After posting an 8–5 record during head coach Kirby Smart’s first year on campus, the Bulldogs have completed the leap from good to great in the second season under Smart’s reign. Georgia possesses possibly the best linebacking corps in the nation, led by outside linebackers Roquan Smith (38 tackles) and Lorenzo Carter (three sacks). The Bulldogs’ defense ranks second in the FBS by giving up just 9.2 points per game — one of three programs under the 10-point mark. Last week, Georgia posted an impressive shutout over its SEC East rival Tennessee, embarrassing the Volunteers, 41-0. The Bulldogs have not competed for the conference championship since 2012, where they came up five yards short of a trip to the BCS National Championship Game in a loss to Alabama. After defeating Mississippi State and Tennessee by a total score of 72-3 in consecutive weeks, it looks like the
Bulldogs are run-away favorites for a return to Atlanta for the SEC title in December.
The Knights experienced several game cancellations as a result of Hurricane Irma. But during all three times UCF has taken the field this season, the Knights have obliterated their competition. Led by second-year head coach Scott Frost, UCF has dismantled Florida International, Maryland and Memphis by a combined score of 139-40, winning each game by at least 27 points. The trio of UCF’s victims each sport a 3–1 record with their only loss coming at the hands of the Knights. Frost’s team has played at an elite level on both sides of the ball. Offensively, sophomore McKenzie Milton has fulfilled all duties at the quarterback position, throwing for 791 yards and three touchdowns. Defensively, reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year Shaquem Griffin has shown impressive tackling ability in UCF’s top 10 run defense. The Knights play an exciting brand of football and currently have their eyes set on the elusive Group of Five slot in a New Year’s Six
LSU lost the 2012 BCS National Championship Game to Alabama, 21-0, in a game where it struggled to cross the 50-yard line. Since then, LSU has been a solid ranked team but hasn’t found its way into a prestigious BCS/New Year’s Six bowl. Last Saturday, LSU tumbled down the mountain with a crushing 24-21 loss to Troy — snapping a 49-game home non-conference winning streak, dating back to 2000. The Tigers trailed the Trojans 17-0 before falling short in an attempted comeback effort. After a 37-7 loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 16 — a team that has been steamrolled by Georgia and Auburn in consecutive weeks — and a defeat at the hands of Troy, it appears that LSU may find itself in the cellar of the SEC West. At 3–2, the Tigers must ignite their ineffective offense in order to earn enough conference wins to reach bowl season for the 17th consecutive season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Two seasons ago, the Tar Heels nearly knocked off Clemson in the ACC Championship Game and contended for the College Football Playoff. After decreasing its win total from 11 to eight from 2015 to 2016, the Tar Heels have sunk to the bottom. North Carolina is currently 1–4 after five games of action, with the lone victory over Old Dominion. North Carolina failed to even look competitive in a 33-7 loss at Georgia Tech last Saturday. Although the Tar Heels have been victims of a tough schedule, the road doesn’t get any easier for head coach Larry Fedora and company. North Carolina still has Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Miami (FL) looming on the schedule, causing bowl hopes to dwindle down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina after an 0–3 start to ACC play.