With the calendar now reading July, the new college football season is so close that die-hard fans can practically taste it.
With the first games now less than two months away, the sports talk shows and team message boards are full of predictions, bold and otherwise.
Here’s a quick look at how some of our state teams may shake out during the 2013 season:
•Georgia: The Bulldogs, as is often the case, will be able to tell a lot about their season based on the first two contests. UGA opens with Clemson before battling SEC East rival South Carolina. A 2-0 start and the Bulldogs could be on their way to playing for a national title. A 1-1 start won’t doom UGA as a one-loss SEC team still has a chance to play for the national title (and will if it wins the conference title game).
Only an 0-2 start would truly end national title hopes early.
Prediction: UGA will lose again to South Carolina but end up going to the SEC title game over the Gamecocks — again.
•Georgia Tech: This will be an important season for Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets. Tech will once again have a new defensive coordinator as well traveled Ted Roof returns home to the Fats.
Ironically, Johnson never fired an assistant coach, coordinator or otherwise, during his entire time as head coach at Georgia Southern and Navy. He’s now fired two defensive coordinators at Tech. I don’t think he will get the chance to fire a third.
Johnson’s triple option offense gets most of the publicity, but offense has not been the problem for Tech. If Roof can shore up the defense then Tech could make a serious run at the ACC title game. It’s a big if though.
•Georgia Southern: The Eagles are fielding what may be their best team in years, but they are caught in transition.
Since Georgia Southern is set to move up a level, it is not eligible for the Division I-AA playoffs this season, even if they run the table in the always tough Southern Conference.
Even when the Eagles begin play at the next level in 2014, they will not be eligible for a bowl. That won’t happen until 2015 so the team will be playing for pride essentially the next two seasons.
It’s possible Jeff Monken’s team could be undefeated when they play at Florida late in the 2013 season. That, in essence, will have to be Georgia Southern’s national title game and bowl contest all rolled into one.
•Georgia State: The Panthers are still looking to establish their footing after three lackluster seasons under former coach Bill Curry.
Indiana State’s Trent Miles was hired as the new head coach, but it was not a flashy hire. With the team playing in the Georgia Dome, school officials really needed a splashy hire to help sell the program to students and fans.
It’s not that Miles can’t be successful, but it will take time and the longer the program goes without winning, the more interest will be lost in a program which is struggling to find its place in a professional sports town.
•Valdosta State: Another Division II title run should be on tap for the Blazers.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can send comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.