Seeing is believing in college football

sports@macon.comAugust 28, 2012 

It’s that time again -- time to make predictions regarding the upcoming college football season.

We’ll start in Athens, where the 12th year of the Mark Richt era could be one to remember. Georgia has an easy schedule, with no Boise State like last year and not one of the top three SEC West teams. It’s the main reason, without even looking at the depth chart, most believe Georgia will do well this season.

But there are questions. The offensive line, once again, has to prove itself. Can John Theus start as a true freshman? Can David Andrews take over for Ben Jones? Can Chris Burnette be effective at guard? Will Kolton Houston ever play? Is there any depth at all behind the projected starting five?

We always seem to have questions about Georgia’s offensive line. When’s the last time that unit has had zero questions? Alabama has such a strong group it moved Barrett Jones to center, and yet Georgia is again struggling to see what it has on the line of scrimmage.

Of course, Georgia has to replace last year’s leading rusher, with Isaiah Crowell thankfully gone, and last year’s leading receiver, with Malcolm Mitchell now a cornerback. Much of the pressure will fall on junior quarterback Aaron Murray, who must prove he can win a big game.

While the schedule is easy, there will be challenges. Georgia has two tough road games at Missouri and South Carolina. And here’s one thing to remember: Tennessee, Florida and Auburn will all be better this season compared to last year. Georgia struggled to beat the Vols and Gators last year, but this year will be even tougher.

The defense could make Georgia special. Linebacker Jarvis Jones is a beast. There is legitimate depth in almost every position, along with true freshmen that could do more than contribute.

I’ll say Georgia has a repeat of last year. The Bulldogs will go 10-4, with a 10-2 record in the regular season -- losses to South Carolina and either Tennessee, Florida or Auburn. They’ll lose to LSU in the SEC championship game again, and then lose the bowl game. After last year, when Georgia didn’t beat a very good team, I’ve got to see it to believe it can happen.

In predicting Georgia Tech, I wish I could wait until next Tuesday, after the game against Virginia Tech. If the Yellow Jackets go up north and beat the Hokies, this could be a better season than some believe. But if they lose, it’s hard to tell what direction they will go.

I actually believe they are stronger on the line of scrimmage this season on both sides of the ball. The offensive line has never been more experienced or stronger in Paul Johnson’s five years on the job. And it looks as if Al Groh’s 3-4 defense is finally ready to turn a corner.

But like with Georgia, much of Georgia Tech’s potential lies with its quarterback. Can Tevin Washington take his game to a higher level and eliminate mistakes on offense?

Georgia Tech will go 9-3 in the regular season. The Yellow Jackets will lose to Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia. Will they win the bowl game? Again, like with Georgia, I’ve got to see it to believe it after so many disappointments for Georgia Tech in the postseason.

Georgia Southern will have a new quarterback, but year three of Jeff Monken as head coach could be the best. The Eagles have come close the past two seasons, getting to the semifinals. It seems as if they could do it again, and for them to break that glass and get past that round, again, we’re going to have to see it to believe it. They should at least have a good shot to do it with improved depth and the experience of two playoff runs.

So it is finally here. Let’s tee it up and get it going. We’re a day away from Vanderbilt and South Carolina, so this is sort of like Christmas Eve. It’s the best time of the year.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill on Twitter@yahoo.com.

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