Pigskin pickin’: Tech wins its division; UGA takes the SEC title

The Honey Badger had his way when last they met. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The Honey Badger had his way last season. But that was then. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia will go 11-1 and win the SEC East. Then it will beat LSU for the SEC championship. And then … well, what destination traditionally awaits the SEC champion? (Hint: It ain’t beautiful downtown Shreveport.)

With that, we commence our annual long-range look at college football, which is guaranteed to please absolutely no one. If I pick your team to do less well than you think it should, you’ll be miffed;  if I pick your team to do better, you’ll gripe about the Bradley Jinx. Which didn’t, I should note, seem to trouble Georgia overmuch last season: The Bulldogs, as predicted, did take the East. And this year, for better or worse, I foresee better.

Georgia Tech will upset Virginia Tech on Labor Day night and will win the ACC Coastal Division. I can’t really believe I’m making this call. (Perhaps you share the feeling.) But before you succumb to an outbreak of whooping scoff, check the Jackets’ schedule.  They’ll play only one road game — that at Clemson — between Sept. 4 and Nov. 2, and their final three ACC games are against Maryland (2-10 last season), North Carolina (new coach plus a bowl ban) and Duke (still Duke).

One game doesn’t usually a season make — you’ll recall Georgia losing to Boise State — but history does note that the Tech-Tech winner has become Coastal champ every year there has been a Coastal. History also notes that Virginia Tech doesn’t always start quickly. History also notes that Paul Johnson is pretty good as an underdog. I’m thinking he coaches the heck out of that game and his team goes 9-3 (losses to Miami, Clemson and Georgia) and wins the division on a tiebreaker. I’m also thinking nobody else will agree — except maybe Paul Johnson.

Tech's Tevin Washington against the Hokies last year. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington against the Hokies last year. That didn't end so well, either. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

LSU will lose a regular-season game but win the SEC West. Maybe the loss will come at Auburn, or at Florida, or even at Texas A&M. Just for the heck of it, let’s go with the new-to-the SEC Aggies. I do not, however, believe LSU will lose against Alabama on Nov. 3 or Arkansas on Nov. 24. The men of Miles will rise up for those Titanic tilts. (I also don’t think Bama will be quite as good as advertised, and I can’t see John L. Smith lifting Arkansas to great heights.)

Once again, South Carolina will beat Georgia but lose the SEC East. Because the Gamecocks will lose at LSU on Oct. 13 and at Florida the next week. (The Gators will start to get well this season. They’ll go 9-3.) Another 10-win season will leave South Carolina frozen out of the SEC title game — mostly because of the imbalance in SEC scheduling. Steve Spurrier is right: Somebody does need to do something about that.

Speaking of significant openers … Tennessee cannot lose to North Carolina State on Aug. 31. Derek Dooley’s Vols could be positioned for a rebound — provided they beat the Wolfpack in Game 1 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. And State, which was 8-5 last season even after letting Russell Wilson leave for Wisconsin, won’t be easy. But this is a must game for the Vols, and I’m thinking they’ll take it. Besides, the SEC always beats the ACC, right?

Hold that thought. I like Clemson over Auburn the next night in the same building. Cam Newton: Gone awhile. Gus Malzahn: Gone to Arkansas State. Auburn’s 2010 national championship will soon be rendered one of those how-did-that-happen comets if Gene Chizik doesn’t think of something fast, and I’m not sure G-Chiz is about to make us say, “Gee whiz!” The schedule’s not that bad; I just don’t see Auburn being that good. Eight wins, tops.

Florida State will win the ACC because somebody has to. League loyalists point to the good coaches entering the conference — Mike London of Virginia, Al Golden of Miami, Larry Fedora of North Carolina — as reason to believe. Honesty compels me to confess that I’ve rarely seen the ACC appear less imposing. (So why am I picking Clemson over Auburn? Because I’m stupid, that’s why.)

Southern Cal will go undefeated behind their boy genius coach and will play Georgia for the BCS title in Miami. I’m not going to make a pick on this one yet — I’ve done enough damage for one day, don’t you think? — except to say this: Lane Kiffin absolutely owns Mark Richt. (OK, so they’ve only met once.)

Kidding aside, I really do think Georgia has the makings of a championship team. Great defense. Good quarterback. Lots of running backs. I have the same concerns as you about the offensive line, but no team is without blemish. And the schedule — no Alabama, no Arkansas, no LSU, not even a Boise State — looks mightily inviting. Not to heap pressure on anyone, but you have to wonder: If Richt doesn’t play for the BCS title with this team, will he ever?

Lane Kiffin at work against Georgia: Oct. 10, 2009. His team won by 26. (AP photo)

Lane Kiffin at work against Georgia: Oct. 10, 2009. His team won by 26. (AP photo)

By Mark Bradley

624 comments Add your comment

Rickster

May 31st, 2012
3:25 pm

Rickster

May 31st, 2012
3:27 pm

Yes!!

Of course, now that Mark picked them to win their division, first is not where the Dogs will finish. ;-)

Ed Walsh

May 31st, 2012
3:31 pm

Gotta love it. Bradley picks the Dawgs to go 11-1. Which means it will be a laughable melt down when they go 8-4. Should be alot of fun watching the puppy nation raise cane!

GT Fan

May 31st, 2012
3:33 pm

LOL at UGA going 11-1. No WR’s, No DB’s, no chance at 11-1, much less beating the SEC West champion.

wes

May 31st, 2012
3:38 pm

Proof Mark has lived in this state for too long.

Joey

May 31st, 2012
3:39 pm

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!

Please, MB, take it back!

Your jinx is worse than SI’s!

Hey Hey Hey We're the Monkees

May 31st, 2012
3:39 pm

GT Fan

No DBs. UGA has three returing starters and one is a consensus All-American and some good looking young guys like Mitchell, Swann, and Moore

Top Row Dawg

May 31st, 2012
3:39 pm

Thanks Mark, good to see the Home Town Paper on side of Dogs. Let the Trolls have their fun, glad you have sense enough to see the talent and coaching at Georgia for what it is (One of the best in Country).

14 wins and CMR is back at a 10 win a year coach. South Carolina has never and will never beat UGA three in a row.

ATLHawk

May 31st, 2012
3:39 pm

ya no WRs besides Conley, (remember the name), Marlon Brown, Mitchell will stay have an impact, and Tavarres King. Good point tech fan. Stick to the high school football of the ACC.

UGAcrazy

May 31st, 2012
3:39 pm

Hope your right..but I’ll believe it when I see it

scheduling fools

May 31st, 2012
3:41 pm

There was a ton of imbalance in the SEC when UF and UT were winning championships in the 90s and ’00s, where was Spurrior then? UF and UT are pretty bad right now, so there is imbalance. Know what? In 3-4 years this will change, too, and the west wont be as dominant. This schedule thing is out of hand being propelled by idiots who think last year is the only season the SEC has ever had and this and every season from now on will be just like last year’s.

Ol'JacketFan

May 31st, 2012
3:42 pm

MB are you going to tolerate namejackers on here?

UGAcrazy

May 31st, 2012
3:44 pm

@ GT Fan. I see you have no comments on the GT pick..How bout you focus on your team for a bit. Whats CPJ’s bowl record again?

Delbert D.

May 31st, 2012
3:44 pm

Bleacher Report has Georgia 13-0 entering the game against USC in the BCS matchup.

Dawg Haus

May 31st, 2012
3:44 pm

Interesting call, Mark. I’d love it if it turned out to be right. I don’t see Georgia losing to USCe for the third year in a row. If they lose to anyone in the league this season, I think it will be Florida or maybe even Auburn.

SECSked?

May 31st, 2012
3:44 pm

The problem with UGA this year is we won’t know how good they are. If they lose to South Carolina, but beat everyone else, they wouldn’t deserve to get into Nat. Champ. game–they woudl have lost to the only good team on their sked. Spurrier is right- it is a JOKE that UGA doesn’t have to play Bama, LSU, or Arky. And no out of conference games (Tech sucks and doesn’t count).

DawginLex

May 31st, 2012
3:45 pm

Mark

You will get bashed unmercifully for these picks. VT lost a ton on offense but returns a lot on defense. GT could win it like you predict. Not far fetched at all. GT goes 10-4 after winning the division and losing to FSU and finally win a bowl game. Tech folks would take that in a heartbeat

My expectations for UGA are very high and I am tired of the excuses pouring out of Athens. This defense is legit, Murray is capable but needs a swift kick in the rear end regarding turnovers. The first 6 on the OL are capable and the depth is extremely young but talented.

real deal is...

May 31st, 2012
3:45 pm

11-1 ? nahhhh more like 9-3

Jeffrey

May 31st, 2012
3:45 pm

Do we have to lose to south Carolina again? I hate that!!!

DawginLex

May 31st, 2012
3:47 pm

Mark has the following on his side:

Mark Richt has never won less than 10 games with a returning starter at QB

Lay off the pipe Mark

May 31st, 2012
3:47 pm

As long as UGA plays no team with a qb or wide outs… I can see that happening.

Jim S.

May 31st, 2012
3:47 pm

Love the misplaced Tech boy arrogance on this site; word of advice, quit hiding behind the high SAT scores of the international students and accept the fact that your M-train management degree is no more prestigious than a B-school degree from Georgia State! Now, back to football.

The schedule is obviously advantageous for the Dawgs, but they will need some serious good fortune in order to win the SEC and play in the title game. We can all dream, however.

GT

May 31st, 2012
3:48 pm

Can’t see Georgia being that good. They have the talent but can’t coach em.

Lay off the pipe Mark

May 31st, 2012
3:49 pm

And yes Shreveport sux!

Ol'JacketFan

May 31st, 2012
3:50 pm

GA’s schedule sets up favorably for them but I think the OL play is going to be the key to winning the SEC. If Tech gets by VaTech it could be a very good year! The jury is still out on FSU and I think Clemson will give them a run at the division title.

Midaz

May 31st, 2012
3:51 pm

I hate you MB. Now it’s official we finish last in the sec east, LOL. Your jinxfu is legendary.

Kidding about the hate, I love your work but please put the jinx away when it comes to our dawgs.

GTBob

May 31st, 2012
3:52 pm

UGA picked as national champions again. Sounds like every preseason. FSU picked as ACC champs again. Yawn. Its like the media is completely brainwashed and can’t find a way back to reality.

Moobs Johnson

May 31st, 2012
3:53 pm

Lay off the Kool Aid Mark. Georgia might win the East by default but they will lose the SECCG again. Say hello to Orlando or Tampa for NYD ‘13.

SECSked?

May 31st, 2012
3:54 pm

Jim S., you are wrong my friend, GaTech B-School is ranked higher than both GSU and the mighty Georgia.

http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/rankings/

Hayseed Dixie

May 31st, 2012
3:55 pm

Offensive line is a pretty big blemish to have. I’d argue the biggest.

I’m with some of my Dawg counterparts, Aaron Murray (who will probably be amazing) will have to succeed in spite of Bobo at times.

How that guy is a D1 coordinator is beyond me.

fairburn1

May 31st, 2012
3:57 pm

Mark Richt needs to stop killing uga mascots and bring home a championship!

george

May 31st, 2012
4:00 pm

ha ha ha ha ha ha ah aha ha. UGA 11 wins and Auburn 8??????? Now that is one of the funniest things I have ever heard. The only thing UGA has going for it is the easiest schedule in sec history. Your analysis: 1. good qb- yes but not great with no great wins in 2 years and in fact in every big game he has choked like no other. 2. lots of rbs- none of them are proven and without a half decent ol it wont matter. As for AU I would like a game by game breakdown to see how in the hell you get 8 max. As for the clemson game with Sammy Watkins out they most likely dont stand a chance to win although it should be a good game. Lets break down the two schedules. First off you will notice most of auburns hard games are at home. This is always the case in the even years and that is why the tigers are 61-17( with 2 perfect seasons) in the even years sine 2000.

AU:
clemson-w
at ms st-w
ulm-w
lsu-loss
ark-w
ole miss-w
vandy-w
a&m-w
nm st-w
uga-toss up
bama-loss

adds up to a 9-3 or 10-2 season.

UGA
buffalo-w
mizz-toss up
fl atl-w
vandy-w
ut-w
usc-l
ky-w
fl-l
ole miss-w
au-toss up
tech-win

Just like AU 9-3 or 10-2

Hold On!!!

May 31st, 2012
4:00 pm

@ GT Fan Pretty sure those no WRs helped Murray break UGA’s season passing record and also shred GT’s secondary. I do not mind you talking bad about UGA, but atleast have facts to back it up!!!

Steve

May 31st, 2012
4:00 pm

GTBob, still with no life or friends, Yawn.

DawginLex

May 31st, 2012
4:00 pm

Anyone who makes worthless inane statements and spends all his time bashing UGA should be ignored.

I disagree about this being Richt’s last chance. 2013 will be a challenge because of the defense going to the NFL but talent remains.

I do agree that 2012 is a great opportunity though to get rid of a lot of complainers.

People still forget that Richt won our 1st SEC title in 20 years in 2002 which was his 2nd year in Athens. Same as the BCS title winning coaches did. Miami and OSU being undefeated kept us out. UGA remains the highest ranked team from 2002 that did not cheat to win.

DIT

May 31st, 2012
4:02 pm

Bradley REALLY!!! Had to go ahead and Jinx both programs several months before the season even begins. EVERYTIME you say one or the other will win their division or title they end up falling apart.
Why couldn’t you say that both teams will finish last. That would have made our day. You’re like a weather forecaster, go the opposite of what they say and you’ll be safe.

DawginLex

May 31st, 2012
4:03 pm

DIT

Bradley said we would win the east last year

Delbert D.

May 31st, 2012
4:08 pm

The toughest game for Georgia may be Missouri. They return 15 starters and Georgia will be missing some guys. 2 DL guys on the Spring depth chart for Mizzou had 1 start apiece last year, but Madison returns at DE (out for the spring.) 3 LB spots return starters (Ebner back after 2011 injury). 2011 MLB starter Wilson moved to Sam. Bothe CBs return and safety has 2 guys with starts from 2011. 3 OL starters return (one, Fisher missed 2011). RB starter Josy *may* be back from injury; if not, 4-game starter Lawrence is back (Senior, over 500 yds and 5TDs.) Mr. Everything Moe returns at H-back. Had over 1,000 yards receiving with Gabbert in 2010, 649 yds on 54 catches from Franklin last year. Lucas, the X-guy had 23 catches, 649 yds, 4TD and the Z-guy had 20/364/3 TD. Franklin’s numbers at QB last year are 2,865 yards, 21 TD, 139.9% passer rating *plus* 981 yards rushing, 4.8 ypa with 15 TDs.

Also, those X and Z receivers are 6-5 215 and 6-4 195 respectively. The new kid, 5-star Green-Beckham is 6-6 220. I imagine they will teach him a few plays for the opener.

GTBob

May 31st, 2012
4:10 pm

GTBob, still with no life or friends, Yawn.

I would rather have no life or friends then be completely delusional. UGA has no chance of winning the SEC or playing in the MNC. Watching you guys get hyped up for it every single year only to have your dreams crushed in the first few games is one of the yearly highlights of college football.

DIT

May 31st, 2012
4:11 pm

I’m giving him a bad time. I know he’s not always wrong. People before my post were calling him out for jinxing us. I’m sure Mark got a kick out of it.

Still, a team wins in the trenches. I don’t see us winning the title. O-Line is too green and a very defense: SC’s UF’s, Lsu or Bama’s will shred it.

GTBob

May 31st, 2012
4:11 pm

DIT

Bradley said we would win the east last year

With the schedule you had last year and the schedule you have this year, you should be able to win the east with your third string playing most of the time.

DIT

May 31st, 2012
4:12 pm

That’s “very GOOD defense”

I dropped my fried twinkie

May 31st, 2012
4:14 pm

So does that mean RUSS the temporary mascot will get the job if he goes undefeated?

Vote for an Undefeated RUSS to be Uga IX

RAMBLE ON!!!

May 31st, 2012
4:15 pm

Missouri, USC, and GT (picking that one with my heart), will beat the fleabags.

UGADawg83

May 31st, 2012
4:15 pm

Food for thought-it wasn’t too long ago that playing Auburn from the west was much more dangerous than playing Arkansas. Heck there have been times in the not too distant pass that Alabama didn’t bring the fear and trembling it does now. The truth is the schedule is the schedule. Some years a team catches a break some years it doesn’t. Let me say it another way. Our natural opponent from the west is Auburn, Carolina’s is Arkansas. Don’t know the numbers exactly but I’m guessing that Auburn’s record since Arkansas joined the conference is better than Arkansas. The chickens need to quit whinning and just play the games.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

May 31st, 2012
4:16 pm

UGA might get to Atlanta due to schedule only but Alabama will kick their azz. LSU will fall to Bama..again. UGA football is no way at the level of LSU or Alabama other than in the mind of you Georgiee folks then again all you do is talk. 1980…at least you have Walker to talk about. You didn’t have to play Alabama then otherwise you wouldn’t have that one trophy.

DIT

May 31st, 2012
4:20 pm

Bama beating LSU this year. Tough to call. That will be the showcase game of the season again. But “GT (picking that one with my heart), will beat the fleabags.” Made me laugh. However Ramble On I can appreciate you calling from your heart. It’s the same way I feel about getting to the SEC CG and beating LSU or Bama. It’s just a little far fetched. Good luck this coming year.

nola dawg fan

May 31st, 2012
4:22 pm

hey GTBob, how did it feel when UGA wiped the floor with your sorry team in ATL last year (again)? Your comments only highlight your incredible envy/jealousy that all you geeks….err… GT fans share to UGA (and yes dude, I did go there so save that lame comeback)

follow the money

May 31st, 2012
4:23 pm

@ UGADawg83

You are correct. Auburn has been a much more formidable opponent than Arkansas over the 20 years. It was Auburn that pasted Cockie in the dome. Auburn set several offensive records that night. I don’t know why they would even want to go back to the dome.

The schedule is fine and I am disappointed that Mark would say it isn’t. The rivalries make the conference great. Throw them out and you will lose in the long run. The schedule is set too far in advance to ever have anything be “fair”.

nola dawg fan

May 31st, 2012
4:23 pm

Wet Willie brings up more the valid point, I see UGA winning the east, but based on last year, there is a gap b/w UGA and LSU/Bama