The college football season begins this week. You might’ve heard something about it. The first episode of Weekend Predictions will be online Thursday and in print (old school) Friday, and there’s still time to register for the annual “Sack Schultz” contest, where you have a chance to outpick me in a set of 15 games every game. (Hah. Just kidding. It’ll never happen. But click here for details if you want to give it a try for some fabulous prizes.) Until the games start, here are some odds and a few thoughts on the four FBS teams in the state. Regular season win projections and conference title odds are via Bovada.LV and 5Dimes.eu.
First game: Saturday vs. Clemson.
Over/under wins: 9.5.
SEC title odds: 5-1 (tied for second out of 14).
All SEC title odds: Alabama 8-5, Auburn 5-1, Georgia 5-1, South Carolina 5-1, LSU 13-2, Florida 12-1, Mississippi 14-1, Texas A&M 20-1, Missouri 33-1, Mississippi State 33-1, Tennessee 40-1, Arkansas 66-1, Kentucky 200-1, Vanderbilt 250-1.
Thoughts: They have the best running back in the country (Todd Gurley) and a defense that will be improved under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, despite the losses/defections in personnel. The season is in the first two weeks. If the Bulldogs can beat Clemson and at South Carolina, they’ll probably be favored in every game until Auburn week Nov. 15. Wise decision by Georgia to slot a bye next week, giving them an extra week before traveling to Columbia for the first conference game. The other road games are Missouri, Arkansas and Kentucky, all winnable. The problem is Georgia has a history of losing games it’s not supposed to. I’ll get into Georgia more in a column on Tuesday but here’s my early forecast: A defense better than expected and a 10-2 regular season record, good enough to win the SEC East and meet Alabama. (No prediction on that yet.) Go over on the 9.5 wins.
First game: Saturday vs. Wofford.
Over/under wins: 6.5
ACC title odds: 25-1 (eighth out of 14).
All ACC title odds: Florida State 4-11, Clemson 10-1, Miami 10-1, Virginia Tech 10-1, North Carolina 12-1, Louisville 15-1, Duke 20-1, Georgia Tech 25-1, Pittsburgh 50-1, Syracuse 66-1, Virginia 66-1, North Carolina State 75-1, Boston College 200-1, Wake Forest 200-1).
Thoughts: If the Jackets don’t win their first three games (Wofford, at Tulane, Georgia Southern), something will be wrong. The real test comes after that: at Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke, at North Carolina, at Pittsburgh. It says here Tech goes no better than 3-2 in that stretch, maybe 2-3. A lot of folks made a big deal about once celebrated quarterback recruit Vad Lee’s decision to transfer but the reality is that he just wasn’t very good. Justin Thomas is a better fit for the option. Defensively, I suspect Tech will be better than people think and the offense won’t sputter as much. Early projection: 8-4. Go over.
First game: Wednesday vs. Abilene Christian.
Over/under wins: 2.5.
Sun Belt title odds: 250-1 (11th out of 11).
All Sun Belt title odds: Louisiana-Lafayette 2-3, South Alabama 9-2, Arkansas State 6-1, Louisiana-Monroe 15-2, Troy 14-1, Texas State 35-1, Georgia Southern 55-1, Idaho 75-1, Appalachian State 100-1, New Mexico State 150-1, Georgia State 250-1.
Thoughts: The Panthers’ record total has declined in each of its first four seasons — 6-5, 3-8, 1-10, 0-12 – primarily because it has slowly weeded out playing club teams from the bar down the street. Also, they’re not very good. But coach Trent Miles seems to know what he’s doing and it says something that the team competed better as the season went on last season. Success this season depends on … well, everything, but particularly cutting down on turnovers and better play at quarterback from Nick Arbuckle, a junior college transfer. Georgia State needs to take advantage of a soft start in their schedule: Abilene Christian (FCS) and New Mexico State (2-10 last season), Air Force (2-10). Can I pick 2.5 wins? Sorry, I can’t push myself to 3. Prediction: 2-10 (go under).
First game: Saturday at North Carolina State.
Over/under wins: 4.5.
Sun Belt title odds: 55-1.
All Sun Belt title odds: Above.
Thoughts: Georgia State and Georgia Southern obviously don’t draw the attention of UGA or Tech but it’s kind of cool there are two state teams in the same Division 1 conference. The Eagles are new to the Sun Belt (and FBS) but they have something the Panthers don’t have: a resume. They won six FCS national championships and – not that Will Muschamp needs to be reminded — last year they upset Florida, in Gainesville, 26-20. Expect Georgia Southern to throw the ball more than in the past under new coach Willie Fritz. Game 1 in Raleigh could be interesting. Prediction: 6-6. Go over.
Recapping the regular season records: Georgia 10-2, Georgia Tech 8-4, Georgia State 2-10, Georgia Southern 6-6.
Disagree? Agree? The cyber-floor if now yours.
•Some recent ramblings (free links)
– MyAJC: Braves CEO Terry McGuirk vows ‘Everbody accountable’ – MyAJC: Full Q&A with Braves CEO Terry McGuirk – Blog: It’s ‘Sack Schultz’ time. Think you can grill me? – MyAJC: If Tech wins, it will be with a better option – MyAJC: Predicting Georgia Tech’s season, game-by-game – Blog: On Braves, McGuirk and repairing baseball – MyAJC: Baseball repair list: Pardon Rose, quicken pace, shorten season – Blog: Braves find a groove, but so do Nationals – MyAJC: Mike Tice has a challenge — and he knows it – Blog: Bobby Petrino, Todd Grantham reportedly feuding already – Blog: Falcons can survive without Baker, not others – Blog: FSU No. 1, Georgia No. 12 in poll of insignificance – MyAJC: Trent Miles trying to change attitudes at Georgia State – Blog: With Braves six back, is ‘Fat Lady’ singing? – MyAJC: B.J. Upton, Braves continue their zombie walk – MyAJC: Cancer didn’t slow Michael Cooper – Blog: Braves’ attendance reflects lack of confidence – MyAJC: Falcons showing humility, lack of comfort — and that’s good – Blog: Braves being hurt by shortage of leaders – MyAJC: Can ‘Power 5′ conferences handle this power? – Blog: Who’s most to blame for Braves’ fall? (vote in poll) – Blog: Roddy White lost Twitter ‘bet’ and paid off in a big way – MyAJC: Paul George’s injury shows risk of NBA players in tournaments – MyAJC: Paul Johnson needs to impress his new boss at Georgia Tech – MyAJC: Pruitt winning over Georgia in ways Grantham didn’t