September 2 – UT-Martin – Sanford Stadium
The two-time reigning national champion Bulldogs kick off the season Between the Hedges against the UT-Martin Skyhawks, two-time defending co-champs of the Ohio Valley Conference. Georgia heads into the season opener riding a 17-game winning streak, tied for the longest in school history (the Bulldogs won 17 straight from the middle of the 1945 campaign through the 1947 season-opener), and Kirby Smart’s powerhouse has topped the opposition in 33 of the last 34 games.
Georgia will be a heavy favorite. UT-Martin is familiar with playing big name opponents on the road. Two of the Skyhawks losses in their 7-4 season came at Boise State (30-7) and Tennessee (65-24).
It will be the first ever meeting on the gridiron between Georgia and UT-Martin.
This will be the first start for whoever Georgia’s first string quarterback is, as well as the first opportunities for a new placekicker. To have a special season, it’s a must to trust your quarterback and your kicker. Unfortunately the game against the Skyhawks is not a tune-up for Oklahoma (like was the case with the original 2023 schedule).
September 9 – Ball State – Sanford Stadium
Word came down that Georgia and Oklahoma would need to scrap their scheduled game in Norman, largely due to the Sooners pending move to the Southeastern Conference. Oklahoma and Texas are scheduled to join the SEC in 2024. So Georgia and Ball State will play, and this is a second straight game to open the year in which the Dogs will be heavily favored. The Cardinals, out of the Mid-American Conference, posted a 5-7 record last year, including a 59-10 season-opening loss at Tennessee.
Ball State will play two straight SEC foes to kick off the season. The Cardinals open at Kentucky. On September 23rd, they host Georgia Southern. So Ball State surely will be battle tested heading into MAC play.
This will also be the first meeting between the Bulldogs and Ball State.
September 16 – South Carolina – Sanford Stadium
The Gamecocks are riding high after their tremendous victories over Tennessee and Clemson for an 8-4 regular season. Those wins derailed the College Football Playoff hopes of both the Volunteers and Tigers. Even though they lost the Gator Bowl to Notre Dame, the expectations are still very high in Columbia. Quarterback Spencer Rattler, who shined down the stretch, is a big reason the Gamecocks are so hopeful. Meanwhile, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee (though Joe Milton did start the Vols final two games after Hendon Hooker was hurt against the Gamecocks) and Kentucky are all breaking in new signal callers.
South Carolina should again be strong on the defensive front, and Rattler is surrounded by talented skill personnel and what should be a good offensive line. Shane Beamer, a former Georgia assistant, who left the Bulldogs for Oklahoma in 2017 after Kirby Smart hired him on his first staff in 2016, is in his third season as the Gamecocks head coach. South Carolina has exceeded expectations in his first two years, posting 6-7 and 8-5 records. A lot of prognosticators will have South Carolina picked third, and maybe even second in the SEC East.
The Garnet and Black faithful are hopeful for even higher. A victory over the Bulldogs in Athens would greatly buoy those chances and give South Carolina a potential path to its second ever SEC Championship Game and first since 2010.
With current Bulldogs defensive coordinator Will Muschamp the Gamecocks head coach, South Carolina is the last team to beat Georgia in Athens, pulling off the 20-17 double overtime victory at Sanford Stadium in 2019.
In the three games since, the Bulldogs have beaten South Carolina 45-16 in Columbia in 2020, 40-13 Between the Hedges in 2021 and 48-7 at Williams-Brice Stadium en route to a second straight national title.
Charlotte serves as the site of South Carolina’s season opener, a high profile matchup with North Carolina. Furman then visits Columbia before the trip to Athens.
September 23 – Sanford Stadium – UAB
Two years ago, in what looked like a potential trap game, between resounding wins over Clemson and South Carolina, the 2021 national champion Bulldogs put up an impressive 56-7 victory over UAB. It was a sign that there would be no letup for that powerhouse Georgia team.
Now the Bulldogs get the Blazers between South Carolina and a road trip to Auburn. It will be Georgia’s fourth consecutive game in Athens, where fans will surely be hoping for rare cooler temps.
Super Bowl champion quarterback Trent Dilfer is new Blazers coach, taking over a program that has earned a bowl berth for six straight seasons. That’s extra impressive, considering the program was briefly dismantled. But Bill Clark enjoyed excellent success as UAB’s head coach. He stepped down prior to last season and interim Bryant Vincent coached the Blazers to a 7-6 record, 4-4 in Conference USA, and a 24-20 Bahamas Bowl win over Miami of Ohio.
Dilfer’s two biggest challenges this year are a wide open quarterback race and up front, as the Blazers must replace all five starting offensive linemen. They helped pave the way for the nation’s leading rusher DeWayne McBride, a second team All-American, who posted 1,713 yards. McBride was a seventh round pick of the Minnesota Vikings. Jermaine Brown will now be the centerpiece of the Blazers run game. He had 948 yards and eight touchdowns last year and has run for 2,275 yards in his career.
The Blazers return five defensive starters, including a pair of outstanding linemen, Fish McWilliams (2nd Team All CUSA) and Michael Fairbanks II (Bahamas Bowl MVP).
UAB opens with North Carolina A&T at home, then goes to Georgia Southern and hosts the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana before visiting the Bulldogs.
September 30 – Auburn – Jordan-Hare Stadium
With the seismic schedule shuffling over the past few seasons, a lot of things have changed. Georgia playing Auburn in September certainly feels odd. As does the visit to Jordan-Hare being the Bulldogs first road game of the year.
This is another spot where a big test in Norman would have been a plus. You can bet it will be rocking on the Plains, with the Tigers poised for an upset of the ancient rivals.
The hiring of Hugh Freeze has energized the Auburn faithful. Known for his high octane offenses, most notably at Ole Miss and Liberty. He’ll try and crank up a Tigers offense that was relatively stagnant the last couple of seasons.
Getting settled at quarterback is the top mission offensively for Freeze. The run game should be good. Jarquez Hunter is a fantastic tailback and will be the main man with Tank Bigsby now in the NFL. Hunter had a sensational catch and run for a touchdown last season in Athens in the Bulldogs 42-10 win.
Auburn brings back a lot of production from last season, but Freeze’s other big priority is improving a defense that uncharacteristically struggled at times last season. While the stop unit played well against Missouri, LSU and Texas A&M, Auburn gave up over 38 points to Penn State, Georgia, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Alabama – losing all six of those games.
The Auburn faithful are hungry. Georgia, the Tigers second biggest rival, has won back-to-back national championships. Alabama – it’s still the biggest blood feud in the game – continues to sit amongst the nation’s elite, with six national titles since 2009, most recently in 2020. LSU, which has emerged as No. 3 for Auburn, won the 2019 national title.
But history has shown through the years that Auburn has done some great things early in coaching tenures. Terry Bowden led the probation-saddled Tigers to an 11-0 record in 1993, his first season. It was Year Two for Gene Chizik when Cam Newton led Auburn to the 2010 national championship, and Gus Malzahn guided Auburn to the 2013 SEC title and a near miss against Florida State in his first season of 2013.
Navigating Georgia, LSU and Alabama will be a big challenge. The Tigers get both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide at home. Auburn goes to Cal in week two, and that should serve as a good barometer. The week before the Bulldogs head to the Plains, the Tigers will play at Texas A&M in their SEC opener.
Georgia has enjoyed staggering success against Auburn in recent years. Dating back to 2006, the Bulldogs have won 15 of the last 18 meetings. The Tiger wins over that stretch came in those aforementioned 2010 and 2013 campaigns and in 2017. The Bulldogs beat Auburn in a rematch for the 2017 SEC championship, beginning a six game winning streak in the series. For Bulldog fans who still vividly remember that stretch from 1983-1990, when Auburn beat Georgia seven of eight times, and from 1977 through 2001 when the Tigers won 11 of 13 meetings with the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium, this recent near two decade run has been mighty sweet.
October 7 – Kentucky – Sanford Stadium
Last season, Kentucky gave the 15-0 Bulldogs their third toughest game of the year, behind the 42-41 triumph over Ohio State Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal and the 26-22 comeback win at Missouri. On a frigid afternoon in Lexington, the Bulldogs built a 16-0 lead, but Kentucky was jump-started by a goal line stand. A stop on a critical two-point play and missed Wildcats field played out huge as the Bulldogs prevailed 16-6. The victory marked Georgia’s 13th straight in the series, dating back to 2010.
Under Mark Stoops watch, Kentucky has experienced a high degree of success at the ultimate basketball school. Stoops has led the Wildcats to seven straight bowl games with six winning records (all but the Covid season of 2020 since 2016), including 10-3 showings in both 2018 and 2021. Bowl wins over that stretch against Penn State, Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Iowa have been impressive. Kentucky’s run of success has coincided with the Kirby Smart era at Georgia. It’s easy to make the case that the Wildcats have been the second most consistent winner in the SEC East over this stretch behind the Bulldogs.
As usual, Kentucky figures to be tough and physical. That’s Stoops M.O.
What could push the Wildcats back to the top of the division is a pair of transfers in the backfield. Quarterback Devin Leary and running back Ray Davis succeed Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez.
The schedule starts very softly with Ball State, Eastern Kentucky and Akron coming to Lexington before the Wildcats head to Nashville for the SEC Opener at Vanderbilt. The Dogs will be coming off a huge game at Auburn, while the Wildcats will be coming off a big East division showdown with Florida, a series that has swung Kentucky’s way. The schedule is mighty tough with visits from Tennessee and Alabama and road trips to Mississippi State and South Carolina, along with the regular season finale at Louisville.
October 14 – Vanderbilt -Vanderbilt Stadium
Since the Commodores stunned the Bulldogs in 2016, Georgia has dominated Vanderbilt, winning five straight (the Commodores were a two-time no show in 2020) in the series, all by at least 24 points. The last two seasons, the Bulldogs pummeled Vandy 62-0 in 2021 in Nashville and drubbed the ‘Dores 55-0 last season Between the Hedges.
Clark Lea is heading into his third season as Vandy’s head coach. There is an uptick of optimism. Yes, the Commodores were hammered by Tennessee 56-0 to close the season, but between the blowout losses to the Bulldogs and Volunteers, there was a lot of progress made. Following a pair of competitive setbacks (17-14 at Missouri and 38-27 to South Carolina), the Commodores shined with back-to-back wins over Kentucky and Florida. Vandy prevailed 24-21 in Lexington, and then delighted the Nashville faithful with a 31-24 triumph over the Gators, which was a gut punch in Gainesville.
Further optimism comes from one of the SEC’s most experienced offensive lines. Vanderbilt has five starters back up front. The Commodores also return their top four receivers from last year. So for the starting quarterback – AJ Swann is the front-runner – there is justifiable belief that progress will be made offensively.
Lea was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame when he took the Vanderbilt job and the Commodores are hopeful the stop unit will make big strides. Again, there were good moments last year, but at times, particularly against Georgia and Tennessee, Vandy was just overwhelmed.
The ‘Dores have a chance to get off to a good start. They help kick off the season in Week Zero on August 26th against Hawaii then host Alabama A&M before going to Wake Forest and UNLV. Then comes SEC play. The ‘Dores host Kentucky and Mizzou. That’s manageable. Then they go to Florida before Georgia heads to Music City, USA prior to the Dogs open date. If there is a season that sets up for the ‘Dores to push for a .500 or better record and bowl eligibility, this is it. But it will take a very good start.
There have been some upset losses (and a tie) and narrow escapes against Vanderbilt through the years. Including that 2016 loss at home. But it’s been all business since under Smart’s watch. In 2017, coming off emotional victories over Notre Dame, Mississippi State and Tennessee in Knoxville the week prior, Georgia had the early 11 a.m. Central kickoff at Vandy, which is always tricky. The Bulldogs raced to a 21-0 lead in a 45-14 victory en route to the SEC Championship and berth in the National Title Game. That was a sign that things were different. And they sure have been since.
October 28 – Florida – Jacksonville, Fla. TIAA Bank Field
In the 1990s and 2000s, there is no doubt that the Florida Gators were the premier program in the Southeastern Conference, capturing eight league titles between 1991 and 2008 and winning three national championships (1996, 2006 and 2008). From 1990-2010, Florida posted a staggering 18-3 record against Georgia.
The tables have turned in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs are 8-4 in the last 12 meetings, winning five of the last six under Kirby Smart’s watch. While Georgia sits atop the college football world with back-to-back national championships, six straight top ten rankings and berths in five of the last six SEC Championship Games, the Gators are coming off back-to-back losing seasons, four losing records in the last 10 years and a fourth head coach (not counting interim head coaches) since Urban Meyer’s glory days.
Billy Napier heads into his second season as the Gators head and the Florida faithful are antsy. As always, it’s a talented roster. Florida always has players. But a second straight 6-7 season that culminated with a 30-3 Las Vegas Bowl loss to Oregon State, a third straight loss (including one at Vanderbilt) to close out the season, has “The Swamp’ extra swampy.
The schedule is tough, starting at Utah, ending with Florida State in Gainesville, and the SEC gauntlet in between. DraftKings.Com lists Florida’s Over/Under Win/Total at 5.5, the second lowest in the league to Vanderbilt’s 3.5. Obviously, the Gators expect to do much better. If they are right at that number, Napier will have the hottest seat in the country.
Florida’s offensive line was much improved last season. The Gators took some hits in the portal but also got some help. This group could be a big strength to go along with Florida’s top asset, an excellent tailback duo of Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne. They are weapons, and one of college football’s best one-two punches.
What about the pass game? Going back to Steve Spurrier and John Reeves, the Gators best teams have been known for their ability to move the ball through the air. That was certainly the case when Spurrier was coaching greats like Danny Wuerffel in the 1990s, and Tim Tebow was playing in the late 2000s. Anthony Richardson was the fourth overall pick in the draft by the Colts, but the Gators just didn’t win much with him at quarterback. Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz appears to be the front-runner. There will be a speedy group of pass catchers, but Gator fans are longing for the days of Chris Doering, Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, the Jacksons, the Caldwells, Percy Harvin and, most recently, Kyle Pitts.
Defensively, the Gators will be talented and fast and big up front. You can say that heading into every season. To contend for a spot in Atlanta, that D will have to improve. Florida lost to Tennessee 38-33, fell to LSU 45-35, went down to Georgia 42-20, were outscored by Florida State 45-38. In the other three losses to Kentucky, Vandy and Oregon State, the Gators gave up 26, 31 and 30. But against the heavyweight Vols, Bayou Bengals, Bulldogs and Seminoles, that’s over 40 points per game a year ago.
Adam Mihalek is one of the SEC’s top kickers. He has a strong leg and is one of the Orange and Blue’s top weapons.
Florida beat Utah in Gainesville to open last season. While the Gators played poorly down the stretch, the Utes turned it on, winning a second straight PAC-12 championship. The return game will kick off the 2023 season on Thursday night August 31 in Salt Lake City. Florida will be an underdog, and this game will serve as a good litmus test for how the Gators will stack up in the SEC. The Tennessee game in September is always huge. For the loser, there is rarely a path to the SEC Championship Game.
After Tennessee and a tune up with Charlotte, the Gators go to Kentucky, host Vanderbilt and visit South Carolina. That’s not necessarily easy, but it’s not overwhelming. Florida could still be in the hunt for the SEC East when the cocktail party reconvenes. That has not been the case the last two years.
Both the Bulldogs and Gators once again have the open date before the Jacksonville showdown. Since the league split into divisions in 1992, the path to the SEC Championship Game has been largely shaped by what happens in the old Gator Bowl. Including recent history. The last eight Georgia-Florida winners have gone on to play for the conference crown in Atlanta.
November 4 – Missouri – Sanford Stadium
Mizzou will be coming off an open date for the showdown with the Bulldogs the first Saturday in November. Last season, the Tigers nearly upset Georgia in Columbia, leading for a vast majority of the game. The Bulldogs scored back-to-back touchdowns to escape with a 26-22 victory. Even though there is always so much emotion expended in Jacksonville, you can bet Smart will have the Bulldogs focused on the Tigers.
Georgia has won nine straight in the series since Missouri beat the Bulldogs 41-26 on its first visit to Sanford Stadium in 2013, but several of the games, like last year, have been knee knockers and most have been close, at least into the second half. The Tigers are big up front. That Midwest style in the SEC East usually means that Missouri can match up at the line of scrimmage.
The Tigers are seeking improvement at quarterback and running back. Brady Cook is the front-runner to be the starting signal caller. Missouri’s quarterback play, which for the better part of the 2000s and 2010s was outstanding, has been inconsistent under Eli Drinkwitz’s watch. The Tigers are 17-19 in Drinkwitz’s three seasons, 11-15 in the SEC. They’re pushing for the breakthrough into the upper part of the East. A win in the conference opener at Vanderbilt on September 30 is a must. The battle with the Commodores starts a run of eight straight SEC games.
Five star recruit, Luther Burden is poised for a big season. One of the nation’s top wide receiver recruits, he hauled in 45 receptions for 375 yards and five touchdowns last season, while also running for two scores and returning a punt for a TD. Beyond getting steady play at QB, Drinkwitz will continue to be creative with different avenues to capitalize on Burden’s skills.
Also back, the thicker kicker, Harrison Nevis, who nailed five field goals against the Bulldogs last year (Georgia’s Jack Podlesny was 4×4 in the 26-22 Bulldogs win, with the two sharing SEC Special Teams Player of the Week honors). The two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist has a huge leg and is a threat when Mizzou crosses midfield.
November 11 – Ole Miss – Sanford Stadium
The two most recent teams that Georgia has played that have won their last game against the Bulldogs are … Ole Miss and Texas. Back in 2016, after the Bulldogs beat Nicholls State by two and Mizzou by one, the Hugh Freeze-led Rebels pounded Georgia 45-14 in Oxford. Lane Kiffin heads into his fourth season as Ole Miss’s head coach. Two years ago, he led the Rebels to a 10-2 regular season and berth in the Sugar Bowl, where they lost a tough one to Baylor. Last season, Ole Miss was rolling at 7-0, then 8-1 with a shot to beat Alabama. But the Rebels lost a 30-24 heartbreaker to the Crimson Tide and it took all the wind out their sails. Losses at Arkansas, to Mississippi State and then Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl followed and Ole Miss fell to 8-5.
Headlining the Rebels depth chart is standout sophomore running back Quinshon Judkins and quarterback Jaxson Dart. They could be the SEC’s top returning one-two backfield punch. Judkins ran for 1,567 yards (averaging 5.7 yards per carry) and scored 17 touchdowns, 16 on the ground.
Kiffin is known for high scoring offenses, and the Rebels should put up plenty of points this season.
How good will the defense be? In three of the Rebels losses – LSU, Arkansas and Texas Tech – they allowed at least 42 points.
This will be the final home game of the season for Georgia. Seven of the Bulldogs first ten games are Between the Hedges. This will mark Ole Miss’s first visit to Athens since 2012 when Georgia came back to beat the Rebels 37-10 en route to an 11-1 regular season.
These two schools are known for their tailgating acumen and you know everyone will be dressed in their gameday best. Ole Miss hosts Texas A&M the week before visiting Athens. The Rebels schedule is tough. In the last two weeks of September, the Rebels go to Alabama and host LSU. Then Arkansas heads to Oxford.
Ole Miss opens against Mercer, then goes to Tulane before hosting Tech. So that’s three teams from the state of Georgia on the Rebels schedule.
November 18 – Tennessee – Neyland Stadium
The Volunteers are coming off their best season since 2001, posting an 11-2 record, beating Alabama and Florida, and then winning the Orange Bowl against Clemson. Tennessee finished ranked No. 6 nationally, but should have been a spot higher, as Alabama was No. 5. The 51-48 thriller against the Crimson Tide broke a 15-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide. The 38-33 win over the Gators was just Tennessee’s second against Florida in the last 18 meetings. Both memorable wins came in Knoxville.
It was quite a stage, No. 1 vs. No. 1, when Georgia beat Tennessee 27-13 in Athens. The Vols other loss was a stunner at South Carolina. The Gamecocks ran out of celebratory fireworks in a 63-38 upset that ended any Volunteer CFP hopes. Standout quarterback Hendon Hooker was injured that night in Columbia.
Joe Milton, who battled Hooker for the starting spot, got the call and played very well in a 56-0 rout of Vanderbilt and the 31-14 Orange Bowl topping of Clemson.
Josh Heupel heads into his third season and the Vol faithful are believers. Landing blue chip quarterback Nico Iamaleava was huge. He can get his feet wet playing behind Milton.
Despite losing a pair of really good ones to the NFL, Tennessee should still be good at wide receiver. Bru McCoy and Ramel Keyton figure to be the top targets. The Vols would like a more consistent running game, with veterans Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small the projected top backs.
Up front, there are four seniors and a junior who figure to start on the offensive line. That’s a good sign that the Volunteers could be right back in the thick of the SEC and CFP race.
How will the defense measure up?
After the disaster in Columbia, the Tennessee stop unit fared well. To get to that next rung on the ladder, the defense will have to be better consistently.
The week three trip to Florida is enormous. Tennessee hosts South Carolina on September 30, then comes an open date and a tough stretch. The Vols host Texas A&M in what figures to be a tough game, then they head to Alabama. In many ways, that one means the least. You know Bama will come out guns blazing. If the Tide wins, there would still be Atlanta rematch potential. After the trip to Tuscaloosa, Tennessee goes to Kentucky. Be careful Vols.
Prior to the visit from Georgia, Tennessee goes to Missouri.
Georgia has won 11 of the last 13 games against the Volunteers, including the last six straight under Smart’s watch.
Who knows how things will play out, but there’s a pretty good chance that the winner of this one will play for the conference title in Atlanta.
November 25 – Tech – Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field
Brent Key took over for Geoff Collins after the Yellow Jackets opened last season with a 1-3 record. He led the Yellow Jackets to a 4-4 record the rest of the way, and Tech hung tough with national champion Georgia in a 37-14 Bulldogs win in Athens. An offensive lineman for the Jackets from 1997-2000, he was a part of three straight wins over Georgia. Key has said that Tech is “working every day to dominate Georgia.”
The Bulldogs have won five straight against the Yellow Jackets, with last year’s 23-point win the closest over that stretch dating back to 2017 (the two didn’t play due to Covid in 2020). Georgia has won 11 in a row at historic Grant Field, including a cumulative 135-14 margin in Smart’s three victories as Georgia’s head man on The Flats.
Tech’s defense and offensive line figure to continue to progress under Key’s watch. Highly touted redshirt freshman Zach Pyron is the front-runner to be the Jackets starting quarterback. Dontae Smith, who ran for 420 yards and five touchdowns, leads the run game.
Placekicker Gavin Stewart is an All-ACC candidate. He was 12 of 13 on field goals a year.
There is a great deal of high school talent in the state of Georgia. Every SEC and national power program scours the Peach State, with the Bulldogs always vying for “more than our fair share” of Georgia’s best. Tech may not be locked in on many of the top 25 prospects currently, but there is still a lot to go around, and a lot of really good players who may be rated in that 40-75 area in the state. Especially with Georgia bringing in so many top national prospects. Somewhat similarly, South Carolina has cashed in on some Palmetto State prospects with Clemson’s national recruiting.
The Jackets open the season against Louisville at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In week three, the Jackets go to Ole Miss. Road trips to Miami, Virginia and Clemson (duh) will be tough. If Tech could win in Charlottesville, the chances for a winning record and bowl berth go way up.
Tech hosts Syracuse the week before Georgia comes to Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field, where the Red and Black has greatly outnumbered the old gold in the stands for the last several meetings.