drawing LSU and Arkansas, the Dawgs have a chance to steal an extra leg up on the road to Atlanta.
The skeptic may call it unsettled. I call it sandbaggery.
Kirby Smart released his first game week depth chart this morning, and…he may as well not have. The word “OR” appears at 16 spots in the two-deep, including 12 starting spots.
In a season where we don’t yet know who will be starting at quarterback for Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, or Alabama, the trend of playing lineups close to the vest is growing.
Let’s take a look at the “ORs”!
Not many guys listed as solid starters on this UGA offensive depth chart. pic.twitter.com/m5hb5YEU9i
— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) August 29, 2016
QB: Starting with a BS call on Kirby. Eason is starting.
HB: Chubb, if not on a pitch count (as Kirby said today) is starting.
FB: Six one way, half a dozen the other.
WR: Chigbu vs. Godwin scares me a little bit, as it would state that Godwin hasn’t taken the step forward Georgia needs to rely on him as the top target. Davis vs. McKenzie was moot, in my mind, due to the thought that Chigbu would be the SE and Godwin the Flanker, so…this interests me.
LT: Catalina vs. Wynn: Wynn will start somewhere, and it sounds like the staff is high on Catalina, making…
…LG: Wynn vs. Sims moot.
RG: With Wynn at LG, Sims would likely take RG over Lamont Gaillard.
So three positions (TE, C, RT) are settled going into week 1. If you believe that, I’ve got an inside track on selling the man-made lake they’re putting in the Georgia Dome’s place next year.
On defense, not quite so much of the same, as the position battles still active are quite intriguing.
UGA defensive depth chart. pic.twitter.com/J4IkdQddqq
— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) August 29, 2016
Reggie Carter, Natrez Patrick, and Roquan Smith are all vying for the MIKE and WILL jobs. As much as I’ve heard Smith’s name this fall, I expect him to take WILL with Carter manning the inside.
At nickel, new guy Maurice Smith is battling Rico McGraw. They’re both going to see a lot of snaps on Saturday.
**PROGRAMMING NOTE: There are two podcasts featuring myself and Andrew lost in the dark world of the internet, hoping they emerge because they took forever and were good. Hoping to get those up so I can interview a UNC friend for his takes on the game later in the week.**
The Coastal is peak college football– unpredictability, #GoACC memes, weird teams like Georgia Tech, former powers including Miami and Pitt…just a strange amalgamation of teams.
So much so, that last year was the first year in 11 tries that the Coastal’s representative in the ACC Championship game navigated the regular season unscathed. North Carolina, in winning its first division title, ran roughshod over the rest of the division (and weak crossover opponents).
Don’t expect that to be the norm going forward. The division has four contenders separated only by their crossover schedules (Virginia Tech avoids Florida State and Clemson), and…not much else.
The ACC Coastal
7) Virginia. They hired Bronco Mendenhall, so they’ll take the cake as the dirtiest team in a league full of them. They’ll force a frontrunning team *cough* Miami *cough* into dumb retaliatory penalties and win a game or two they shouldn’t.
Back to Bronco for a second, UVA is set to remain at the bottom of the division because the transition from recruiting the weird BYU bubble to the Mid-Atlantic is a stark one. His early enrollees from this spring:
Studly group, to be sure. True story: the black guy transferred to Northern Illinois during spring ball.
6) Duke. They’re still riding the coattails of a Peach Bowl loss to Johnny Football and David Cutcliffe’s relationship with the Manning brothers. It still…kinda works. I don’t see more than one winnable road game for them (Northwestern, Notre Dame, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Pitt, Miami) nor do I see them holding serve at home vs. Virginia Tech or UNC…so let’s nip that momentum in the bud, finally.
5) Miami. Everyone’s darling to win the division, I’m breaking stride and thinking they finish behind one of the non-contenders (Georgia Tech). ACC home games vs. FSU, UNC, and Pitt are no joke, and they don’t have a homefield advantage to speak of, anyway. Richt with less of a talent advantage will lose more games than we’re used to him losing.
4) Georgia Tech. Could win the division a la 2014, could tank again a la 2015, either way Paul Johnson is saved again only by his FULLY GUARANTEED BUYOUT.
3) Virginia Tech. And so goes the theme of this division. They could win it, or Bud Foster could decide he doesn’t like working for Justin Fuente (unlikely, Fuente is apparently a helluva dude) and blow the whole thing up. Basically, it comes down to JC transfer Jerod Evans doing Cam Newtonish things.
2) North Carolina. I’m too close to this situation, obviously, but a 2-3 start with losses to Georgia, Pitt, and Florida State and the Heels are in trouble. Hell, their next two after that are VT and at Miami. Cautionary pessimism here.
1)Pitt. Yes, I picked them last year before the James Connor cancer diagnosis. He’s back, and set to play WR, DE, and kick returner, apparently. While that’s not necessarily a great idea, they bring back a huge offensive line and a stout (never doubt Pat Narduzzi) defense.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
See, this is where the Coastal gets hard.
- (tie) Pitt at UNC, Sept. 24. VT at UNC, Oct. 8. UNC at Miami, Oct. 15. Miami at VT, Oct. 20. VT at Pitt, Oct. 27 (back to back Thursdays!). Pitt at Miami, Nov. 5. Six games between the four best teams– Miami, UNC, and VT get two at home, Pitt gets one. Otherwise, HELLO HOMOGENEITY!
- Florida State at Miami, Oct. 8: Al Golden’s Miami did an amazing job of keeping games against FSU close…when they had no expectations. CMR can achieve Schnellenberger/Johnson/Davis status FAST with a win to get to 5-0.
- Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee, Sept. 10: I mean, its being played at Bristol Motor Speedway. I came up with this idea in my first DYC post back in 2013. Timestamp: 5/10/13. Announced: sometime in 2014. I’m a genius.
- Pitt at Clemson, Nov. 12: Even if Pitt emerges from the scrum of Coastal foes, they will probably get knocked right back into the manpile.
- UNC at Florida State, Oct. 1: If my pessimism about Carolina sustaining success is unwarranted, a showdown of undefeated top-10 ACC contenders is on the books. If this is the case, I will be in attendance.
Players to Know
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami: He’s been shoved down our throats as Felicia from Friday’s son, as a perfect Richt project, and is actually a damn decent quarterback. But he got first-team preseason votes over Deshaun friggin’ Watson. He could be on that Hackenberg trajectory.
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia: The ‘I’ve never heard of this guy and my NFL team drafted him in the middle of the first round’ guy. Also, I have a thing for Sean Taylor prototype safeties.
Marcus Marshall, FB (B-Back for those initiated with CPJ’s offense), Georgia Tech: KEITH’S LITTLE BROTHER! Unlike Keith, he absorbs contact. Tech’s offense needs competence at B-Back and QB to be successful, and Marshall put up 7.6 yards per carry as a true freshman. That’ll do.
E’Juan Price, DE, Pitt: 1st-team All-ACC last year, now bookended by senior tackles and a Tennessee transfer (Dewayne Hendrix) who is a stud in his own right, Price could blow up.
Mack Hollins, WR, UNC: Suspended for the first half of the Georgia game for targeting in the bowl, Hollins is 6’4 and runs a legit sub-4.4. In so doing, he averaged 24.8 yards per catch en route to 8 touchdowns last year. And he’s overshadowed by Bug Howard and Ryan Switzer somehow.
I promise you this, faithful readers: if the noon SEC Network game doesn’t interest you (and it rarely will), I highly suggest you invest your early games in the ESPN/ESPN2 Coastal game du jour. With Narduzzi, Richt, Mendenhall, and Fuente replacing deadbeats, Fedora stepping it up, Johnson doing Johnson/Tech things, and Cutcliffe overachieving, the Coastal is on the road to being downright treacherous.
Or, at the very least, more exciting than the two good teams and four dwarves in the Atlantic.
This is just stupid enough to work.
This is the ACC’s long con. After an astounding run of mediocre football, the league has two clear powers and a second tier that…isn’t all that bad. The powers (and maybe Louisville) should run roughshod over the rest of the league, as they each get four bye-weeks-that-count-as-conference-wins based on the fact that none of the rest of the second tier resides in the Atlantic.
The ‘Woof’ Demographic
7) Wake Forest. The Deacs have two ACC wins in the past two years. In neither of those wins did they score more than six (6) points. Its baffling, horrific, and wildly entertaining. After back-to-back 3-9 campaigns, the Deacs should be out of “year zero” phase with Dave Clawson, and at least scratching the surface as the ACC’s Vanderbilt. They almost doubled their offensive yards per game from 2014 to 2015, so that’s something!
6) Syracuse. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there are too many instances of a team bereft of talent undergoing a scheme overhaul and improving. They play the rest of the bottom tier on the road, so I should pick them last, but…DINO BABERS! (Jimbo, Dabo, and Dino in one division. What a world.)
5) Boston College. Could secretly not be terrible if Patrick Towles (erstwhile the Kentucky QB) can get them…12 points a game? He’s already a winner in my book.
— Chad Floyd (@Chad_Floyd) August 6, 2016
The Perpetual 6-6
4) N.C. State. Dave Doeren has yet to beat a P5 opponent who finished the season with a winning record. His 18 wins in three years in Raleigh include: Louisiana Tech, Richmond, Central Michigan, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion (TWICE!), bad USF, Presbyterian, Syracuse and Wake (twice each!), Troy, Eastern Kentucky, and South Alabama. That leaves road wins against a 6-7 2014 UNC or a 4-8 2015 BC as his best wins. SOMETHING TO BE DESIRED!
Two playoff contenders and everyone’s favorite cyclist
3) Louisville. Yes, they’re getting a huge bowl bump because Lamar Jackson looked like Michael Vick in dismantling Texas A&M. But with a stout D, their close losses (Houston and Clemson by a combined 6 points last year), and the ‘Bobby Petrino offense bump’, they could make some noise with an early home date vs. FSU.
2) Clemson. Since I’m allowing my judgment to be based strictly on theories I’ve developed as a college football fan, I give the Atlantic nod to Florida State. Clemson has replaced a TON of its D for two years running now. Like we’ve seen with recent LSU teams, that works for one year. The second is where the depth deteriorates to a level that makes amazing play more unsustainable. Speaking of amazing, though, Deshaun Watson still exists.
1)Florida State. You’ll hear pundits question whether they have a quarterback. My rebuttal: JaMarcus Russell, Christian Ponder, and E.J. Manuel all got PAID playing for Jimbo Fisher. Can you tell me with 100% confidence the Browns wouldn’t trade into the back of the first round to nab Sean Maguire next year? If you can, they have two young guys who should be able to perform with the ENTIRE REST OF THE OFFENSE, Dalvin Cook and the OL included, returning.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
- Clemson at Florida State, Oct. 29: Back in 2013, I novelty-liveblogged this game as the resident ACC homer at the site. Now? I think its legit every-season appointment watching, joined only by LSU/Bama. Stanford/Oregon is the only other rivalry I’d put in that echelon over the past 3-5 years.
- Florida State at Louisville, Sept 17: Oddly, this was already scheduled. More oddly, it was scheduled as a nooner. UL has the chance to get a surprising leg over the ‘hawg, so to speak, and create some chaos.
- Louisville at Clemson, Oct. 1: Following my rationale that the rest of this division doesn’t matter yet?
- Clemson at Auburn, Sept. 3: Now?
- Florida State vs. Ole Miss, Sept. 5: NOW? Yeah, the college football Monday nighter is a doozy this year.
Players to Know
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Last year was his only healthy year, and…uhh…he was worth 47 TD’s and 4500 yards. That’ll do.
Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU: HOT TAKE ALERT! Cook, not Leonard Fournette, Christian McAffrey, or anyone else, is the best RB in college football. He put up 7.4 yards a carry against 9-man boxes with a bum hamstring last year.
Derwin James, S, FSU: (They also have the nation’s best safety.)
Josh Sweat, DE, FSU: The one that got away for Georgia fans, he should be healthy and a terror this year.
Devonte Fields, DE/OLB, Louisville: He was the Big XII Defensive Player of the Year as a true freshman. Sound like a typo? Its not, he transferred from TCU. Last year, he had 10.5 more sacks. It’d be neat to see him win in another conference.
Josh Harvey-Clemons, Shaq Wiggins, Louisville: Remember them? #GRANTHAMEXPRESS
Matt Dayes, RB, N.C. State: He missed the last month of the season due to injury, and still had good enough numbers to merit a second-team All-ACC appearance. Which is to say, he COULD be in Cook/Wayne Gallman/Elijah Hood territory when healthy. Holy hell, RB in the ACC is stacked.