Early showdown at Alabama could serve as SEC title game preview
In their fifth year of the Kirby Smart era, the Georgia Bulldogs have plenty of holes to fill, especially on the offensive side of things. But the good news is they return a bevy of regulars from the No. 1 scoring defense in the country in 2019, which gave up just 12.6 points per game. That means they'll have a chance to win every game, even if the offense ebbs and flows from time to time.
Interestingly, the Bulldogs do get the luxury of not having any stretch of tough games, back-to-back. Every one of their expected toughest opponents is spaced out like they are doing their own version of social distancing. But on the down side, they didn't get the luck of the draw in conference play as the two SEC West teams they will face are Alabama and Auburn. Yikes.
Let's dive in and rank the games for the Silver Britches, easiest to toughest.
12. Sept. 12 vs. East Tennessee State
The Buccaneers will be the perfect buffer game after the Bulldogs face a tough Virginia team to open the season and before they take on that monstrous herd of Red Elephants know as Alabama. ETSU went 3-9 last season and their two games against FBS competition were a 42-7 loss to Appalachian State and a 38-0 loss at Vanderbilt. You can do the math on how this one will turn out.
11. Sept. 26 vs. ULM
Normally if you said a team like ULM played Florida State to overtime before losing as they did last year (by a missed extra point at that. Egad.), it'd be pretty impressive. But of course, the Seminoles haven't been Bobby Bowden-esque for of couple years now. Still, the Warhawks were just 5-7 last year, going 4-4 in Sun Belt play. But losing QB Caleb Evans, their top two receivers, and four starting O-linemen will mean ULM will have no chance to be competitive. Not against this angry dog defense they'll face.
10. Oct. 3 vs. Vanderbilt
After going bowling in 2018, the Commodores slipped back into their old role of being the most punchless team in the SEC last year. If their quarterback situation is any indication, their anemic ways should continue in 2020. Riley Neal graduated and his two main backups both transferred out of the program, leaving an incoming junior college transfer or a freshman at the controls, depending on how things shake out in the preseason. The Bulldogs should make quick work of VU... again.
9. Oct. 17 at Missouri
The Tigers are trending in the wrong direction after finishing last season with five losses in their last six games. Additionally, Missouri is just 2-16 against teams with a winning record over the past three seasons. New head coach Eliah Drinkwitz comes over from Appalachian State to recharge the program. But there will be a lot of missing firepower from the offense and the defense wasn't any great shakes a year ago either. The Tigers will be back to relevance soon, but not in 2020. Take the Dawgs, even against whatever points those boys in Vegas offer up.
8. Nov. 28 vs. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are still trying to transition from a triple-option offense to the more modern spread offense and you could see the struggles in their 3-9 record a year ago. Geoff Collins' second year at the helm should be better with a slightly more stout defense this time around. But the offense still doesn't have the personnel to throw the ball all over the field and win more than a couple of games. The Silver Britches' win streak grows to five in this rivalry.
7. Nov. 14 vs. Tennessee
Not many doubt that the Volunteers are on the way back to being contenders again after a long dry spell. They went 8-5 last season, including a scintillating comeback win over Indiana in the Gator Bowl. While the line play will be improved, you can't say that the Big Orange is quite there yet in the skill positions and defensive back seven. Check back with us on next year's schedule evaluation and the matchup at Tennessee might be much different.
6. Nov. 7 at South Carolina
Sweet revenge. That's what the Bulldogs will be out for on the first Saturday in November. Last year South Carolina went a punchless 4-8 even though the Gamecocks were expected to be much better. The only bright light in a dark season was the upset of Georgia, a 20-17 overtime stunner in which the Bulldogs outgained South Carolina 468-297. They were vexed by three Jake Fromm interceptions and a fumble, while the Gamecocks did not suffer a single turnover. Look for the Bulldogs to make a statement here.
5. Sept. 7 vs. Virginia (in Atlanta)
The Cavaliers made a nice run to the ACC Championship Game a year ago, due in part to not facing Clemson in the regular season and the conference being relatively weak to begin with. Nonetheless, the Cavs will have a pretty salty defense in 2020, returning 12 of the top 14 tacklers. The offense will be a little punchless with a lot of attrition from a year ago. Mississippi State transfer Keytaon Thompson could be behind the controls in game one vs. the Bulldogs, but there still isn't enough firepower for UVA to win in Atlanta.
4. Nov. 21 at Kentucky
I may have put this game a bit higher than most people would, but I think the Wildcats will be sneaky good this season. In fact, don't be stunned if this game helps decide the SEC East (yes, I said it). The Wildcats won five of their last six after losing to Georgia in a quagmire last season and will have an uber-experienced team this time around. The Bulldog offense will need to be back to its old self and will still be tested in a big way in Lexington.
3. Oct. 10 vs. Auburn
This is a tricky one for the Bulldogs. Last year the Junkyard Dogs had things well in hand, leading 21-0 through three quarters until the offense went punchless and the Tigers got hot. Georgia had to hold on for dear life and a 21-14 win. Overall the Bulldogs have dominated the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, winning the last three and 15 of the previous 18. But this one is very dangerous as Bo Nix and company will be out for revenge. This should be a four-quarter game, but the Bulldogs will bark a little bit louder.
2. Oct. 31 vs. Florida (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
Ahhhh, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Few events in the world of college football are more glorious than this hoedown between these rivals. A senior signal-caller like Kyle Trask will be much tougher to deal with this season, after posting almost 3,000 yards with 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions after replacing the injured Feleipe Franks. There is lots of experience all around the roster for the Gators, who appear to be a sure-fire bet to get to double-digit wins. Last year the Gators got a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to make it a one-score game, despite the Bulldogs outgaining them 398-278. This will be a white-knuckler again for sure.
1. Sept. 19 at Alabama
It's a shame this game won't be played later on in the season, especially for the Bulldogs. This will be a tough one simply because there are so many changes to Georgia's offense. Having Wake Forest transfer quarterback Jamie Newman manning the controls will be a big help, as his dual-threat skill set has been through the ACC wars the last few years. But as is usually the case, an offense with a lot of new faces takes a while to get its sea legs under them as the season goes on. Now, if this game was played in November? Or if there is a rematch in the SEC title game? That would be interesting. But again for this one in September, advantage Bama. If there is a rematch in December, advantage Bulldogs?
— 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.