On the surface the pairing of Georgia, Notre Dame and Texas A&M might seem like weird bedfellows but these are all teams that started out the season on the wrong foot and since then have been trying to right their ship.
Georgia started out the season 0-2 after dropping games to Boise State and South Carolina. Texas A&M won their first two but then lost leads to Oklahoma State and Arkansas and dropped to 2-2 to start the season. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame stumbled and bumbled their way to an 0-2 record by shooting themselves in the foot against USF and Michigan. All three teams had high expectations this year and all started off the exact way they did not want to.
Since those starts all of these teams are undefeated. Georgia has won five straight and is now 5-2 and a legit contender to take the SEC East. Notre Dame has won their last four and is 4-2 and threatening to make a run at a BCS bowl birth. Texas A&M has responded by beating two very dangerous offensive teams to take their record to 4-2. All three teams have stabilized their seasons and now push forward with the hope of making their season into something they can be proud of.
Another reason I am looking at these three teams today...while they have all three been down recently they are all very influential teams in the world of college football. Indiana University finance professor Ryan Brewer recently released a study that placed valuations on college football programs as if they were businesses. Georgia was #2 on this list and the Aggies came in at #14 (Notre Dame is not a public school so they were not listed). For 2010, Georgia and Notre Dame were two of only 18 teams that sold out their entire home season. Georgia finished 7th in attendance in 2010 (92,746 per game), Texas A&M finished 13th (82,477 per game) and Notre Dame finished 14th (80,795 per game). While these three teams might not be thought of on the field as the best in college football they definitely have the resources and backing that makes them three of the premier programs in all of college football. Quite frankly, college football is better when these three teams are relevant and in the Top 25 and playing meaningful games down the stretch.
Let's take a look at these three teams and project how I see them finishing the season:
Georgia Bulldogs (5-2, 4-1)
GameOutlook10/29 vs FloridaEven11/05 vs New Mexico StateWin11/12 vs AuburnEven11/19 vs KentuckyProbable Win11/26 vs Georgia TechPossible Win
Season Prediction: 9-3 (6-2)
Best Case Scenario: 10-2 (7-1)
Worst Case Scenario: 7-5 (5-3)
I think Georgia splits with Auburn and Florida and wins it's other games although the GT game will probably be pretty close based on previous meetings with the Jackets since Paul Johnson has taken over. At this point, I think Georgia is most likely favored in the remainder of it's games but considering it still has three "rivalry" games left on it's schedule it could be very tricky to navigate for the Bulldogs, who are still learning to win.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-2)
GameOutlook10/22 vs USCPossible Win10/29 vs NavyProbable Win11/5 at Wake ForestProbable Win11/12 vs MarylandProbable Win11/19 vs Boston CollegeWin11/26 at StanfordProbable Loss
Season Prediction: 9-3
Beast Case Scenario: 10-2
Worst Case Scenario: 6-6
Notre Dame doesn't have an epically tough schedule to finish out the season but it has a lot of games against teams that are capable of beating them. Navy, Wake and Maryland should all be wins but they have shown this year and in the past that they are capable of rising up and punching their opponent right in the face. Those games should be wins for the Irish but they should not be overlooked. I think Notre Dame should be able to get past USC and I think they finally solve the Navy puzzle that has haunted them for the past two years. Don't forget that Notre Dame was 4-3 at this point last year with a chance to turn their season around and then they dropped consecutive games to Navy and Tulsa. That being said, I think this is a better Notre Dame football team then last year and I have more confidence that they will win the close ones (despite their performance in the first two games of the year). Notre Dame should be favored in every game they play for the rest of the year except for Stanford. Can they win the games they are supposed to win?
Texas A&M Aggies (4-2, 2-1)
GameOutlook10/22 at Iowa StateProbably Win10/29 vs MissouriPossible Win11/5 at OklahomaProbable Loss11/12 at Kansas StateEven11/19 vs KansasWin11/24 vs TexasProbable Win
Season Prediction: 8-4 (6-3)
Best Case Scenario: 9-3 (7-2)
Worst Case Scenario: 7-5 (5-4)
Texas A&M was all doom and gloom after losing leads and falling to the Fighting Gundy's of Oklahoma State and the Arkansas Razorbacks. Facing two tough match-ups at Texas Tech and at home versus Baylor, the Aggies answered the bell and put themselves in position to finish strong and save their season. The Big 12 is a meat grinder this year. Having already played three of the top six offenses in the Nation (based on Total Offense) they still have two of the top fifteen remaining (Oklahoma and Missouri). And Kansas State is no push-over either. Texas A&M definitely has their work cut out for them and they can't take any week (or half) off if they expect to finish strong. I've got Oklahoma down as a loss, they just simply aren't going to be beaten this year at home. I also think the Aggies will fall to either Missouri, Kansas State or Texas. I see them going 2-1 against those teams with the most likely loss coming to either K-State (at K-State) or Missouri (who put up 52 points last week and beat the Aggies by three touchdowns last year). After such high expectations will the Aggies fans be satisfied at 8-4 if that's how they finish?