A couple of early outsider takes on Georgia’s opener:
First, Herbstreit thinks a running back will be a big key, which sounds good, until it turns out the back he’s referring to is North Carolina’s Elijah Hood. He’s picking the Heels to win.
Over at Statistically Speaking, Matt Melton leans the other way.
Georgia -2.5 North Carolina @Atlanta
Believe it or not, these two southern foes separated by just one state have not faced each other since clashing in the Gator Bowl following the 1971 season. North Carolina will look to build on their Coastal Division title last season which saw them climb as eighth in the AP Poll and finish ranked for the first time since 1997. For Larry Fedora, the season cannot start soon enough, as he has certainly not won the offseason with his condescending comments to a female reporter and his curious defense of Tim Beckman’s presence on the coaching staff (he has since resigned). For Georgia, the Bulldogs will begin the season with a head coach other than Mark Richt for the first time since 2000. Former Nick Saban assistant Kirby Smart has taken the reigns and will look to lead Georgia to their first SEC title since 2005. While the Tar Heels finished with the second highest Net YPP (my preferred rating system) in the ACC last season, those numbers were accumulated against an easy schedule. No other team in the Coastal boasted a positive Net YPP and the Tar Heels drew NC State (their permanent rival) and Wake Forest in their cross-division games. NC State ranked sixth in the ACC in Net YPP, but Wake Forest was dead last in the conference. Meanwhile, based on Net YPP in the SEC, Georgia was arguably the best team in the SEC East despite their disappointing season. You may remember North Carolina and their improved defense were last seen allowing a season’s worth of rushing yards to Baylor in Art Briles’ final game as coach. Of course, Georgia does not run the same type of offense as Baylor, but the Dawgs do have two of the country’s best running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb and Michel do have some injury concerns, but my guess is one or both will see action in this game. Even if they do not, Georgia has other talented backs to carry the rock. North Carolina has a checkered history against non-conference BCS/Power 5 foes under Fedora, going 2-6 straight up and just 3-5 ATS. While some of those losses have come to good teams, like South Carolina in 2013, they have also dropped games to Rutgers and last year’s version of South Carolina. Clemson and Florida State (and maybe Louisville) are the only teams I currently trust in the ACC/SEC clashes. Take the Dawgs to cover this small number.
Picking up on the next to last sentence there, if I can go as briefly superficial as Herbstreit does for a moment, I have a hard time picking the ACC to go 3-0 against the SEC opening weekend — and I don’t see either Clemson or FSU losing their games.
Obviously, I’ll have more on Georgia’s opener as we get closer to Saturday.