OK, that’s enough time: Looking ahead to 2016 college football season

The next time Mark Richt and Paul Johnson meet, it will be in an ACC game when Miami comes to Georgia Tech next season. (AJC file photo)

The next time Mark Richt and Paul Johnson meet, it will be in an ACC game when Miami comes to Georgia Tech next season. (AJC file photo)

It’s 235 days until college football begins again in earnest on Sept 3.

Patience, young Grasshopper.

I don’t normally do this kind of thing after having done so little research, with the possible exception of every week in Weekend Predictions. Research, pfffft. But here’s a very, very, very, I mean, like, really very, early look at Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia State going into next season, keeping in mind that official schedules haven’t been announced yet.

GEORGIA

Last season: 10-3 overall, 5-3 in the SEC (Gator Bowl win over Penn State).

Significant changes: An almost entirely new coaching staff, with former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart now in charge, with his hand-picked assistants, replacing Mark Richt and most of his staff.

The quarterback picture: 2015 is over, mercifully. Touted recruit Jacob Eason is on campus as an early enrollee in the spring semester and likely will start next season, even assuming both Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey are back. But — and I know this isn’t likely to happen — folks should keep their expectations in check because true freshman quarterbacks generally come with growing pains: turnovers, sacks, slow reading of defensive coverages, failure to spot the open receiver. Eason hasn’t taken a snap yet and I already feel kind of sorry for the kid because of the criticism he may endure next season. Kid: stay off Twitter.

Schedule: Georgia opens the season in the Chick-fil-a kickoff  in the Georgia Dome against North Carolina on Sept. 3. The Bulldogs’ hope is that it goes better than the last time they were in the game (annihilation by Boise State). Georgia will be favored to win, same as in the other three non-conference games against Nicholls State, Louisiana and Georgia Tech (all at home). Richt lost to Tech twice at Sanford Stadium. Smart will want to avoid that distinction. Georgia has only three home conference games (Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn), four on the road (Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky) and the Florida game in Jacksonville. I see the greatest potential for losses against Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida.

Early projection, subject to change: 9-3 overall, 5-3 in the SEC.

GEORGIA TECH

Last season: 3-9 overall, 1-7 in the ACC (no bowl game).

Significant changes:  Coach Paul Johnson hired a new offensive line assistant and a special teams coach is gone. The only other noteworthy thing: The miserable season has prompted Johnson to open himself up to new ideas and schemes. Johnson, via Ken Sugiura: “While you don’t get any carryover, and you don’t think about it, just two seasons ago, we won 11 games and the Orange Bowl So, it’s not like you blow up the whole thing and go, ‘Oh, woe is me,’ but you have to be realistic and look at it and go, ‘Hmm, we’ve got do better at this or this or this.’ We’ve got to.”

The quarterback picture: Justin Thomas will be back for his senior season. Thomas had a disappointing year. His 2014 numbers: 18 touchdowns, six interceptions, 51.3 completion percentage, 10 sacks. His 2015 numbers: 13 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 41.7 passing, 14 sacks. The offensive line was a significant problem all season, but Thomas made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes and often tried to do too much to make up for the Jackets’ other deficiencies. If he’s not better, Tech won’t be better, either.

Schedule: The Jackets open the season with an ACC game against Boston College in Dublin, Ireland. Their four non-conference games are against Mercer, Vanderbilt, Georgia Southern and Georgia. It’s an attractive home schedule, so that should please marketing people: Miami (a new version of Richt vs. Johnson), Clemson (coming off a national championship appearance and led by DeShaun Watson), Virginia and Duke. The non-Ireland road games: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech. There’s a number of potential losses there but I’m most intrigued by three games: Georgia (Johnson’s first game against Kirby Smart), Clemson (Tech has engineered upsets of the Tigers in the past) and obviously Miami (Richt comes back to Atlanta with a different team).

Early projection, subject to change: 8-4 overall, 5-3 in the ACC.

GEORGIA STATE

Last season: 6-7 overall, 5-3 in the Sun Belt (Cure Bowl loss to San Jose State).

Significant changes: At this time, it appears Trent Miles’ staff will remain intact.

The quarterback picture: It goes from stable to uncertain again. Nick Arbuckle is done after throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdown passes and being named Sun Belt player of the year. The competition for starter will be between graduate transfer Connor Manning from Utah, redshirt sophomore Emiere Scaife and freshman Aaron Winchester.

Schedule:  The Panthers will open the season at home against Ball State on Sept. 1 or 2. Their other non-conference games will be at Air Force, at Wisconsin and home against Tennessee-Martin. They play Air Force and Wisconsin in the second and third games of the season, so it’s not an easy start to the year. The Sun Belt hasn’t announced the conference schedule yet and there are no automatic opponents since there are no divisions. The only near certainty is there will be a home game against Georgia Southern, which no doubt will remember how the regular season ended in Statesboro: Georgia State 34, Georgia Southern 7, which made the Panthers bowl eligible.

Early projection, subject to change: Obviously difficult without the schedule. But Miles is starting to build some depth in the program and his ability to get players to buy in was evident late in the season when the Panthers won four straight.  So, taking a shot: 6-6 overall, 5-3 in the Sun Belt.

From the Digital Jukebox

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202 comments
jimbob22
jimbob22

that's sweet of you to pick 8 wins for GT, but I saw nothing that would lead me to think they'd get more than 4 or 5.  I'm a GT fan, hugely disappointing season.

TideDawg
TideDawg

IS SABAN BETTER THAN BEAR??? My personal opinion is YES! and NO!! This is college football. Things are different. Rules are different. Some cite the scholarship players rule.....Negative! All schools operate on same rules and same number of scholarship players, then and now. NCs won....advantage Bear, 6-5. Quality of players then and now....big difference in size, speed, and quality of High School coaching. Advantage Saban, but every team has that type of player. It's what you do with them that makes the difference. Iconic appeal....Bear Bryant! His footprint will remain forever. No matter how many NCs Saban wins and he will probably win at least 2 more, probably in 2017 and 2018. As a manager and business owner I lived by the message.....surround yourself with the best people to be successful and let them be successful. Bear did that and Saban does that. Bear Bryant said that he is only as good as his assistants, and he meant it. The difference being that they both demand the best from assistants.....mediocre is out. Kirby Smart will bring that aura of success to Ga. It has been instilled in him for 9 years and 4 NCs. I think Paul Johnson at GT is beginning to get the idea of that type thinking. If he does Tech will become significant in the ACC. If not they will still be mediocre. Saban and Bear have never projected themselves to be bigger than the game and they were/are not afraid of change. Paul Johnson should remember that for the suffering Tech fans. Is Saban greater than Bear.....YES & No!  Dawg fans can thank Saban for getting Kirby Smart to Ga. 2 years ago Smart was offered jobs by smaller programs. Saban told him it would not be wise to make a lateral move. He didn't! Now he is on a national stage with a great program.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@TideDawg @TOJacket I know a UGA swim coach fixed a class for his best swimmer just a couple of years ago....there's you a fact........and you think Bama won all those Championships doing things the right way?....LOL!!!

TideDawg
TideDawg

@TOJacket @TideDawg I would say, as a rule, people who think that way live that way. Are you one of those people? And, I never said everything was done right because I don't know that. Further, I would suggest that you should have cheated on "Comprehensive reading". So, T O JACKET, I'll leave you with this: The "Lilly White" preach, and all others act, whether good or bad.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Thanks Schultzie ,

Leaving Ga.Southern out of your in state preview of college football.The only other FBS school in the state with a winning record last year(UGa is the other).I just do not get the lack of any coverage for the Eagles football program. Never even saw a report on the hiring of their new head coach in the AJC.I thought the Eagles would receive at least a mention after taking UGa to overtime in 2015.But as usual the AJC's coverage extends only as far south as Spalding County.

SEC > BigTen
SEC > BigTen

@Buschleaguer GSU got a vote in the coaches' poll; Tech has  officially fallen to 3rd in the state.  Maybe they should schedule Mercer next year.

HeyThere
HeyThere

YO. how about a preview for all FOUR of Georgia's FBS teams? Georgia Southern has many, many more fans in Atlanta than Georgia State, plus a winning tradition none of the other three can match. The Eagles even play two of the three teams on your list. Please give this state's most successful college football team some love.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@HeyThere That winning tradition resides over on North Ave. sport....where some of the Greats of all time walked those sidelines...Heisman, Dodd, Ross..........Paul Johnson put you guys on the map with the Hamm Bone!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @HeyThere 

If I recall olTO sport a certain Bald Eagle from UGa started the program at Ga.Southern If anything you can thank ERK for CPJ bringing the Ham Bone offense to the North Avenue Trade School.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @TOJacket @HeyThere That's because CPJ wasn't going to embarrass GSU......let the game look respectable.....they worship CPJ in Statesboro, why shouldn't they?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Buschleaguer @HeyThere

Without Erk ,CPJ would still be another offensive line coach that nobody would know.Russell gave CPJ the freedom to develop his offensive scheme , and having Tracy Ham to run it ,hell they even named the offense after him.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @Big Wally @HeyThere


from Wiki "Recovering a Georgia Southern fumble with 4:12 remaining in the game, Georgia Tech were able to take a 42-38 lead with 23 seconds remaining on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Justin Thomas to Deon Hill to avoid a huge upset."


Do you even watch Tech football?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Big Wally @HeyThere Yeah keep thinking that CPJ just made the game with GSU close because he did not want to embarrass the Eagles. Tech had a 31-10 lead and blew it .And it took an ACC replay official to overturn a call to give the Jackets a chance to win the game.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @TOJacket @HeyThere Can you not read idiot.....It was 35-10 at the half.....and yes, per a GSU alum and contributor my cousin knows, he called the hounds off at half.......I admit he just about screwed up, but he didn't want to embarrass his old team.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @Big Wally @HeyThere Good logic, maybe CPJ didn't want to embarrass, Notre Dame, Clemson, Duke, NC, Pittsburg, VT, UGA, and everyone else you lost to this year.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Buschleaguer @TOJacket @HeyThere He didn't give CPJ shat!.......He specifically hired him to design an offense to fit his superstar Tracy Hamm.....that's why he took over when Erk left......everybody in Statesboro knew who the brains was on that team.....CPJ didn't have to headbutt someone with a helmet on to get them fired up!

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @HeyThere We beat them year before last....you guys certainly made them and Ga. State look good....lol....punk

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Buschleaguer @HeyThere

TO , you are proving that everyone 's high opinion of you is totally spot on.

Erk brought in a young CPJ who was a asst coach at the powerhouse Lees-McCrae community college ,and gave him the chance of a lifetime. A chance to put his offensive scheme in place at a brand new program. To say that Erk did not give CPJ shat just shows how feeble your mind is. Russell gave CPJ his first real college coaching job. and to his credit CPJ has made the most of his opportunity.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Big Wally @TOJacket @HeyThere Wiki ,left out that there was a 7 minute delay while an ACC replay official overruled the officials call on the field and reversed an incomplete pass and called it a fumble, thus stopping Georgia Southern from scoring again to put the Jackets away.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Buschleaguer @HeyThere actually TO, Erk never left Statesboro ,he retired as coach and stayed on as an advisor to the president of the school. And Tim Stowers actually replaced Coach Russell and coached the Eagles from 1990 to 1996. CPJ did not become head coach until 1997. Just a few facts about the real GSU ,TO. 

Big Wally
Big Wally

Ohypocrite giving a breakdown on Eason's game the other day.  Wow, your infatuation with an 18 year old boy continues.


Let me guess, you have a lot of posters of boy bands on your ceiling!

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally Well at least you can depend on "one" SEC team to participate in the CFP?.........the rest of the teams are SECond rate!

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally Thank goodness for the Disco Dawgs of 1980!!....lol....or should I say Walker and Woerner?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Big Wally

FSU won a title , Bama , Auburn ,LSU and Florida have won titles in the last 13 years. Clemson played for the title this year and lost.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Big Wally

Yeah TO ,

I remember dancin the night away in 1980 at the Mad Hatter in Athens ,and how the place would go nuts when #34 was in the house.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Buschleaguer @TOJacket @Big Wally I played a spring game against Woerner in High school, glad I didn't have to play against Walker!.....Woerner was a stud when he was a rising sophomore!

Big Wally
Big Wally

Let's see everyone else's Conference Champion was able to at least score points in their bowl games, but Michigan State, hmmm, tell me again ohypocrite coattails, how many points did they score again?



TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally
 Our conference champ ran all over the SEC, SEC champ!.........lol...no big deal.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @TOJacket Just so you understand you ain't got shat on the ACC......DW made that vaunted defense look like crap........no difference in Conferences except the ACC is much smarter.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @Big Wally Check out the Conference bowl records for this previous year.  Here's a little hint - SEC at the top, your basketball conference is in the bottom half.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @TOJacket Did you watch that game Monday night stupid?.....apparently not....I don't care who beat who in the even more meaningless bowl games......I'm looking at the ship and I always see a team from Alabama?...everyone else is chopped liver.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket @Big Wally 

TO 

it must be easy to remember beating a top 15 team when Tech only beat 2 FBS teams in 2015. The Question should be which other FBS powerhouse did Tech Beat in 2015?

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @Big Wally Of course you would take that stance when the SEC is at the top, and the ACC in the bottom half. 


Of course you would also call the other games meaningless, when your pathetic team wasn't participating.


Tissue?

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @TOJacket We like winning "Major" bowl games......and kicking the crap out of an SEC team makes it better!!

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @Big Wally you were only 3 more miracle plays away from being in a bowl game this year. Keep your fingers crossed.

TOJacket
TOJacket

@Big Wally @TOJacket That reminds me.......we beat a team thats ranked in the top 15 this year.......did UGA? Oh thats right, the only one UGA played embarrassed them at Sanford and son?

Big Wally
Big Wally

@TOJacket @Big Wally Not likely, Clemson has it rolling now, FSU will always be good, and you can't count on a miracle every year to beat them, Richt will make Miami better.  You already can't beat Duke, now NC appears to have their program on the rise.  If the new coach at VT can do anything, you are in real trouble.