Power Ranking The Top 5 Teams Not Playing In 2020

The Big 10 and Pac-12 have postponed their football seasons until the spring, and barring a miraculous change in direction, that means we are missing a few great teams worth watching this coming football season. There are rumors that certain teams from these conferences are still trying to put together a season, so while all hope is not yet lost, here’s the top 5 teams we are at least very unlikely to see play in the coming months.

5. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan faced an uphill battle this season in a loaded Big 10 East with Penn State and Ohio State. However, with Ohio State visiting Penn State, and the Nittany Lions travelling to Ann Arbor, there were hopes at potentially making a run at a 9-win conference season, which would at least keep them in the Playoff conversation. That may have required Jim Harbaugh to win a big game, so it may not have happened, but regardless, one of the best divisions in football is out of action this fall. We also miss some intirguing storylines, including Michigan’s quarterback battle, as they scramble to replace Shea Patterson. The Wolverines also will not get to break out running back Zach Charbonnet, who turned heads during an impressive freshman season. He averaged a touch under five yards per carry and notched 11 touchdowns on the ground. He was largely not Michigan’s feature back, but he figured to get an increased share of the carries in his sophomore season. Charbonnet will certainly miss out on a great chance to boost his draft stock, a common and unfortunate theme for many players in these conferences. It’ll be a weird season without the Maize and Blue roaming the gridiron.

4. Oregon Ducks

Maybe a tad low? That’s alright, I can deal with the protests of Oregon fans. Most college football fans were disappointed last year when Oregon lost a late-season battle with Arizona State, nullifying the Ducks’ chance at the Playoff. They were largely disappointed, simply because the general thought, which proved to be correct, was that Oklahoma could not match up in the Playoff, and the red-hot Ducks figured to be a higher-quality team. However, their late season loss doomed them, and Oregon settled for a Rose Bowl victory. This year, they would have had to replace quarterback Justin Herbert, who was drafted sixth overall after spending four years under center for the Ducks. Oregon figured to be a prime Pac-12 contender and potential darkhorse for the Playoff – however, barring any unlikely circumstances, they won’t be getting that chance in 2020.

3. Penn State Nittany Lions

I was really high on Penn State entering this season. I thought the Nittany Lions were truly one of the best teams in the country. They’re definitely one of the teams I am disappointed I won’t get to see in action. Whether it was defensive force Micah Parsons terrorizing opposing offenses, Journey Brown putting forth a dynamic season in the backfield, or quarterback Sean Clifford becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 10, Penn State had a ton of potential, I thought. Parsons opted out of the season, and Penn State also announced there would be no fans, nullifying their fairly significant homefield advantage at Happy Valley. Particularly affected was their home clash with Ohio State, which they figured to make their annual ‘whiteout’ game, which provides one of the most deafening atmsopheres in sports. That game, and this team as a whole, will be missed by the college football world in 2020.

2. USC Trojans

Entering this season, I was completely sold on Kedon Slovis as the best quarterback in the Pac-12 and one of the best in the nation. I believe USC had the best returning offense in the conference, a defense that could at the very least stack up as a top-5 unit. Slovis ended last season absolutely on fire, and I was ready for him to absolutely torch the Pac-12 this season. I truly could have seen him as a darkhorse Heisman contender, had the Trojans become a legitimate playoff contender. Slovis is an absolute stud, and I think he will elevate his draft stock to be one of the premier quarterbacks available in the 2022 draft, assuming he has a chance to suit up again by that point.

1. Ohio State Buckeyes

This was the obvious number one. Whether you were excited to see Justin Fields ball out under center once more, or who in the Ohio States talented wide receiver corps would emerge, or exactly how well Master Teague could fill the shoes of J.K. Dobbins, or how dominant the Buckeyes’ defense could be, there was plenty to be excited for in this Ohio State team. They fell just short in the College Football Playoff Semifinals last season, and you can bet the house that they would have been raring to go out of the gate, ready to avenge that gutwrenching defeat. Ohio State was definitely on the shortlist of national title contenders in 2020, and one of the clear reasons that a national championship earned this coming fall season may have to come with a slight asterick.

Recent Virus Spikes Should Not Be The Reason To Shut Down College Football

The headlines have been both plentiful and negative this week, as reports of UNC reversing course and shifting to online learning, while Notre Dame did the same, although allowed students to stay on campus – for now. Both situations were caused by significant spikes in COVID-19 cases. UNC reported over 320 cases, with another couple of hundred students quarantined due to contact tracing. Notre Dame’s latest update had 222 confirmed cases as of Wednesday at noon. As with UNC, dozens of other students are currently quarantined. In an email, Notre Dame president Father Jenkins stated that the number of initial cases, just 15 days since freshman arrived on campus, and under two weeks after classes started, exceeded their initial estimates. New campus restrictions were set in place, and the student body is somewhat in limbo regarding their status for the rest of the semester. At UNC, most students are returning home. However, at both schools, sports, notably football, remains largely unhindered.

Notre Dame did not practice Wednesday, and they might not Thursday either. The players received tests for the virus, and it is believed that they will wait for results before continuing with practice. Their last set of test results came on August 10, with just 2 of 117 players and staff testing positive. Those who are against schools returning to in-person learning have been vehemently against a college football season. But quite frankly, recent developments show that these athletes may actually be safer with the season ongoing.

The COVID-19 virus remains a relative unknown, and obviously, player safety should be prioritized. However, can it be confidently said that cancelling the football season would make these players safer? I’m not so sure that the case can be made. Throughout the summer, many college football programs practiced, following strict health protocols and keeping case numbers extremely low and even nonexistent at times. These low numbers have been been a major point in the push from many college football players and coaches to keep their 2020 season alive. When seasons were cancelled, many coaches spoke out, discussing the guidelines they had successfully followed in order to earn the chance to play.

Would the numbers increase once the season started? Again, the virus can be a little unpredictable given how new it is, but it seems that if the testing capacity is there, it would not be the case. Look at the case in the NHL and NBA bubbles right now – no cases are being reported despite heavy contact sports being played with no masks and certainly very little distancing. Yet, with increased testing, there have been no cases in recent weeks. While they’re in a bubble, the MLB is not. And yes, the MLB has had some struggles with cases, but every team that has been shut down has been linked to activity that took place off the field, such as a few Miami Marlins’ players visiting a strip club. These sports aren’t particularly conducive to distancing, players aren’t wearing mask, and many of the other general safety protocols regarding COVID are not really in play in these bubbles. Football may be a new test, but it doesn’t appear at this point, given the success of summer practices, as well as the restart of professional sports, that playing sports dramatically increases the chance of infection.

But what about the bevy of Athletic Directors saying they won’t play football without their students on campus? We can only hope they will see sense. While yes, the college’s job is to educate their students, it would be ignorant to ignore the financial ramifications of losing the football season. Notre Dame, for example, uses the money from their contract with NBC to supplment financial aid packages for students. Football is the biggest moneymaker for many universities around the country. It’s not about prioritizing athletes over regular students – it’s about doing their best to dull the financial crisis that will arise out of this pandemic.

As for the recent spikes in cases? To this point, there is no reason to suggest that will be made better by cancelling football. Initial reports from Notre Dame said that the majority of their cases originated with a couple of large off-campus parties. UNC reported a similar situation. The trend has been pretty clear – off campus students, who have housing secured for the year, and non-athletes, with little to lose beyond in-person classes, have been careless and put their schools in tough positions. Notre Dame’s numbers showed that the majority of their cases came from two sources – senior students and business students. Seniors, and particularly seniors in business, often have jobs locked up, or close to locked up, entering their final academic year. Their housing situation would remain largely unchanged, and their future prospects would hardly be threatened by another virtual semester. Meanwhile, a general sense of outrage has permeated the campus, particularly among on-campus underclassmen, who would feel the brunt of the impact of a virtual semester.

There’s a reason that the numbers among football teams have been extremely low – these athletes are playing for their team and their future. Take away that season and all you are doing is adding hundreds of players to a careless student body. That doesn’t seem to lower the risk. The trend is clear – people with something to lose have been more careful, follow the guidelines, and keep the case numbers low. If we’re looking at a pros and cons list, the cons of cancelling football seem to outweigh the pros by a heavy margin right now. Fans or not, colleges need this financially, and if anything, recent events have shown that sports are not really the issue at hand – they’re simply becoming another victim in a hunt to end the virus that feels more and more like a chicken running around with its head cut off. Focus on the issue at hand and give the players the chance to play that they deserve.

And if you’re not an athlete – maybe don’t throw a massive party that gets your school shut down.

Possible College Football Playoff Formats For 2020

The SEC announced its schedule yesterday, with their first week of games still slated to start on September 26. The ACC is primed to begin play on September 12. The Big 12 marks the third Power-5 conference still intending to play in what will be a wild and wacky college football season, should we make it all the way through. In total, 6 of 1`0 FBS conferences are currently planning to play, while the Big 10, Pac-12, Mountain West, and MAC have all cancelled towards fall football. Though they hope to play a spring season, it looks somewhat improbable that the situation will be clearly better just 5-6 months from now. While some vaccines have reached Phase 3 of testing, the timeline still seems crunched if that is indeed what these conferences await. It’s too early to tell whether their intended spring season will pan out; for now, the focus is on the six conferences still seeking to play. And while each conference at this point seems to be moving forward with a conference-only (or close to) schedule, there’s a major question to be answered. How will the College Football Playoff look? Will we see a temporary one-year expansion? Will the committee simply have to say which conference’s match-ups they value more? Will a Group-of-5 team get a chance. Here’s a few possibilities to consider.

3 Conference Champions and a Wild Card

At the moment, barring any further announcement from the CFP, this seems like the most likely option. The Big 12, ACC, and SEC champions will all get an automatic berth, while a wild card berth will go to one non-champion. While this leaves the door open for a Group of 5 participant, the likelihood would be that this berth goes to one of the Power-5 conferences’ runners-up. It also leaves open the possibility of one diviison – namely the SEC West – getting two playoff teams. The ACC, at least for this season, has eliminated the Atlantic and Coastal Divisions, leaving them with just a 15-team conference, meaning the top two teams will clash for the title. The same can be said for the Big 12, while the SEC has maintained their two 7-team divisions. As has been the case for a while now, the SEC West remains the considerably stronger division of the two, and they have had a non division champion make the CFP. Could we get LSU and Alabama into the Playoff?

In this format, the Group of 5 is a clear loser. Even with a reduced playing field, they have next to no chance at attaining a postseason berth in this set-up. Even an undefeated run from a team like Memphis or Appalachian State would carry very little weight with zero, or maybe one, power-5 opponents. A Power-5 team with an appearance in the conference championship will almost certainly get that fourth and final bid.

Winners from this format, in my mind, are Notre Dame and Georgia. These are two teams that are currently favored to be in their conference championship, but not win. Had every Power-5 conference been in action this fall, this would almost disqualify them from playoff consideration. However, in this format, an appearance and competitive showing in the conference championship game could gift them that final slot. I didn’t list a Big 12 team, because I believe it is unlikely that a 10-team conference will be given two playoff spots, while one from the 14-team SEC and 15-team ACC are chosen. Also, there isn’t a clear 2nd-best team in the Big 12 at this moment. Texas is generally considered Oklahoma’s biggest challenger, but that could just be preseason “Hook Em” Texas bluster. Oklahoma State and Iowa State figure to be competitive, while Baylor looks to recapture the magic that almost had them in the Playoff a year ago. Meanwhile, Notre Dame is a unanimous favorite to be in the ACC Championship with Clemson, while Georgia also figures to have a very good chance at representing the SEC East for a fourth straight season in the SEC title clash. This format gives the Irish and the Bulldogs a far brigher outlook when it comes to playoff possibilites.

4 Conference Champions

An interesting and improbable idea. This idea made a few headlines when South Florida coach Jeff Scott floated out this tweet:

Could the Committee consider the AAC a “power-4 conference” for one season, giving a Group-of-5 team an automatic bid into the Playoff. This seems naturally unfair to Power-5 teams playing much more grueling schedules. The AAC certainly has some talent at the top in Memphis, Cincinnati, and UCF, but it’s simply not the same as having LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and Florida (such is the schedule of Texas A&M). This elevates the AAC to a status that it doesn’t seem to quite merit at this point, and while it would be a fun underdog story, such darkhorse tales tend to not fare as well in football, particularly at the collegiate level. Think about this way: Would you rather see Alabama or Clemson taking Notre Dame or Georiga in the Playoff, or would you be more likely to tune in to see one of the afoementioned powerhouses take on Memphis. Seems unlikely, no matter how good they are.

The AAC is a major winner in this format, while Conference USA and the Sunbelt Conference are left completely out to dry. Mainly, I think of Appalachian State, who may be one of the best group-of-5 teams this year, being given no chance at a Playoff berth, while the AAC is somewhat arbitrarily granted Power-4 status and a Playoff berth. And while the last system was a postitive, Notre Dame and Georgia will also frown upon this format, as their playoff hopes will now square on them beating favored opponents and national championship favorites in their conference championships.

“The Best Four”

The Playoff committee couold simply stick with their current system, which, hypothetically, selects the best four teams every single season. While this often brings in Power-5 champions, there’s been a few notable examples of non-champions cracking the four team field. The reason I view this as unlikely, is that the committee will have to essentially publically state with their selections that they value the other conference. Yes, Oklahoma has historically and recently been a very good team that looks like world-beaters inside the Big 12, only to faint on the big stage. Will the Playoff Committee naturally assume the Big 12 is again an inferior conference, thus looking for extra SEC teams ti fill out the bracket. The SEC has been the only conference to get two playoff berths in one season, and so this system likely benefits them far more than other conference. With a conference-only schedule, it seems very likely that should a second berth come from one conference, it would be an SEC Team.

In my mind, the biggest winner of this scenario is LSU. I think the Tigers enter this season as likely the 2nd-best team in the SEC to Alabama. However, may formats would disqualify a 9-1 LSU team from the Playoff; however, if Ed Orgeron’s squad looks convincing in their nine wins, they could be deemed one of the ‘best four’ teams here without making their conference championship.

The biggest loser of this situation would possibly be Oklahoma. While the Committee is never supposed to take past years into consideration, it’s getting hard to ignore the eggs that the Sooners lay on the big stage. Will they be wholly convinced that an Oklahoma team, possibly with 1 loss, is one of the best four teams. I wouldn’t count on it right now.

An Expanded Format

An expanded format may be unlikely to think about, but it could be a way to smooth out the inevitable wrinkles that will come with trying to select a playoff field. An 8-team playoff that guaranteed a berth to both participants in each conference championship game, plus two wild card berths, with one reserved for the best Group of 5 champion, has some interesting merit. It really ensures that we get the best teams – with a Group of 5 underdog – and the possibility for a deserving team that didn’t quite make a conference title game. This format would be hardpressed to exclude a deserving team, but there are some drawbacks. For one, it pretty much devalues the conference championship game, which becomes a ceremonial trophy with only an effect on seeding. For a team like Notre Dame, who doesn’t really have a vested interest in winning conference titles as a program, if they were to reach the ACC Championship against Clemson, would they be willing to start their stars in a game that had little affect on their future chances?

Some other interesting formats include a 5-team playoff that includes 3 Power-5 champions, one Group-of-5 champion, and a wild card. This way, the conference champions get a bye, while likely the Group of 5 representative takes on the wild card in a playoff-opening quarterfinal clash. This puts value on winning your conference title, but opens up a path to the playoffs without doing so – a key factor for teams like Notre Dame, Georgia, and LSU (assuming Alabama as the favorite this season).

In all likelihood, the Playoff will have to have either a guaranteed spot for a Group of 5 school, or simply maintain their “best teams” vernacular. Any system that only allows Power-5 champions or conference championship participants would be admitting to the obvious – that no Group of 5 team will ever get a playoff berth under the current system. While it’s true, the Committee won’t want to make a format that directly excludes them either.

The Committee has its biggest challenge ahead in 2020 – from comparing conference strengths, to determing a fair format, and everything else, they face some very tough decisions this coming season. Can they minimize the drawbacks and give us a CFP worth watching?

CFB Greatest OF All Time Bracket: 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson Clash in Quarterfinals

It’s been one heck of a ride so far, but by the time our initial field of 32 college football teams boiled down to 6, we have ourselves some of the greatest squads to ever step onto the gridiron left. Starting it off is a modern-day classic featuring the last two national champions – 2019 LSU and 2018 Clemson – battling for the right to face 2012 Alabama in the Bracket A final. In Bracket B, 2013 Florida State has slogged their way through the loser’s bracket, winning two straight overtime clashes, to set up a battle with 2009 Alabama. The winner of that will face the daunting task of having to defeat 2001 Miami – who has only trailed for a total of 3 minutes and 22 seconds in four games so far. Twice. They have to defeat them twice. It’s a tough road ahead, but let’s see what happens in our final pre-championship round.

Bracket A Semifinals
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 34 LSU 33
This one lived up to the hype. LSU took the early edge, 23-21 at halftime, but Clemson rallied in front by a 31-30 margin at the end of the third quarter. Joe Burrow hit Ja’Marr Chase for a 39-yard gain, and Clyde Edwards-Hillaire broke off a 15-yard run, as LSU snuck into the red zone near the halfway mark of the final quarter. However, Clemson’s defense stiffened, and Burrow’s 6-yard scramble on 3rd and 8 left the Tigers two yards short at the Clemson 8-yard line. Cade York drilled a 25-yard field goal, but with 4:49 to play, Clemson only trailed by two. 

Clemson’s drive looked destined to stall, but an 18-yard scramble from Lawrence extended the drive on 3rd down, and Etienne ripped off a 41-yard run to bring Clemson to the red zone with 1:53 to play. LSU had just one timeout, which was burned on an Etienne run, and Clemson worked the clock down under a minute before kicking a field goal to take the lead. Burrow was left with 47 seconds and no timeouts and couldn’t make any magic happen, getting to the Clemson 49 before heaving up a Hail Mary that fell to the ground. And with that Hail Mary ended the infallible 2019 season of LSU, who dropped two straight games after dancing dangerously through three one-score victories. 

Bracket A Championship

7. 2012 Alabama vs. 2. 2018 Clemson 
Alabama 23 Clemson 21 
Another great game, but 2012 Alabama stays undefeated. The 7th-seeded darkhorse Crimson Tide have rolled their way through bracket A and into the championship, behind the strength of their ferocious backfield, headlinged by Eddie Lacy, Kenny Drake, and T.J. Yeldon. Lacy did the damage in this one, leading the way with 92 rushing yards and a touchdown, while quarterback A.J. McCarron was his usually efficient himself, limiting mistakes and throwing for 174 yards and a score. Clemson got 105 rushing yards from Travis Etienne, but they rarely had the ball, holding possession for just 21 minutes and 35 seconds of game time. 

Bracket B Semifinals

3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Alabama 37 Florida State 28
After crawling past two consecutive opponents in overtime, Florida State’s magic ran out. The Seminoles jumped out to a halftime lead, but they quite simply ran out of gas. In typical Nick Saban and Alabama fashion, the Crimson Tide controlled the contest with a ground-and-pound attack, racking up over 350 yards, led by 180 from Mark Ingram, who also found the end zone three times. Trent Richardson chipped in with 92 yards and a touchdown for the Tide, who trailed 28-27 entering the fourth quarter before completing their comeback. 

Bracket B Championship

1. 2001 Miami vs. 3. 2009 Alabama
Miami 24 Alabama 23 
This was an excruciating loss for the Crimson Tide. Not only because of their elimination, but because of how it went down. Miami trailed 23-17 with 2:17 to play, but Ken Dorsey connected with Ethenic Sands for 28 yards on the opening play of their drive, bringing them to the Alabama 47. However, Dorsey was hit hard on the play and was unable to return. The Hurricanes summoned backup quarterback Brock Berlin in, who proceeded to dice the Crimson Tide defense, going 5-5 for 31 yards. With 17 seconds to play and a timeout to burn, Berlin handed off to Clinton Portis from the 5-yard line, and the legendary Miami running back did the rest, breaking a tackle at the 2 and extending the ball over the line for a game-winning touchdown. The Hurricanes are 5-0 and into the championship round, where they will have to take down another Alabama team – the 2012 version – in a best-of-three series.

CFB Greatest Of All Time Tournament – Round 5 and 6: 2014 National Championship Rematch?

We’re into Round 5 and 6 of our Greatest of all time College Football simulation, and by the end of this article, we will be down to our final six teams. A few teams will play twice in this piece, as we narrow it down to the final three teams from each bracket. As a reminder of where we stand currently: 2012 Alabama (Bracket A) and 2001 Miami (Bracket B) are the only remaining undefeated teams and must be defeated twice in the bracket championship. 2019 LSU and 2009 Alabama fell victim to each of those teams respectively and have earned their spot in the final six participants. Four teams in each bracket are left to duke it out for the final two entries into the seventh round. In Bracket A, 2018 Clemson, 2008 Florida, 2008 Oklahoma, and 2000 Miami fight for survival. On the other side of things, 2013 Florida State, 2003 LSU, 2014 Ohio State, and 2014 Oregon will clash for that sixth and final spot. Let’s get into it. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket

6. 2008 Florida vs. 2. 2018 Clemson
Clemson 37 Florida 27
Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers are moving on, as Travis Etienne ran for 147 yards and a touchdown, while Lawrence tossed a pair of scores on 24-36 passing and 293 yards. Clemson opened up a touchdown lead at halftime and never trailed, as Tim Tebow and his 2008 Gators could not seal the deal against Dabo Swinney’s 15-0 championship team. 

13. 2000 Miami vs. 9. 2008 Oklahoma
Oklahoma 45 Miami 27
Miami’s hopes now lie in their unbeaten ‘01 squad, after the 2008 Sooners torched the Hurricanes through the air and on the ground, dominating start to finish in a 45-27 victory. Chris Brown ran for 104 yards on 21 carries while finding the end zone twice. Bradford threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns, as Oklahoma led by double digits by the end of the first quarter and never let Miami come within a touchdown. 

Bracket A Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

2018 Clemson vs. 2008 Oklahoma
Clemson 52 Oklahoma 31
This one was never close from the start. Trevor Lawrence threw two first half touchdowns to open up a 14-point halftime lead, while Travis Etienne racked up 186 yard and three touchdowns on just 20 carries, as 2018 Clemson cruised to a 52-31 victory, moving on to the final three in Bracket A and earning a much anticipated clash with 2019 LSU. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 5

7. 2003 LSU vs. 4. 2013 Florida State
Florida State 41 LSU 38 OT
In a game largely dominated by running backs, Florida State’s Jameis Winston came in clutch down the stretch, rescuing the Seminoles from a 7-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. Karlos Williams ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns to keep Florida State in it, and Winston threw for 325 yards – coming up with 132 in the fourth quarter and a pair of touchdown passes to force overtime. There, FSU got the ball second after an LSU field goal. Williams ran for eight yards, Winston scrambled for one, and on 3rd and short, Winston found Kelvin Benjamin for a 16-yard, game-winning touchdown to secure the victory in an instant classic.

12. 2014 Oregon vs. 9. Ohio State
Ohio State 54 Oregon 27
In a rematch of the 2014 national championship, Ohio State beat down Oregon once more, doubling up the ducks on the strength of an efficient performance from J.T. Barrett and a fearsome rushing attack. Ezekiel Elliot ran 25 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns, Barrett went 20 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for another 293 yards and a score. The Buckeyes only led 23-20 at halftime, but they absolutely dominated the Ducks in the final two quarters to seal the deal. 

Bracket B Loser’s Bracket – Round 6

4. 2013 Florida State vs. 9. 2014 Ohio State
Florida State 37 Ohio State 34 2OT
In a clash of the final BCS champion and the first ever CFP champion, the 2013 BCS-winning Florida State Seminoles won their second straight overtime battle over the Buckeyes. A blocked punt and pick-6 were major factors in FSU engineering another comeback. While Jameis Winston did throw for 261 yards and 3 touchdowns, it was Lamarcus Joyne’s interception return for a touchdown that tied the game at 28 points apiece with 5:54 to play in the game. After trading off field goals in overtime, Florida State got the ball down three, needing a touchdown to win. Winston scrambled right for 7 yards and then hit Devonta Freeman for a 9-yard gain and a first down. There, the redshirt freshman Heisman winner once again found Kelvin Benjamin open in the end zone, firing a 9-yard dart for a game-sealing touchdown. 

Round 7 and 8 Schedule

Bracket A
1. 2019 LSU vs. 2. 2018 Clemson

Winner vs. 7. 2012 Alabama

Bracket B
3. 2009 Alabama vs. 4. 2013 Florida State

Winner vs. 1. 2001 Miami

SEC Previews: Georgia Bulldogs

The three-time defending SEC East champions are back, but the Georgia Bulldogs will have plenty of questions to answer this fall. Jake Fromm was the man under center for three straight division titles and their 2017 SEC Championship, but can Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman and/or USC transfer J.T. Daniels replicate his success. How will Georgia’s traditional run-heavy offense react to the departures of De’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien. Is the defense good enough to keep the ‘Dawgs at the top of the division? Let’s take a look.

Top Returners: George Pickens, Richard Lecounte III

Georgia’s offense was decimated by departures for the NFL. Fromm’s somewhat surprising decision to declare early has left questions about how probable starter Newman will transition from the ACC to the SEC. Herrien and Swift are gone out of the backfield, and that leaves returning leading receiver George Pickens as the clear top returner in this Bulldog offense. Pickens will be crucial in Georgia’s offensive scheme; he led the Bulldogs with 727 receiving yards, which led the team by over 250 yards, and found the endzone eight times, a mark that was greater than any non-quarterback.
Defensively, Lecounte seems like a promising pick for SEC Defensive Player of the Year, although he will have some stiff competition in that department. On Georgia’s defense, he’s their clear top returner after doing it all in 2019 with 61 tackles (4.5 for loss), 3 passes defended, 3 fumbles recovered, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions. An absolute beast all over the field, Lecounte will be the focal point of the Georgia defense in 2020. 

Biggest Concerns: Run Game

Yes Georgia has a long history of pumping out NFL talent at running back. Between Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, and now Swift and Herrien, the tradition is strong in Athens. But that doesn’t change the fact that they will again have to deal with massive losses at the position. Zamir White (408 rushing yards in 2019) appears the favorite to take over the lead back role in Kirby Smart’s offense, and while his 5.2 yards per carry was excellent last season, can he maintain that efficiency with a far greater workload in 2020? And who can complement his efforts in the backfield? There’s definite questions to be answered in this department for Georgia. 

X-Factors: Jamie Newman, Monty Rice

Newman is an obvious selection here. The dual-threat signal-caller comes to Athens from Wake Forest, where he tossed 26 TDs to 11 INT. With division rival Florida closing the gap and returning Kyle Trask under center, Georgia needs Newman’s transition to the SEC to be almost seamless. One tell-tale stat from the Jake Fromm era was that he was winless in his career when needing to attempt more than 30 passes. Can Newman handle that workload, which may be required if the run game doesn’t do much for the Bulldogs? His adjustment period and production for Georgia is a clear X-Factor that may determine the ceiling of this team.
Defensively, I’m looking to Monty Rice to step up in a big way for Georgia. He led the team in tackles last year with 89, but the inside linebacker recorded just three of those for loss and zero sacks. Lecounte can do a lot for the Georgia defense, but if Rice can up his game from productive defender to a game-changing linebacker, that Bulldog defense is going to be a piece of work to face in 2020.  

SEC Record Prediction: 7-1
I like the Bulldogs to make it four straight division titles, as they’ll represent the SEC East once more. Their SEC-opening road trip to Alabama is cause for concern, but their other crossover battle is a home date with Auburn, who I think Georgia will handle. Outside of that, I think Kirby Smart’s squad runs the table in conference play, with their closest call being a ‘neutral’ field clash with Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Top Returning Pac-12 Guards: #3 – Chris Smith, UCLA

We’ve hit the #3 slot in our top returning Pac-12 guards countdown, and after two straight Oregon guards to kick off our rankings, we head away from Eugene and down to sunny Los Angeles for our third feature. Coming in at #3 in this Pac-12 countdown is Chris Smith of UCLA, who averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game on 46% shooting from the field. For Smith, a change in coaching proved crucial in sparking his breakout collegiate campaign, as he was hardly on the Pac-12 radar, let alone in a national spotlight after two relatively nondescript seasons.. However, as the Bruins rapidly improved under first-year head Mick Cronin, so did Smith, who led the Pac-12 runner-ups in scoring, while earning a first-team all conference selection and the Pac-12 Most Improved Player award. Smith declared for the NBA draft this past spring, but he did not hire an agent and maintains his eligibility if he decides to return. This ranking at #3 is working under the assumption that Smith comes back for his senior season. Currently ranked the 65th best available prospect in the draft, Smith appears to be a fringe selection if he stays with the draft. Staying for a final season with Cronin could see his stock shoot up towards first-round value. 

After averaging under 20 minutes per game in both his freshman and sophomore years, Smith became the go-to-guy in the UCLA offense this past season. Averaging 28.3 minutes on the court per game, Smith improved his shooting from 40 to 46% and from 28% to 34% from beyond the arc, allowing him to post more consistent performances throughout the season. Smith put up solid numbers out of the gate, but UCLA faced a watered-down non-confernece schedule that featured just one ranked opponent, so his improved efforts were hardly considered a major headline at the time. However, he truly broke out in the Pac-12 opener at Washington, as he dropped 17 points on the Huskies, while ripping down 12 rebounds and dishing out five assists, giving the Bruins a critical road win to start their conference season. He did all his damage inside the arc, shooting 8-12 from 2-point range. He followed that performance up with a 22-point torching of Washington State and another double-double against USC, who finished 3rd in the Pac-12. 

Smith’s early domination of the Pac-12 was certainly a nod to his marked improvement in his junior season, but it wasn’t until January 30, with UCLA sitting at 3-4 in conference play and welcoming #20 Colorado onto their court, that Smith delivered his signature effort of the year. In a critical game for the Bruins, the Chicago product shot 8-11 from two-point range and cooly sank 13 of 15 free throws en route to a 30-point effort, which he complemented with nine rebounds and three steals. UCLA won the game, 72-68, and proceeded to rip off a 9-1 run in their next ten games to rise near the top of the Pac-12 standings. 

Smith continued to torch the Pac-12, racking up another double-double against Washington State and shooting a combined 7-13 from three-point range in key road victories against Arizona and Colorado, helping UCLA earn a #2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. The cancellation of the conference tournament and March Madness deprived basketball fans of the Pac-12’s newest star shine in the postseason, but should Smith come back for his senior season, he should be making headlines as one of the best in the business, both in the Pac-12 and in the country.

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Did Georgia come out of the draft better or worse?

Georgia can either come out of the draft as winners or losers. The fate of Georgia lies in the hands of head coach Kirby Smart but not as you may think. It is no secrete the Georgia Bulldogs have dominated the SEC east the last couple seasons but if Kirby Smart doesn’t pull things together this season Kentucky and Florida will be looking for their opportunity to take to the top of the East. 

Georgia can be huge losers coming out of the draft for the obvious reasons – they lost many of their biggest impact players. A three-year starter at quarterback in Jake Fromm left Athens a year early, only to drop into the 5th round to the Bills, where he will sit behind Josh Allen for the foreseeable future. The Bulldogs also lost their one-two punch in the backfield with D’andre Swift going in the 2nd round to the Lions and Brian Herrien signing with the Browns as an undrafted free agent. Now for most teams that would be difficult to rebound from, but that’s not all Georgia lost.

They also lost their top three offensive tackles with Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson going in the first round and Solomon Kindley going in the fourth to the Dolphins. Other notable departures on the offense were tight ends Eli Wolf and Charlie Woerner along with wide receiver Lawrence Cager. On defense, Georgia lost Tae Crowder and JR Reed among others. In total, Georgia lost 15 players to the draft and free agency leaving gaping holes both in their offense and defense. With schools like Kentucky returning quarterback Terry Wilson next season and only losing two starters things are not looking good for the Bulldogs for next season as of right now.

Georgia is unique though in the fact that if Kirby Smart plays things right in Athens this year’s team could be better than last years. Promptly following Jake Fromms’ decision to forego his senior season and declare for the draft Smart upgraded his quarterback groom by signing Wake Forest transfer, Jamie Newman. It will only take one game of watching Newman for Georgia fans to forget the name Jake Fromm. Georgia lost Justin Fields two years ago but they signed the next great dual-threat QB this off-season. Jamie Newman will transform the Georgia offense from the boring ground and pound offense it has been in the past to an explosive dual-threat offense. Another reason for Georgia fans not to worry? They are RBU, and that means you always have great running backs and this season should not be any different. Junior James Cook, brother of Minnesota’s Vikings’ running back Dalvin Cook, will be getting the majority of the carries and, although his carries have been limited with Swift and Harrien taking on the bulk of the workload last season, he is very capable of stepping up in a big way for the Bulldogs this season.

Georgia did lose three key offensive linemen this season, but this is not a cause for massive concern, due to the fact Kirby Smart brings in new monsters to protect his quarterbacks every year. The wide receiving corp should also be much better this year with new recruits coming in and other young wide receivers will have had another season to develop. My final argument for why Georgia should be absolutely fine next season is Kirby Smart is a defensive coach – after giving up 24 points per game in his first year, Smart’s defenses have given up under 20 points per contest for the past three year, lowering the mark to under 13 points in 2019. Their defense will always be a mainstay so long as Kirby Smart is coaching.

If you are a Georgia fan, wait on hitting the panic button for now. There’s little reason to panic unless you’ve already lost two games, and with the highly talented Jamie Newman taking over under center, that seems unlikely to happen in the diluted SEC East.