Han Vance on Georgia football: Since Kirby Smart arrived at the University of Georgia as head coach, the out of conference schedule has been pretty strong, a direct benefit to Georgia football. That changes this season.
Big Time Prearranged Games:
2016 Georgia-UNC (ATL) – W
2017 Georgia at Notre Dame – W
2018 NOTHING! – XX
2019 Notre Dame at Georgia
2020 Georgia-UVa (ATL)
2021 Nothing yet…but Texas and UGA were talking
2022 Georgia-Oregon (ATL)
2023 Nothing yet…
2024 Georgia-Clemson (ATL)
2025 Georgia at UCLA
2026 UCLA at Georgia
Harping on it a bit because a: the key win at Notre Dame last season was solely what kept Georgia in the legitimate CFP conversation while the Dawgs were never projected to win the SEC by the national media. Even after they lost badly at Auburn, Georgia was actually still in a good position to make the playoff without the league crown. Do I think WE would have gotten in without it like Bama has? No.
They did win the league, though, our Dawgs netting a 12th SEC title for the nation’s oldest state-chartered university, tied for 2nd in league championships with Tennessee. It was a dozen years between crowns, by the way, Dooley never going more than six between his SEC championships.
And, b: I hate too many cupcakes. I’d rather see one or none than three. By the third quarter of Saturday’s contest in Athens, I honestly will be not only through with the Austin Peay Governors but for all practical purposes, the UMASS Minutemen as well. Middle Tennessee State University from the greater Nashville area can be a high-scoring bowl team and may pose a minor challenge, but those other two sides on the slate are toast.
The three big rivalries not played in Jacksonville are all home games. Tech has won twice consecutively in Athens and therefore must be, likewise, toast. UT was edged by the Dawgs on Rocky Top 41-0 and has a new coach. Auburn has not won in Athens since DJ Shockley suffered his only regular-season defeat as a starting quarterback, on some of that Aubie junk miracle stuff. They thumped us pretty bad on the plains and were paid back. Auburn poses easily the biggest chance for a single home defeat this season, and Georgia should find a way to beat them again Between the Hedges.
Jacksonville hosts the (former) World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, at the site of the postseason (most-year’s-called) Gator Bowl, where Georgia extended the advantage over the Gators by winning for the 4th time in seven years, 42-7. They, too, have a new coach. I’m not seeing any regime change taking Kirby out while he’s solidly into year three. Huge game for the program.
The road is fraught with peril. Only at Kentucky is a so-what this season, in true travel games. Beware self-coronation as you navigate what looks to be a very manageable schedule overall, ahead of time. I spy lots of road game action, some extremely important moments for Georgia. Look, not to sound any alarms but we could easily take an L in Columbia, because South Carolina is snaking in wait and wants to get established. They are getting Deebo Samuel – their missing playmaker – back, with an opportunistic Will Muschamp D. That place gets so loud…that I can’t wait to be there, but that’s the type of spot where traditionally a team with lots of roster upheaval gets caught slipping early in the season. Looking at fairly recent trips to Carolina – not good overall, though Smart got out with a big win over his former teammate, on a weather-shifted Sunday. He’s 2-0 in the Border Bash rivalry.
Just for a second, consider that Georgia may be 1-1, with another cupcake-ish game and then travel to face perhaps the most explosive offense in the country at the other Columbia, near the center of the country. Fall down say 21-10 early to Lock, which is basically what he has done to the Dawgs in the last two meetings, and another comeback becomes less probable. You can’t keep coming back on programs every time you face them. The season could be in sheer peril…or not. The Dawgs may cruise to 4-0 before Tennessee comes to town to take their beating.
Vandy is the classic Homecoming opponent, who we get every other year in Athens. Last year Mizzou was a Homecoming Game shootout, ground out by the Dawgs eventually. Good to see Vanderbilt in that must-win this year.
After Homecoming is a daunting trip to the bayou. I was glad to see Carolina not at night (3:30 CBS) and here’s hoping this matchup gets the same treatment, certainly could be the biggest game of the week. LSU has defeated Georgia in two SEC championship games, with those Shockley-led 2005 champs upsetting the Tigers. The schools do not play that often and it is always exciting. I’d mind your manners and watch your back at Death Valley, by the way, fans.
So, even going 2-1 in the trio of at LSU, at Missouri, at South Carolina looks pretty good to me right now on paper. Were any home or the neutral contest to get away too, and Georgia would find itself a two-loss team, which could still claim the SEC East and then play Alabama, probably, for the SEC. Bama gets Miss State and Auburn at home and basically owns LSU now.
Any single loss does not dampen hopes for the divisional and therefore league crown, and with the season so long a loss does not doom a team from making the College Football Playoff, as most champions are one-loss teams these days. I’ll stick with my preseason prediction of one loss, at LSU.
Can Georgia repeat as SEC champions, make the CFP, win a round???
If I had to make a wager today, I would need to bet the Dogs ultimately fall outside the CFP, looking in from a New Year’s Six, perhaps. Repeating as SEC champions alone is an extremely tough proposition, every year.
This is literally the only year this will happen in the Kirby Smart era, probably, and it should never happen again at UGA. Wait until the CFP pecking orders start or a loss occurs, you’ll see how important strength of schedule is.
(Coach Vince Dooley and Han Vance, photo: Jami Buck-Vance)