We are now just 13 weeks away from the start of college football. Things are returning to normal, and a delightfully regular year of college football appears to be on the way.
We recently learned that Clemson’s season will open against a familiar face. Cornerback Derion Kendrick was dismissed from Clemson after violating team rules one too many times. Losing a first round talent is always frustrating, but Coach Swinney’s decision was almost immediately affirmed when Kendrick was arrested on gun and drug charges in his hometown of Rock Hill shortly after his dismissal. Now he has joined the Georgia Bulldogs.
It’ll be interesting to see Kendrick go against Clemson’s promising WR Corps. He was very good against most of Clemson’s ACC opponents, but struggled in the Sugar Bowl against elite WRs. He is typically very strong in coverage, but sometimes looks like a former-WR when tackling. If he comes up with a big interception or an acrobatic pass break-up that swings the game in the Dawgs’ favor, it’ll be a bitter pill to swallow. A win will be even sweeter though. The opening matchup couldn’t be bigger.
In a disturbing episode of the Clemson Pawcast, STS writer Alex Craft picked Georgia to win the opener (but Clemson to run the table after that). I’m more optimistic. Georgia seems to have patched up their secondary through the transfer market, adding not only Kendrick, but several other DBs including CB Brandon Turnage from Alabama. Nonetheless, I just don’t trust their offense. Their strong finish with QB JT Daniels last season was aided by beating up on the weak underbelly of the SEC (Miss St., U of SC, Missouri, and Vanderbilt), before an ugly low-scoring win over Cincinnati. If Clemson’s offensive line has improved as much as the coaches say and DJ Uiagalelei is as good as I imagine he’ll be, I give the Tigers the advantage.
Another sign of the nearing season is the release of ACC projected win totals for futures betting. Here’s how they look (SBD):
- Clemson 11.5
- North Carolina 8.5
- Virginia Tech 7.5
- Wake Forest 7.5
- Miami 7
- Virginia 7
- Louisville 6.5
- Florida State 6.5
- Boston College 6.0
- Pittsburgh 6.0
- NC State 5.5
- Georgia Tech 5
- Duke 4.5
- Syracuse 4
Clemson sitting at 11.5 seems like a fair 50-50 bet. While I like them to beat Georgia, it’s certainly no slam dunk and navigating the succeeding 11 games which includes road trips to Raleigh, Pittsburgh, and Louisville is far from a freebie.
UNC could take another step this year. They return QB Sam Howell (4th in pre-season Heisman odds) and should improve on defense. While they lose their dynamic RB duo, they bring in former Tennessee running back Ty Chandler to help alleviate the losses. They’re only projected for 8.5 wins, but I could see them going 10-2 if things break their way. Road trips to Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh present challenges, but they’re all winnable.
Virginia Tech is only projected for 7.5 wins and that seems about right. I imagine they’d have to move on from Coach Fuente if they fail to reach nine wins or at least eight wins with some promising signs on the recruiting trail. This honestly seems like a natural landing spot for Clemson OC Tony Elliott. Hopefully not for a few more years!
Looking towards the bottom of the win total numbers, Pittsburgh seems like a tricky team to peg. With the return of QB Kenny Pickett and all their close losses last season, I could see them far exceeding the projected six wins.
Duke and Syracuse projected at just 4.5 and 4 wins respectively seems accurate if not optimistic. I’m not sure how much longer their athletic departments will keep those staffs around if they finish below .500 again. They were both awful last season.
Finally, looking beyond college football, we’re being treated to some great playoff hockey. NC State Dave Doeren was a “siren sounder” for the Carolina Hurricanes, which is good reason to cheer against them (if, unlike me, you can bear rooting for Tampa Bay). The Colorado vs. Las Vegas series is especially interesting. The atmosphere in Las Vegas for the Knights comeback Game 3 win was excellent and something I hadn’t seen at a sporting event in quite some time. Check it out if you’re looking for some pro sports to tide you over until football season.
The other sports alternative is baseball, but the Yankees and Braves a floundering. The Yankees are above .500, but always seem to take a step forward and then a step back. Their offense relies too heavily on home runs and disappears at times. They’ve inexplicably become cheap so who knows if they’ll actually be able to “afford” to make a deadline acquisition.
The Braves are below .500 despite having the best player in baseball, Ronald Acuna. The issue is their pitching. They have the 22nd best ERA and 22nd best WHIP in the majors. The offense has scored the 10th most runs. They’ll pick it up, but the season isn’t young anymore.
Thanks for reading. Be sure to share you thoughts on Derion Kendrick going to UGA, the NHL playoffs, and the struggling Braves in the comment section below.