Reigning National Champion Georgia, ranked third in the preseason polls, battles No. 11 Oregon Saturday, September 3 at Mercedes Benz Stadium, in one of the most highly anticipated openers of the 2022 collegiate football campaign. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m in this cross-country showdown which pits two of college football’s top programs. The winner gets a big early season jump in the quest of one of those cherished four spots in the College Football Playoff.
Though this will be the first meeting between the Bulldogs and Ducks since Georgia defeated Oregon 27-16 at Sanford Stadium to kick off the 1977 season, there is a plethora of familiarity between the two.
Headlining the subplots, Oregon’s first year head coach Dan Lanning matriculated to Eugene from Athens, where he was defensive coordinator for Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs the previous three seasons. The Ducks new quarterback is well known in Southeastern Conference circles, as Bo Nix, a three-year starter at Auburn, transferred to Oregon.
Yes the Dogs and Ducks haven’t met in 45 years, but there won’t be a lot of secrets come kickoff.
Lanning helped oversee exceptional stop units, including the record-setting national championship unit of 2021, which featured Outland/Bednarik Award winner Jordan Davis, Butkus Award recipient Nakobe Dean and first overall NFL Draft pick Travon Walker. A record setting five Bulldog defenders were first round picks. A total of 15 Bulldogs were selected this past spring, also a new record.
That’s a tremendous act to follow.
The Bulldogs are a betting favorite to return to the playoffs, and the overwhelming pick to win the East Division and advance to the SEC Championship Game, a testament to the recruiting, development and talent accumulation under Smart’s watch. But a great deal of ability and leadership from the dream season of 2021 is now playing on Sundays.
Oregon returns a plethora of talent off a team that posted a 10-2 regular season and advanced to the PAC-12 Championship Game, where the Ducks fell to Utah. A total of 16 starters are back, including all five offensive linemen. That makes the transition for new faces Lanning and Nix much more comforting.
Last season, the Bulldogs beat Clemson in the opener launching the title run. In the second week of the year in 2021, Oregon toppled Ohio State in Columbus to vault into playoff contention.
For the loser of this one, the road to glory is still open, but with little margin for error. The winner will most likely be ranked no worse than No. 3 heading into Week Two, with the victorious head coach warning of “Rat Poison” for a team that will have taken a large first step to a potentially stellar 2022 campaign.