Georgia Bulldogs To Start The Smart Era By Covering vs. The Tar Heels

Georgia Bulldogs

Friday, September 2, 2016 5:20 PM GMT

Happy Hour on Saturday includes an ACC-SEC collision in the Georgia Dome, and we've found an edge on the NCAA football odds for the North Carolina-Georgia matchup.

Two teams expected to compete for their respective conference titles? Check. A bowl-like atmosphere inside a loud dome? Check. One man returning to his alma mater to begin his college head coaching career, the other entering his sixth season as head coach and looking to build off his team's best showing in nearly 20 years? Check.

All the ingredients appear to be in place to make this year's edition of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game a good one as the Georgia Bulldogs take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. The late-afternoon boot in Atlanta's Georgia Dome (5:30 PM ET) will be carried by ESPN, and the NCAA football odds for the tilt suggest a close outcome with the Bulldogs laying 2½ at Heritage where the scoreboard tally is 56½.

You have to go all the way back to the 1971 Gator Bowl to find the last time the Bulldogs and Tar Heels got together. Georgia took that one, 7-3, giving the Dawgs the last four in a series that began in 1896. That 4-game win streak has helped the Bulldogs to a 16-12-2 advantage all-time, another UGA victory coming in the 1947 Sugar Bowl to cap a perfect season.

Georgia is 7-3 its last 10 vs. ACC teams, many of those matchups taking place against Georgia Tech, while North Carolina has dropped its last four vs. SEC squads.

Chubb Cleared To Play In UNC Game
What a start for Kirby Smart at Georgia. A former 4-year letter winning defensive back in Athens, Smart returns home for the third time since his Bulldog playing career was finished, having spent the previous eight seasons as Nick Saban's defensive coordinator at Alabama. Having worked under Bobby Bowden at Florida State and former Georgia head coach Mark Richt in addition to Saban, the sky is seen as the limit for the 40-year-old.

The first two months should be the hardest for Smart and his new staff; Opening against preseason No. 22 UNC, the Bulldogs have ranked foes in Ole Miss, Tennessee and Florida between now and Halloween, plus two roadies in Missouri and South Carolina in that span.

Georgia has 14 starters returning, including redshirt senior transfer Greyson Lambert at QB. The Bulldogs also got great news this week when Nick Chubb was cleared to rejoin the team. Chubb, a junior out of nearby Cedartown, GA injured his knee midway through 2015, having gained 745 yards rushing the first five games, and was coming off a 1,500+ yard campaign a year before that.

Can Trubisky Take Over At QB?
I wasn't overly impressed with North Carolina when previewing the Tar Heels about six weeks ago. That isn't to say Larry Fedora and his bunch won't enjoy success this season, the Tar Heels very much in the bowl picture starting off and in the ACC Coastal picture as well at 8/1.

Still, I went with the 'under' 8½ wins on the NCAA football futures, in part because UNC is replacing star QB Marquise Williams, and doing so with a tough schedule ahead, even if Clemson is not on the slate a second consecutive year. Fedora does have experience coming back at the other positions, 14 starters from a team that went 11-3. One junior tailback Elijah Hood, who ran for 1,463 yards and 17 TD last year. Two more returning are the top receivers, Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer, plus four of the five offensive linemen. The big question is can Mitch Trubisky step in and take over under center.

We're not worried about the little 20% chance of rain or the afternoon high in the upper-80s for Atlanta on Saturday since the game's inside. I'm liking the Bulldogs by a touchdown or more, making my free college football pick an easy one.

Free NCAAF Pick: Georgia -2½
Best Line Offered: at Heritage
Season: 0-0

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