Swift carries the ball

Georgia running back D'Andre Swift, seen here carrying the ball against Arkansas State on Sept. 14, and the third-ranked Bulldogs will get their first major test Sept. 21 at home against No. 7 Notre Dame.

With less than a month completed in the new college football campaign, it is already becoming evident that familiar names are the top contenders for the Football Bowl Subdivison playoffs.

Clemson, the defending national champion, appears set for another run at the FBS trophy. The Tigers have become a dynasty under head coach Dabo Swinney and have already posted impressive wins against Texas A&M and Syracuse.

Right on Clemson’s heels is Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s run under coach Nick Saban has been nothing short of mind-boggling and many now consider Saban the greatest college football coach of all time. Considering at one point it would have been all but impossible to be the No. 1 coach in Alabama football history, what Saban has done has established him as the best.

It’s still early but Alabama and Clemson appear on track for another playoff showdown. While most teams fear injuries derailing quality seasons, the Crimson Tide and Tigers have so much depth that they are both able to overcome injuries others would not.

Oklahoma has risen back to prominence under coach Lincoln Riley, who not that long ago was among a group fired at Texas Tech. Riley, and much of the coaching staff of Mike Leach, ended up at East Carolina.

Riley was still in his 20s then, but it was evident he was headed for big things. When Riley left East Carolina for Oklahoma, the Pirates collapsed and eventually head coach Ruffin McNeill was fired.

Meanwhile, Riley eventually succeeded Bob Stoops as head coach at Oklahoma. McNeill is now part of Riley’s defensive coaching staff with the Sooners.

Riley has improved each season as a head coach. His uncharacteristic conservative play calling against Georgia in the Rose Bowl certainly hurt his team’s chances at playing for the national title.

In Athens, if the first three games are any indicator, then UGA is set for a showdown in Atlanta against Alabama. Of course there are some potential roadblocks before then.

The Notre Dame game this weekend will be the toughest opponent to date for the Bulldogs. This likely won’t be a game UGA wins by 50 points. The 2017 game in South Bend was a one-point victory for the Bulldogs.

While this is not a conference game, of course, any loss would hurt Georgia’s chances of making the playoffs if the Bulldogs do not win the SEC title.

UGA also has tough conference games with Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M. Speaking of the Gators, the injury to Florida quarterback Felipe Franks was brutal and shows how much impact one play can have.

Georgia Tech is certainly nowhere close to being in contention for a conference or national title. The Yellow Jackets’ embarrassing loss to The Citadel in overtime shows what this season, and possibly future ones, holds in store.

Even taking into account a complete offensive scheme change is taking place, Georgia Tech still should have enough talent to defeat a Citadel team which was 0-2 coming in last weekend’s game in Atlanta.

Ironically, The Citadel runs the triple option offense, something that Georgia Tech athletic officials and many fans were tired of. Despite the success enjoyed by Paul Johnson’s triple option attack, there was never any consideration to continue using it.

Choices were certainly available, including Army head coach Jeff Monken (a former assistant at Tech), Army offensive coordinator Brent Davis, East Carolina head coach Mike Houston, Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper and Kennesaw State head coach Brian Bohannon (also a former assistant at Tech.)

After the game on Sept. 14, perhaps Tech officials should have looked to Brent Thompson, head coach of The Citadel.

The best offseason head coaching hire may very well have been by Kansas State, who grabbed North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman to lead the Wildcat program. Kansas State is off to a 3-0 start and defeated SEC opponent Mississippi State, which was in the top 25, this past weekend.

Also worth noting is that former NDSU coach Craig Bohl (whom Klieman succeeded) has the Wyoming Cowboys undefeated. Wyoming is one of the toughest places to win due at the FBS level.

Former NFL head coach Herm Edwards was considered by many (this writer included) as an odd fit at Arizona State but he now has the Sun Devils undefeated after three games and in the top 25.

Central Florida, Boise State and Memphis are candidates to run the table undefeated but will certainly not get so much as a sniff from the playoff committee.

Army’s near upset of Michigan earlier this season was something all college football fans should be proud of. The Black Knights, along with their counterparts at Navy and Air Force, represent all that is positive about college athletics.

Army is now 2-1 after bouncing back this past weekend, while Air Force and Navy are both undefeated. You can always find positives about college athletics if you just look beyond the surface.

Winder resident Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for the Barrow News-Journal. He is a multi-time winner for column writing from the Georgia Press Association, National Newspaper Association and the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.


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