It’s that time of year again to talk some football and local fans have a lot to discuss before the opening weekend as there are a couple of new coaches who have some pretty high expectations to meet.
With the University of South Carolina opening on Thursday night against Vanderbilt and a large number of Georgia Bulldog fans in the area, today we are going to discuss the immediate future of these two programs. Let’s begin with Georgia who faces the Tarheels of North Carolina to open the season.
Kirby Smart took over a Bulldog program that has been nothing if not consistent. Former head coach Mark Richt could be counted on each season to post between nine and 11 wins, keeping Georgia semi-relevant in the Southeastern Conference but the expectations for Smart are to take the program back to national relevance once again.
Is this an achievable goal down in Athens?
The better question may be do Georgia fans and Clemson fans have something in common in the sense they have over-inflated the relevance of their programs in the landscape of college football over the years?
Both programs have a single national title to their credit so it isn’t as if they were Alabama with a long tradition of bringing home the number one hardware.
Yes, I am a Clemson fan and had to come to the realization on the subject myself to come to terms with reality — obviously where Clemson is concerned the program has elevated itself to the point these days where there is no question of its relevance.
As concerns the season ahead, Georgia has something most teams can’t claim and that is a two-headed beast of a running game with Sony Michel and Nick Chubb.
With incoming freshman QB Jacob Eason from the state of Washington, things could be interesting on the offensive side of the ball. However, Smart has struggled with stopping spread offenses his entire career, even with the defensive talent and depth he had as Alabama’s defensive coordinator.
Dual-threat QB’s have been a thorn in his side — so much so he had to visit with University of Houston head coach Tom Herman to get tips and still gave up 300 miles to the Clemson offense in the National Championship match-up.
North Carolina is coming off its most successful season in what seems like decades and has plenty of offensive talent to draw on, and that’s just the opener and doesn’t include any of the SEC’s offensive schemes remaining on the schedule.
Georgia should do just about as well as they have in years past, winning somewhere between nine and 11 games.
The Gamecocks on the other hand are something of an enigma and brand spanking new head coach Will Muschamp, although somewhat maligned before the first kickoff of the year, may be in the best position of any new head coach in college football.
Consider this if you will:
The Gamecocks more than struggled last season and had plenty of off the field distractions with the departure mid-season of Steve Spurrier. Throw in a loss to FBS member The Citadel and Gamecock Nation has been in turmoil, but that also helps Muschamp in a sense.
Well, in the sense that expectations should be lower than the last several years, which means he may get an opportunity to actually build a program. Whether he is capable or not is yet to be seen.
Which leads into the big detraction for Muschamp as the new head coach in Columbia. His stint in Gainesville as the Gators head coach didn’t work too well, especially when it came to recruiting and offensive production. At a school as large as the University of Florida, recruiting was at its easiest as the talent rich state lined up to play in The Swamp, yet the Gators struggled.
Rumor has it Muschamp will be pretty much hands off with the offense this time and it could make all the difference in the world in the long run as his proficiency with scheming a defense is well known.
So, that brings us up to speed on the Georgia and USC which leaves Clemson for Friday. Yes I am a Tiger fan, and considering the possible import of the season, it seems only fair they should get an entire column to preview the season.
Besides, it’s my column and you’re all along for the ride.
D. C. Moody is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.