Time: 5:30 PM
Spread: UGA -0.5
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
North Carolina finished 11-3 last season on the heels of Marquise Williams’ final days as a collegiate player. Williams and the Tar Heels averaged 40.7 points per game and 486.9 yards per game in 2015, good for No. 9 and No. 18 in the NCAA, respectively.
But UNC lost not only Williams, with also WR Quinshad Davis and G Landon Turner both graduating. Even with those three (HUGE) losses, the Tar Heels should be able to pick up right where they left off, even if the 11 wins from last season are a bit of a reach.
Why is it possible? Because just about every other key player does return, including Elijah Hood, who was All-ACC at running back. At WR, UNC returns Bug Howard, Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer—that is a trio as good as any in the ACC, including Florida State.
The biggest change will come at the position Williams vacated though, with Mitch Trubisky ready to take over at QB. The redshirt junior was a huge recruit in 2012, and he has looked great in the playing time he was able to garner behind Williams.
Fedora was slow to name him the starter, despite everyone knowing he would be; but now that the cat is out of the bag UNC fans are ready to see the biggest QB recruit in school history.
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UNC’s defense was strong for most of last season, but the part that was not ‘most’ was pretty horrendous. Clemson and Baylor both punished North Carolina for a season that had gone so well, scoring a combined 94 points in those final two games, the loss in the ACC championship and UNC’s bowl appearance at the Russells Athletic Bowl. Clemson had 608 yards and Baylor had 756. Baylor rushed for 645 of those. And rush defense was UNC’s (unexposed until then) Achilles’ heel last season.
UNC likely cannot replicate its 11 wins from last season, even if the team is nearly as good. It was the Tar Heels first time playing in the ACC title game, and returning there is a distinct possibility being in the weaker Coastal division. Taking out Clemson or Florida State, or even Louisville, is a tall glass of water, but perhaps Trubisky just takes this program to an even higher level still. That was what he was recruited to do.
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The Georgia Bulldogs finished last season 10-3 but lost 24-17 to Penn State at the TaxSlayers Bowl. The Bulldogs have a new head coach this season in Kirby Smart. QB Greyson Lambert will get the Week 1 start, but he has competition behind him in recruit Jacob Eason. Lambert started 12 games last season, but Brice Ramsey had a strong spring and has a better arm.
Whatsoever the case at QB, the offense has a way to go for the Bulldogs this season. It returns eight starters, but RB Nick Chubb has been recovering from a knee injury sustained last season against Tennessee. His continued health remains the key to UGA’s season.
Georgia is very strong in the backfield also having Sony Michel. The OL also returns three starters, but it could be shaking up some, especially with Greg Pyke shifting from RG to RT.
Georgia’s attack last season was built on the rush, with the Bulldogs averaging 192.2 rushing yards per game (No. 38 in the nation). The passing attack, meanwhile, lingered far behind at just No. 104 in the nation. Improving that is still pretty questionable, but Eason has a better shot at doing it than Lambert.
It is just a matter of when Kirby Smart will decide to turn to him as his starter. Week 1 apparently is not that week.
Georgia does not have a contending roster this season, but it still has enough talent to win the East in the SEC if the QB play is significantly better. As to what could enable that “if?” A softer schedule will not hurt, but it will really require strong play at tackle, given the fact that the guard spots are both sources of inexperience on the OL.
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