The LSU Tigers play the UNC Tar Heels in college football's opening game on ESPN. The Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta has gained a lot of exposure in part because UNC's football program is under investigation largely due to two athletes who allegedly received favors from a former UNC player and one or two agents. Articles have claimed that LSU will win because of the distractions of the investigation.
Contrary to these critics, there is little if any evidence that programs under investigation have suffered at game-time, especially when no players have been suspended by the team.
The photo on this page is from last year's Capital One Bowl between LSU and Penn State. One might disregard this bowl entirely given the conditions. However, there are several notable issues that are worthy of review.
First, Penn State beat one ranked team last year. LSU. Joe Pa said that this makes no difference.
Similarly, critics noted Penn State hadn't beaten a ranked team all season despite its gaudy record.
"That thing about not beating a ranked team, I mean, between you and me, that's a lot of hooey, OK, to be honest with you," Paterno said at a post-game news conference. "I think you guys have to write about something, so you pick out something."
Second, weather is no equalizer. It does cut back on certain offense, but coaching and discipline wins games under such conditions. As was said after the game,
In any case, the team that was more disciplined, better coached, and was led by a senior quarterback won the game. That is usually more important than having the best athletes and LSU needs to take note.
Third, unlike at the Carolina Tar Heels, this is supposed to be a transition year for all of the SEC.
The Tigers end the season with a 9-4 record and will head into spring practice with a bunch of question marks on the offensive side of the football. Improvement in every phase of the game will be paramount to Les Miles success and future at LSU.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, LSU will be representing the SEC against the ACC. The pressure is entirely on LSU. It is expected to win. Carolina will play much looser, and the Capital One Bowl shows that pressure is not LSU's strength.
Turning to the Tar Heels, there is little concern apart from the investigation and the quarterback. The running game despite the loss of freshman sensation Gio Bernard for the season will have three veteran runners. The defense will be outstanding whether the players under investigation are sanctioned or not.
As far as the quarterback is concerned, two points stand out. Without the bad judgment, TJ Yates could gave had a breakout year. His problem is not arm strength, size or mobility (although this is his weakest point). It is lack of judgment under pressure. Sporting News says that Tar Heels will be good -- even great if QB play improves.
The second point is that Yates is an early season quarterback. Both of the last seasons, his numbers have gotten far worse as the season progressed. Last year's Connecticut game, the second of the season, is an example.
Connecticut was ranked during the pre-season and was considered a big game by Carolina. And Yates shined despite his two interceptions to one touchdown, a trend that continued during the rest of the season. His numbers were 23 for 32, 233 yards, 71.9 percent passing and a 130.85 quarterback rating, his highest all year.
Even if he falters, the redshirt quarterback Bryn Renner appears ready to step in. Unlike others who have failed, Renner is a quality quarterback with the backing of many on the Tar Heels team. (Yes, I assume Yates will start, and win, against LSU.)
Each of these facts provides evidence that LSU could be on the short end of the stick at the end of college football's kick-off game. Combined, it is likely that Carolina will blow out LSU. And that is The Real Truth.