This year’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff game brings two recent visitors back to the Georgia Dome for a perfect late afternoon game to bridge you into the evening slate on college football’s first Saturday. Don’t let the 5:30 p.m. ET kickoff (TV: ESPN) sneak up on you, because this is one of the four biggest games you’ll get a chance to watch all weekend.
A few things to watch, and pick from yours truly.
Kirby Smart, Nick Chubb in the spotlight for Georgia: Jacob Eason buzz has calmed with the announcement of Greyson Lambert as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback, so now the focus has turned to the Bulldogs’ first-year coach and its biggest star in the backfield. Kirby Smart is a total unknown to many thanks to his many years on Nick Saban’s staff — known for limited interaction between assistant coaches and the media. He’s gotten a spring practice, summer speaking tour and fall camp under his belt now, and it’s time to show his stuff when it comes to game preparation.
For Nick Chubb, a strong performance vaults him back into the position he was in just before his injury: in consideration as one of the best backs in the country. Chubb will share some carries with Brendan Douglas but is not expected to be on a pitch count against the Tar Heels, which is good news for Georgia and bad news for Gene Chizik’s defense.
North Carolina’s defense looking for improvement against the run: North Carolina’s defensive players haven’t shied away from discussing the embarrassing performance against Baylor in the bowl game. Gene Chizik hasn’t either, tackling the issue bluntly with a declaration that the run defense has to improve for the Tar Heels to get better on that side of the ball. There is no doubt that UNC’s offense will put numbers on the board, but it’ll take a stellar performance on the defensive side of the ball — particularly against running backs like Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook and James Conner — to capture the ACC’s Coastal Division for the second straight season.
Pick: Neither school has great memories of their last Chick-fil-A Kickoff appearance. The Bulldogs got embarrassed by Boise State in 2011 and North Carolina was a dropped touchdown pass away from knocking off LSU in the early days of the still-ongoing NCAA scandal in 2010. It’s a prove-it game for North Carolina, which has just two wins (Duke, Pittsburgh) in nine tries against AP Top 25 opponents under Larry Fedora. Pick: Bulldogs -2.5
For full Week 1 picks against the spread, check out our Expert Picks page.
Source: CBS Sports / Georgia vs. North Carolina line, game pick: Nick Chubb returns to action