College football season of fun, unpredictability awaits us

mlough@macon.comAugust 29, 2012 

For those just down the road who will be traveling on State University Boulevard, it might be a long fall.

For those still grumbling about the decreasing locations to tailgate on campus near the arches or those using the Statesboro bypass as well as those congregating around Northside Drive in Atlanta, there is fun to be had in the next few months. And for another group that’ll be meeting near the connector in Atlanta, it’s hard to say.

We know the football season will be baffling, funny, intense and unpredictable. Even when we think we know how it’ll go, something will make the road to the expected result a little funky.

After two quality seasons, Fort Valley State crashed to 2-8 last season, its worst mark in almost 40 years.

Between an odd change in duties on the staff, this year’s roster turnover and the possible season-long absence of an all-conference tailback, things don’t look much better for the Wildcats.

Another non-conference schedule -- the Wildcats open at Delta State and Valdosta State, both of whom have played in national championship games in the past five seasons -- will be difficult. Last year has part of the fan base tuning out, and no mere breeze will cool things off. So many questions makes it feel like a 4-6 season for the Wildcats.

The other teams on today’s discussion list will have more fun.

Georgia Tech is the enigma for the same reason it often is: Can the backs avoid fumbles and turnovers? A Georgia Tech quarterback has a little more to prove than the average quarterback. But the offense should be fine.

Replacing five starters on defense makes things interesting for a unit that ranked 77th nationally in sacks and 94 in tackles for loss. And September is showdown month, leading to a feeling that this will be a different team when the leaves change, a 9-3 team. Good luck figuring out two of the three.

A few blocks away, the Atlanta Falcons will have a jog pace the first month of the season before starting to sprint. The coaching changes were superb. Has anybody ever seen Mark Richt and former Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey in the same room? Me neither.

Atlanta will finally use its weapons on offense and be more aggressive on defense, taking the fight to the opponent. Strap it up for the visit from Carolina in the fourth week, a tone-setting game for a team that will be serious come Christmas.

A 12-4 or better regular-season awaits the team that doesn’t need a brand new open-air stadium.

Can we please dispense with any more “ooh, Missouri is gonna be tough, all fired up playing its first SEC game ever, oooh” baloney?

All that blather means nothing on game day. Then it’s about football. And Missouri will be playing a top-10 SEC team in Georgia that’ll be tired of hearing about “ooh, Missouri is gonna be tough, all fired up playing its first SEC game ever, oooh” Expect a smackdown from the Bulldogs in the second week.

Georgia has had time to work in new bodies for the punished, and don’t be surprised if the offensive line surprises this season. Don’t fret about the running game. The veterans -- Richard Samuel was a 5-star recruit who hardly has played the position yet, and Ken Malcome is a very well-rested 4-star -- are better than advertised.

If Aaron Murray pulls the trigger quicker and the special teams are decent, an 11-1 Georgia team plays in Atlanta in December.

The best season in our group sets up in Gnatville, where the Georgia Southern Eagles should some day put a statue of a yellow bus near Paulson Stadium (with a forehead-bloodied Erk Russell in the driver’s seat).

Competition at quarterback won’t hurt the Eagles, who have a stellar backfield and a line that overall needs some experience. The defense will help make up for some of that. Georgia Southern has put the memories of Brian VanGorder in the past, which means it will be in for a season that lasts at least until the national semifinals.

Of course, the only speculation that’s on the mark is that the ride will be fun, no matter where it takes us.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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