Five Bold Predictions for 2013
By Matt Osborne
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Every college football season is made unique by its unpredictability and the inevitable surprises which are thrust into the national spotlight.
We have finally reached a critical landmark in the college football offseason: there are no longer triple-digit days remaining until the next regular season game.
College football preview magazines have already begun rolling off of the presses, meaning that we aren’t too far away from the tailgates and touchdowns.
Every college football season is made unique by its unpredictability and the inevitable surprises which are thrust into the national spotlight. Most college football fans hadn’t even heard of Johnny Manziel before the start of last season, and they certainly would not have projected that he would become the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy.
As we continue to count down the days until kickoff, here are five bold predictions out of the ACC and SEC for the upcoming season.
Miami RB Duke Johnson Will Rush for 1,600 Yards
Johnson finished his first year at Miami as the third-leading rusher in the ACC with 947 yards. The most remarkable part of that feat, though, is that he nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards despite not even having the most carries on his own team. With Mike James being lost due to graduation, there is no doubt that Johnson is now the feature back in Miami’s offense. While it could be difficult to replicate his 6.8 yards per carry average with all of the defensive attention sure to be shown his way, he will have the luxury of running behind a veteran Miami offensive line which is returning all five starters. He ran for 100+ yards in three of his final four games last season, and he is better prepared for the wear and tear of being a feature back in the ACC after months of intense offseason training in the weight room. When you combine his supreme athleticism with Miami’s veteran offensive line, Johnson could potentially blow past 1,600 yards with ease.
Ole Miss Will Finish Third in the SEC West
From a talent standpoint, Ole Miss is not ready to compete with the likes of Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU, and very well may not be ready to compete with Auburn. When you compare the Rebels’ SEC schedule with the schedules of Auburn and LSU, however, there is no denying the fact that Ole Miss has more “winnable” games on the docket. Ole Miss gets Texas A&M and LSU at home in the West, and the Rebels’ crossover games are Vanderbilt and Missouri. Conversely, LSU has the misfortune of matching up with Georgia and Florida out of the East. The schedule is not the only reason for optimism, though, as Ole Miss returns more starters than any other team in the conference (18). The defense, in particular, should improve tremendously with the return of 10 starters and the addition of freshman phenom Robert Nkemdiche.
Georgia’s Defense Will be better than it was in 2012
If you are wondering why this would be considered a bold prediction, keep in mind that Georgia is set to return just three starters on the defensive side of the football. Additionally, it should be noted that seven defensive players from Georgia were selected in the most recent NFL Draft. Despite the departure of so many future professionals, Todd Grantham’s unit will be not devoid of talent this fall. Garrison Smith is a proven player for the Bulldogs up front, while Ray Drew is a former five-star recruit who will have his first opportunity to shine on the field this season. Although there is not much experience in the secondary aside from Damian Swann, Josh Harvey Clemons was the Defensive MVP of spring practice, and true freshman Tray Matthews will immediately be one of the hardest hitters in the country. The defense may not end up being as athletically gifted as last season’s unit, but it very likely will be better constructed for efficiency.
Georgia Tech Will Finish With a Top 20 Defense Nationally
Georgia Tech’s defense struggled to make the transition to a 3-4 scheme under the direction of Al Groh, and will now be making the transition back to the more personnel-friendly 4-3 alignment. Ted Roof is a proven defensive coordinator, and his aggressive, attacking style should fit perfectly with the pieces the Yellow Jackets already have in place. The defense as a whole returns eight starters, including six from the back seven. The defensive line will not be as experienced as the remainder of the defense, but the players will now have more opportunities to make plays in the 4-3. The defense showed signs of improvement over the final four games of 2012, not allowing a single opponent to go for more than 380 yards of total offense. With the combination of a scheme better suited for its personnel and a veteran group of returnees, Georgia Tech’s defense will surprise people with just how well it performs this fall.
Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham Will be First-team All-SEC
Green-Beckham was expected to have an immediate impact in the SEC, but those lofty expectations did not come to fruition last season. Despite an overall disappointing freshman campaign, Green-Beckham did show signs of improvement down the stretch, catching 21 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns over the final five games of the season. Green-Beckham admitted that he got a little caught up in his own hype last fall, but says that he is working harder than ever and that he is prepared to have a breakout performance in 2013. The Tigers lose two of their top three leaders in receptions from last fall, meaning that plenty of passes will be targeted in Green-Beckham’s direction. He should also benefit greatly from having a healthy James Franklin in the lineup for the duration of the year. Though the production was underwhelming last fall, Green-Beckham’s athleticism makes him a freak of nature, even playing in the mighty SEC.