Defending SEC East champs draw Auburn and Alabama in crossover play this season
It will certainly be a different Georgia football team that we will see in 2020. Gone is the comfort of having three-year starting quarterback Jake Fromm. Also gone will be the confidence of having an all-world talent like Justin Fields taking over that position. The offense will have to grow up in a hurry without a lot of experience at the skill positions. The offensive line will need complete retooling and has a new position coach (former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke).
Either Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman or Stetson Bennett will have to exceed expectations at quarterback if one is to be a difference-maker. And Todd Monken comes to Athens from the Cleveland Browns as the new offensive coordinator and brings with him a lot of fanfare, along with a lot of questions.
Two bits of good news will temper these worries. One, the defense will be chock-full of experience and could be on par to be one of the best units in the country. And two, the schedule allows for a couple of weeks to iron out some of these problems before things get super-monstrous. (And yes, I'm referring to that Alabama game in mid-September. Aye-yaye-yaye.)
But the other good news is that the Bulldogs have some high-rated talents to fill in some of the holes in their two-deep. So depending on how that new talent gels and plays together, these hairy Dawgs could be ready for another push into the College Football Playoff come December.
Here's how the schedule breaks down for 2020...
Bye: Week 8
Week 1 — Sept. 7 vs. Virginia (Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)
A couple of years ago this game might not have made much of a splash on the national scene. But to the credit of Bronco Mendenhall, the Cavaliers have gone from 2-10 in 2016 to 9-4 a year ago. Add to it that this game will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and take place on Labor Day night. The defending ACC Coastal champions will be out to prove they aren't going away, so expect this to be a decent-sized struggle for four quarters.
Week 2 — Sept. 12 vs. East Tennessee State (Athens, Ga.)
It's always dangerous to have a short week to prepare for an opponent. In this case, the Bulldogs will play the Buccaneers just five days after the Virginia game. But again, this is one of those lower-division directional schools that are merely in it for the paycheck. Also consider the FCS Bucs went 3-9 last year and their only game against an FBS opponent was at Vanderbilt, where they lost 38-0. You can do the math on this one.
Week 3 — Sept. 19 at Alabama (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
This will be just the second regular-season meeting between these two SEC blue bloods in the last 12 years. The other meeting was a rough one for the Junkyard Dogs, as the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide beat No. 8 Georgia 38-10 in October 2015. This marquee matchup will be the conference opener for each team. The big matchup to keep an eye on will be the experienced Bama O-line vs. UGa's front seven. And of course, nothing comes easy when you're trying to get a W on the road in the SEC. Looking for a silver lining? Georgia has won the last two matchups in Tuscaloosa. Granted, they came in 2002 and '07, but still.
Week 4 — Sept. 26 vs. ULM (Athens, Ga.)
There won't be much of a resistance put up here. ULM went 5-7 last season and lost to Iowa State 72-20 along the way. But also keep in mind the Warhawks lost at Florida State in overtime 45-44, though obviously that should be taken with a sizable grain of salt since this isn't exactly your father's FSU teams of late. Coming off the Alabama game, this one will feel like more of a breeze. Put your house note down on the Bulldogs in this one.
Week 5 — Oct. 3 vs. Vanderbilt (Athens, Ga.)
This is Homecoming and rightly so, it's nearly a sure W. Making the Commodores Homecoming fodder is a long and storied practice around much of the SEC. UGa has won 18 of the last 21 games in the series and the chances of there being a fourth W for the Black and Gold? Pretty slim. The last three games have seen the Bulldogs beat VU by a combined score of 116-33. Look for more of the same here.
Week 6 — Oct. 10 vs. Auburn (Athens, Ga.)
Last year's showdown in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry saw the Silver Britches appear to have the game well in hand, going up 21-0 heading into the fourth quarter. But the Fighting Malzahns put up a furious rally, closing within a single score before falling short 21-14 as the Bulldogs' offense sputtered to the end. Georgia has won six of the last seven matchups in this series with that loss coming in October 2017 but the Bulldogs were able to avenge it that same season in the SEC title game with a three-touchdown victory. Auburn will have a ton of rebuilding to do, specifically on the offensive line and throughout the defense. Edge to the host Bulldogs.
Week 7 — Oct 17 at Missouri (Columbia, Mo.)
The Bulldogs have enjoyed their eight-game series since the Tigers joined the SEC, winning seven of them. Eliah Drinkwitz comes over from Appalachian State to take the reins of the Tigers program, after leading the Mountaineers to the first-ever top-20 final ranking in Sun Belt history last season. My thinking is, get your wins over Mizzou now before Drinkwitz gets the ball rolling in Columbia. Last year the Tigers went 6-6, but that included a putrid 1-5 finish that saw them lose their luster.
Week 9 — Oct. 31 vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Much to the chagrin of the Gators, the Bulldogs have a three-game win streak over their rivals in their "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." And this year's party falls on Halloween, so you never know what kind of wild spirits will take over. Remember that time the entire Georgia sideline ran into the end zone to celebrate a touchdown? Anyway, Gator QB Kyle Trask warmed to the job as last season went on but he loses a ton of skill position players around him, so the Bulldogs' nasty defense could be a huge hill for the Gators to climb.
Week 10 — Nov. 7 at South Carolina (Columbia, S.C.)
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Last year, at home no less, the Bulldogs dropped a surprising 20-17 overtime decision to the Gamecocks, temporarily sidetracking their SEC title hopes. Guess what? It won't happen again. Georgia's defense should be able to put the clamps on a Gamecock offense that struggled at times last season and is still looking for playmakers. Unless there is a huge hangover from the week before in Jacksonville, I can't see the Dawgs dropping a second straight to the Gamecocks here.
Week 11 — Nov. 14 vs. Tennessee (Athens, Ga.)
Jeremy Pruitt is building a better Volunteer football team, but in terms of competing for an SEC East title, they are not at that point yet. The Big Orange has finished in the national rankings just twice in the last 12 years. However, familiarity will play a key role in this one, even though the last three matchups haven't been that competitive with the Bulldogs winning by a combined 122-26. Barring a flat performance from the Dawgs, this contest should be another gimme in the win column.
Week 12 — Nov. 21 at Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.)
Here we go, the perfect time to include the usual instant W vs. the Wildcats. Georgia leads the all-time series 59-12 and is on a current 10-game win streak. And to be fair, only two of those wins have even been somewhat close. In last year's slogfest in Athens, the Bulldogs pulled off a 21-0 shutout. The Wildcats should be improved on offense, with an experienced line and likely starting quarterback Terry Wilson back to 100 percent after tearing his ACL. This one could be a tad dicier if the UK offense finds a playmaker or two during the season.
Week 13 — Nov. 28 vs. Georgia Tech (Athens, Ga.)
This will be the 115th edition of the very uniquely-named "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" series in the Peach State. But to be fair most of the hate is coming from the Yellow Jacket side of things lately, especially after losing last year's game by 45 points. The Techsters went 3-9 last year in Geoff Collins' first year on the job, marking the program's lowest win total since 1994 (1-10). Collins and his staff will have a better season in 2020, but there is nothing here to get in a twist about if you're a Bulldog fan. UGa treats this as a mere steppingstone before the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.