It’s the midpoint of the college football season, do you know where you’re team is going?
As the ol’ head ball coach Steve Spurrier used to say, you are what your record says you are. So we already know that undefeated Clemson remains a title contender and everybody else around here is not. The first College Football Playoff ranking doesn’t come out until Nov. 1, but only the Tigers are relevant to that exercise. Nobody else is even mentioned in the meaningless rankings at this point.
Whether your team’s season is half empty or half full, however, is still in play.
Despite two tough losses that have all but ended Georgia’s chances to win the SEC East, a 10-win season remains a distinct possibility. Despite three consecutive conference losses that have doomed any remote ACC title hopes for Georgia Tech, becoming bowl eligible is firmly within the Yellow Jackets’ grasp. Despite back-to-back losses, their are still some big goals in front of Georgia Southern.
Despite a rough 2-4 start … let’s not kid ourselves, there’s no realistic salvation for South Carolina’s season with that offense.
Clemson (6-0) is starting to find its strut. The dramatic win over Louisville sets up another likely return to the ACC Championship, which should be good enough to get the Tigers back into the playoffs. Only a road date at Florida State looms as a mild threat, and the Seminoles have proven to be less than advertised so far this season.
All the Tigers need to do is stay healthy and not stumble against the likes of N.C. State on Saturday.
“This is a huge game,” said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney, talking up the Wolfpack like it was Alabama coming to Death Valley. “It’s a battle for first place in our division and gives us an opportunity to get to 7-0 and stay on course.”
Clemson isn’t the only area team with a decent chance to sweep the second half of the season. Georgia doesn’t face anybody that it can’t beat from here on out. But based on the season thus far, there’s not a game the Bulldogs aren’t capable of losing (with the possible exception of Louisiana-Lafayette).
The Bulldogs (4-2) got back to the formula that should work for them with a healthy Nick Chubb and Sony Michel tearing through holes against South Carolina on Sunday.
“It’s comforting to have both guys,” coach Kirby Smart said. “You know you’ve got two really good football players who not only are great players but they’re really good leaders on our team. They kind of motivate the rest of the team by the way they run the ball.”
As long as the ground game lives up to its standards, they can live with the growing pains of freshman quarterback Jacob Eason as he develops.
“He’s had his ‘wow’ moments and he’s had his bad moments,” Smart said of Eason. “I think when you are starting a true freshman you know that you’re going to inherently go through some of those.”
Georgia Tech (3-3) has no such excuses. Three tough losses against Clemson, Miami and Pitt have pushed the Jackets to the brink and threaten coach Paul Johnson’s future if things don’t turn around. Winning the minimum six games to reach a bowl game in Detroit might not be enough to impress new director of athletics Todd Stansbury.
Losing on Saturday to Georgia Southern might hasten the decision.
“Our goal is to try to win the fourth game this week,” Johnson said. “You take it one game at a time and we try to win No. 4 and get back on the winning streak as opposed to the other way. You can’t look at the end of the season; you’ve got to go one game at a time. There are still six games left. I was saying yesterday, ‘You’ve still got a chance to win nine games.’ If you did that, that would be the eighth or ninth time in 49 years that it’s happened, so that would be considered a pretty good year, I think. I would consider nine wins a really good year.”
At this point, South Carolina (2-4) would consider five wins a really good year. The Gamecocks ranked dead last in the nation in scoring, averaging a paltry 14 points per game. There hasn’t been much reason to believe that will improve short of an influx of new recruits, so South Carolina needs to make hay with UMass next weekend as well as Missouri and Western Carolina when they come to town.
Muschamp is just looking for something positive to build upon.
“We’ve got six games to go, and I’m looking forward to those six games and continuing to improve our program,” he said.
Georgia Southern (3-2) took a hit against previously winless Arkansas State in a key Sun Belt game last Wednesday before Hurricane Matthew bore down on the region. But after digging out of the storm mess, this week provides a huge opportunity for the Eagles to rebound. It’s only the second time they’ve played Georgia Tech, and the Jackets needed a touchdown in the final seconds to beat them 42-38 two years ago. Couple that with an overtime loss at Georgia last season and Georgia Southern is closing in on that elusive marquee in-state victory.
“We are 3-2 and not where we want to be,” Georgia Southern coach Tyson Summers said. “But a win over a Power-5 team, and probably more importantly a team that is in our state, is certainly an important piece.”