Top story lines to watch this college season

dshirley@macon.comAugust 23, 2013 

The college football season kicks off next week, and it should be a good one in the state. And there is an added reason for excitement right here in Macon.

Here are some of the top story lines to watch for during the upcoming season.

Mercer kicks off: It has been 72 years since football has been played at Mercer, and that ends Aug. 31 against Reinhardt. It will be an interesting season, for sure, as the Bears go through a non-scholarship year in the Pioneer Football League in their first season.

Yes, Mercer will move to the Southern Conference and will add scholarships for the football program after this school year, but that is still a year away, and the Bears will need to focus on this year before they can think about next year. Mercer will play several other first-year programs, and that should help add some wins, but it will be a tough task, as it is for any first-year program.

Championship hopes: Georgia has lofty goals this season, and it should. The Bulldogs had a strong year last year, winning the SEC East and pushing Alabama to the breaking point in the conference title game.

Yes, there are some questions on defense with so many new faces, but the Bulldogs have a terrific defensive coaching staff, led by Todd Grantham. And most importantly, Aaron Murray is back at quarterback for his fourth season as a starter.

If the Bulldogs can survive a daunting first month of the season -- with games against Clemson, South Carolina and LSU -- they can be right in the hunt for more championships.

Getting defensive: Georgia Tech has plenty of offense, and it has for years. But the Yellow Jackets’ struggles on defense have held the team back.

The Yellow Jackets and their fans are counting on new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to get things straightened out. Roof has switched the defense to a 4-3 scheme, and that should showcase Jeremiah Attaochu’s skills. That will be important for the Yellow Jackets’ chances of having a strong season.

One final year: Georgia Southern announced during the summer that it would move from FCS play to the FBS level and the Sun Belt Conference after this year.

By doing so, the Eagles aren’t eligible to win the Southern Conference title or play in the FCS playoffs. So every week will be a playoff game for the Eagles, especially the seniors, and it would be a good bet that they’re going to try to make a statement in every game, put up a lot of points this season and finish the year with a bunch of blowout wins.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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