Breaking down the reigning SEC East champs' schedule...
One of the biggest things the preseason No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs have going for them is the difficulty of their schedule. Their nonconference schedule is soft to say the least, and the introduction of Missouri helped eliminate the possibility of one of the “Big Three” in the Western Division (Alabama, LSU, or Arkansas) snagging that spot. The Bulldogs will certainly be the team to beat in the East.
With the college football season less than 100 days away, I’ve broken down each matchup in the 2012 campaign to give you some perspective on what to expect each week.
Week One – vs. Buffalo
Georgia starts the 2012 season against a team that their second unit could probably thrash. The Bulldogs host Buffalo in a game that should be tipping heavily in favor of the home team by halftime.
The MAC Conference member Bulls have struggled to win just 10 games over their last three seasons. Their biggest weapon is RB Branden Oliver who rushed for over 1,300 yards last season, and 13 touchdowns. The Bulls defense is certainly their weakness, which ranks in the bottom half of the country in every statistical category.
The athleticism and skills that the Bulldogs possess will be too much for Buffalo to handle, especially in one-on-one situations and the battle at the line of scrimmage. Outside of a miracle and a complete team-wide mental collapse, the team from Athens will be taking the first ever matchup between these two schools with ease.
Week Two - @ Missouri
Georgia has earned the privilege of officially welcoming the Missouri Tigers to the Southeastern Conference. With suspensions still in effect for some members of Georgia’s secondary, many people see this as a “trap” game. Only at Georgia do you ever see “trap” games in week two.
The Tigers are led by QB James Franklin who passed for over 2,800 yards and rushed for just over 1,000 with 36 total touchdowns. The Tigers will be without their star RB Henry Josey, but still have the offensive weapons – such as 5-star WR Dorial Green-Beckham – to provide an early test for Georgia’s secondary.
On the other side of the ball, Missouri boasts a deep defensive line with eight guys who recorded at least one sack last season. The Tigers secondary is led by E.J. Gaines who broke up 16 passes last season, along with two interceptions.
The Bulldogs will need the offense to roll and the front seven on defense to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to walk out of Faurot Field with a win in week two.
Week Three – vs. Florida Atlantic
Here’s your automatic win for 2012 Dawg fans. Georgia will get the ‘W’ by just showing up to Sanford Stadium on this Saturday.
FAU comes to Athens in a rebuilding mode with a brand new coaching staff. Eleven-year head coach Howard Schnellenberger – who brought FAU two bowl wins in ’07 and ’08 – retired after going just 1-11 in 2011 and passed the torch to the defensive-minded Carl Pelini (you may have heard of his brother at Nebraska). Pelini has certainly inherited a tough situation and will be hoping the Bulldogs take mercy on his guys by halftime.
Don’t expect to see Georgia’s first unit playing for more than a half in this one.
Week Four – vs. Vanderbilt
Vandy will be the third of four home games for Georgia in September. Last year’s matchup went down to the wire, with a defensive stand from the Bulldogs on the final possession of the game to secure a 33-28 win.
The Commodores are not a team to sleep on this season either. Their rushing attack is one of the best in the country, led by Zac Stacy who rushed for 1,193 yards and averaged almost six yards per carry. Returning to their backfield will be 2009 SEC Freshman of the Year, Warren Norman, who sat out the last four games of 2010 and all of 2011 with injuries. He was something worth watching his freshman year when he set the school and SEC record with 1,941 all-purpose yards as an 18-year-old kid.
Vandy’s defense ranked under the top-20 umbrella last season in yards allowed, so the Bulldogs will certainly be coming into this matchup with their eyes open. If I was Lee Corso I’d say this one will be “closer than the experts think,” but don’t expect Georgia to lose to Vandy at home.
Week Five – vs. Tennessee
Derek Dooley, and his hideous orange pants, will be making an appearance between the hedges in week five. The Vols were nothing more than a doormat in the SEC East last season, but may be a bit more competitive in 2012.
QB Tyler Bray will finally have some stability on his job status and will have a nice target in 1,000-yard receiver Da’Rick Rogers. It will be interesting to see the progress made by the Vols defense under first year DC Sal Sunseri. During Dooley\'s first two years as Tennessee\'s head coach it seemed as if there wasn\'t a defense on the field. Personally, I would get a sick feeling every time I watched Tennessee play because of all the poor tackling.
All that aside, the days when Tennessee used to give Georgia problems seem to be relatively over. The suspensions will be over, and the Bulldogs will be back to full force. That alone should give them enough confidence to take care of business in this matchup.
Week Six - @ South Carolina
This is it people. The game every member of Bulldog Nation has circled on his or her calendar. Georgia heads to Columbia, S.C. to face off in what most likely will be a battle of top-10 teams.
Running-back Heisman contender Marcus Lattimore – whom we all need to respect – averages 182.5 yards per game against Georgia, which is straight stupid. Georgia defensive coordinator Todd damn Grantham is surely going to be honing in on Lattimore, and the battle at the line of scrimmage is going to be one of the best we may see all year. South Carolina’s O-line is young and relatively inexperienced which may allow Georgia’s front seven to weather the Lattimore storm if they can force passing situations and get to QB Connor Shaw on third down.
The Cocks defense was a top-five unit last season, and despite their losses to the NFL, will still require mistake-free football from Aaron Murray and the gang. SEC Championship aspirations for the Bulldogs may either be enhanced or spoiled by the end of this game in what will surely be the single most important game of the regular season.
Week Seven - @ Kentucky
Week seven against Kentucky will be the second of three consecutive games away from Athens.
Last season the Big Blue gave the Bulldogs a little more trouble than they had anticipated, but Georgia still held on to win. This year’s matchup will probably not be as close. The Wildcats lost four starters on their offensive line, and whenever you lose more than one, it’s tough to fill that kind of void. The QB situation is still a tad unclear, but it looks like sophomore Maxwell Smith will likely be the signal caller for Kentucky this fall after his performance in their Spring Game.
Georgia will have an advantage on offense, defense, and on special teams. It should be a business-as-usual type of game for the Bulldogs.
Week Eight – vs. Florida
The last Saturday of October happily brings us the “World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” A damn good time if I can say so myself, especially when Georgia is on the winning side.
Florida has had the edge since 1990, going 18-4 in that span. It took an epic second half comeback helped by the man-child that is Jarvis Jones (5 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble), for the Bulldogs to take the win last season. The Gators’ offense lost RB’s Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps (finally), as well as QB John Brantley. So while a QB battle ensues for the starting gig, it’s tough to say what kind of potential their offense has.
We know what we’re going to see on defense though. Florida was another elite SEC defense in the top-10 rankings, and lost only three starters from last year’s squad. Their speed is always an issue, so Georgia will have to rely on taking advantage of their opponent’s mistakes if they want to earn back-to-back victories down in Jacksonville, Fla.
Week Nine – vs. Ole Miss
The Bulldogs will finally return to the comforting confines of Sanford Stadium in week nine after three consecutive Saturdays away from it, and what better team to come home to than the mess that is Ole Miss.
The Rebels of Mississippi were certainly the laughing stock of the SEC last season. They couldn’t notch a single win in the conference and, surprisingly, their only conference loss by less than 14 points was against Arkansas. The team is certainly in a rebuilding year, as new head coach Hugh Freeze will try to save the sinking ship.
The Rebels were god-awful on both sides of the ball last season, scoring only 16 per game, and allowing 32. As of now, there is no clear-cut starting QB and there are probably a dozen other questions ailing the Rebels on both sides of the ball. It shouldn’t require much effort outside of just taking care of the ball for the Bulldogs to notch a victory at home.
Week Ten - @ Auburn
The embarrassing 45-7 beat down that the Bulldogs gave Auburn at home last season was definitely one of the highlights of the season for Dawg Nation. The 2012 matchup in Auburn, Ala. will most likely be a different story, but a game that the Bulldogs should take comfortably.
The people of Auburn seem to be excited about what 2012 has in store for them, but those of us on the outside with common sense know what’s up.
Gene Chizik may have assembled a mega coaching staff, but that alone isn’t going to be enough to replace an all-SEC running back like Michael Dyer. The Tigers will also have a new face at quarterback – most people in the Auburn camp seem to believe it will be Kiehl Frazier – as well as have to replace three tackles on the offensive line.
The Tiger’s defense got knocked around last season, but lost only one starter, and did well by acquiring former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder who was one of the best. If the defense plays like it did last season though, Aaron Murray could have himself another four touchdown game against Auburn.
Week Eleven – vs. Georgia Southern
The last time these two teams met was in the Stafford/Moreno era in 2008 when Georgia won 45-21.
Jeff Monken and his triple option offense had the Eagles ranked No. 1 last season before they lost in the semifinals for the second consecutive year. In fact, they scored more points than any other offense against Alabama last season.
Don’t get me wrong, Georgia Southern is a good team – just only against FCS competition. Their defense is horrendous and they rely on outscoring opponents to get wins. Expect to see big plays on offense from the Bulldogs, and a lot of them. This game will be nothing more than a warm up against the triple option for Grantham’s defense before the Yellow Jackets come to town the following week.
Week Twelve – vs. Georgia Tech
A week after playing against Paul Johnson’s protégé, the man himself comes to Athens with his hive of Yellow Jackets.
The Bulldogs took care of business in Atlanta and will certainly enjoy taking the rivalry back to Sanford Stadium, and the faithful sea of red and black.
QB Tevin Washington is currently having to battle for the starting job against Synjyn Days and Vad Lee who are both exceptional athletes. Apparently Lee is a great passer which seems like an odd fit for Georgia Tech, right? The Yellow Jackets always bring tall receivers with good hands who can bail out any horrible throw from their quarterback and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown.
Johnson throws a flurry of running backs at you, and hopes to wear down your front seven in order to open up the big play. Unfortunately for them, Georgia’s front seven is one of the best – if not, the best – in the country, and also has depth. Also worth mentioning, Tech’s offensive line is depleted and had a poor showing in their annual Spring Game (which was on a Friday for some reason). Their secondary is also thin on experienced players, and you can be sure QB Aaron Murray will surely enjoy taking advantage of that.
Todd Grantham showed off his successful game plan against the Jackets in 2011, and will surely be using some of those elements in the final game of the 2012 regular season. Georgia Tech is never a team to sleep on, but always a feel-good win to close the campaign with as Georgia goes for its fourth straight against it\'s in-state rival.
More from Around Gamedayr >> 2012 Pre-Season College Football Rankings – Top 25