2013 is a year to be celebrated by football fans for many reasons: Notre Dame is currently 0-1 and -28 in scoring margin, recruiting photoshops are officially mainstream comedy, Tim Tebow is out of a job, and my Ravens won the Super Bowl.
For the SEC, it’s a year with more opportunities than normal to again reinforce its regional hegemony on the ACC, who again gets a chance to prove the league’s fall post-2000 was the result of a lot of bad breaks, coaching hires, and realignment decisions. My opinion is that, until very recently, ACC and SEC bottom-feeders would be competitive, but there has been a chasm between the definitions of ‘elite’ teams in the two conferences since Florida State’s fall from the elite in 2001. In 2013, I struggle to see the Boston College’s of the world coming close against even Kentucky or Mizzou. All that being said, there are a lot of games on tap for the early season that I want to get a head start on analyzing.
NOTE: I have not gone on my annual
sabbatical pilgrimage beach trip in which I read Phil Steele cover-to-cover, so my information is based strictly on impressions I think I remember from last season, the coaching carousel, and the NFL draft.
2013 ACC/SEC Games, Quickly and Carelessly Analyzed
1) August 31: Georgia at Clemson
This game, with the level on which both programs are currently playing, is what makes College Football’s lack of a playoff so damn frustrating. These are two culturally similar schools separated by about 60 miles of country roads and 30 miles of interstate. The two schools have played 60 times, but just twice since 1995, which strangely coincides with the advent of the BCS and the season-killing ability of a loss, regardless of the opponent. (Story for another day: how this could change in coming years and how awesome that would be.)
In this particular matchup, remember the Orange Bowl-over in 2012. Its result is relevant because these two offenses will push the 103 combined points Clemson and, well, mostly West Virginia scored in the game that got Steel Curtain architect Chuck Noll committed.
10 returning starters from the prolific 2012 Georgia offense? (And a defense that saw seven players taken in the NFL draft and even more graduate?) Check.
A Clemson offense that averaged 81.7 plays per game at 6.3 yards per play? (And a defense that yielded 5.6 yards per play?) Check.
First defense to five stops wins. Todd Grantham, this is how you actually get one of those NFL jobs instead of just being a perpetual candidate.
No prediction here, I don’t bet on my teams.
2) August 31: Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
Yikes. Not only did Virginia Tech’s new Offensive Coordinator’s 2012 offense finish 115th in the country, but Kirby Smart’s D is well-acquainted with him– because he is former Auburn OC Scott Loeffler (will be legally changed to Laugh-ler on Sept. 1). Gene Chizik knew he had to have a good year in 2012, and Loeffler’s West Coast offense was supposed to be the cure. Whoops.
Logan Thomas can throw the ball a long way. He is a decent runner. What he can not, I repeat NOT do, is perform even adequately as an accurate short-to-medium range passer. In the ‘tough luck for him’ category, that is precisely the keystone of the West Coast offense! He’ll get picked off 4 times in this game, and Alabama will be unanimous #1 before a lot of northern schools are in session (UGA? August 12. C’mon, man). We’ll leave it at that because I don’t need to waste valuable bandwidth to tell you that Bama is going to be a tough out this year.
Tide 31, Hokies 0.
3) September 7: Florida at Miami
Good news: if Miami holds serve against Florida Atlantic on 8/31, Miami’s front-running bandwagoners will be out in full force (so, Sun Life will be half-full). I’m kinda cheering for that not to transpire, and for this to happen instead. The opportunity to hear Will Muschamp’s insane ramblings on TV for 3 1/2 hours is enough comedic fodder to last DudeYouCrazy the rest of the season.
As far as the actual game itself goes, I expect no offense to be played. At all. I assume Jeff Driskel is still the QB at Florida (again, Phil Steele), and I know Miami has the crazy-fun-to-watch Duke Johnson. Those players aside, I’ll watch because I am a sucker for good, slobberknocking, defensive football.
Florida 22, Miami 13.
4) August 29: North Carolina at South Carolina
These teams played 59 games before South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992, and have played once since. You wouldn’t know it talking to a ‘Cocks fan, but UNC has owned this series all-time, taking a 35-17-4 record into Columbia. There’s a lot of latent animosity here stemming from at least these following items:
– Former UNC basketball coach Frank McGuire, who was the architect of their 1957 undefeated team, left in 1961 and became the S.C. coach in 1964.
– The Cocks’ departure from the ACC in ’71, in which they felt slighted in an NC-school-heavy league, was less than amicable from both sides.
– Steve Spurrier. He did this after a 1989 win at UNC as Duke’s coach, did everything but buy a house at Chapel Ridge golf club in Chapel Hill in 2004 and was set to be the Heels’ next coach until this happened, and…well, he doesn’t like my Heels or my Bulldogs.
– The one that really rubs me the wrong way: S.C. fans insist ad nauseum that UNC chickened out of their return game to Columbia (after the Cocks won 21-15 in Chapel Hill in 2007 and my buddy Alex, who was an S.C. student at the time lost one of his buddies in Chapel Hill’s arboretum for 36 hours after the game) when the agreement netted South Carolina three Thursday night primetime openers in 4 years from ESPN (this year’s being the third). UNC was offered the Chick-Fil-A kickoff vs. LSU. If the roles were reversed, I’d be more understanding. At least neither team pulled a Tennessee (sorry to link Bleacher Report).
So South Carolina loses 8 starters on D, their whole two-deep at linebacker, and a big running back who would have abused UNC’s 4-2-5? In the words of Lloyd Christmas, YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE! In all seriousness, Jadeveon Clowney vs. James Hurst is incredibly compelling trench warfare,
South Carolina’s young receivers UNC’s slow secondary scares the crap out of me, and my only previous trip to Columbia saw Larry Fedora’s Southern Miss team fall well short.
The Cocks will win, but Carolina (yes, CAROLINA) will keep it respectable. The spread is 14.5. Let’s cover (or come close).
Giving you the business,