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Georgia Football: Ranking the Toughest Games on the Bulldogs' Schedule

Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs Football

Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs have a bull's-eye on their back this season as the defending national champions.

Defending national champion Georgia prepares defense of its title, kicking off the 2022 season with a bang.

Related: Georgia Bulldogs 2022 Season Preview and Prediction

An outstanding Week 1 matchup sets the scene for a series of high-profile matchups, including two in non-conference play against teams that reached their conference title games a season ago.

In SEC play, Kirby Smart's squad can expect to take every opponent's best shot throughout the fall.

12. Sept. 10 vs. Samford

Southern Conference member Samford has boasted one of the most prolific passing attacks in the Football Championship Subdivision in recent years, and it's proven effective against Power 5 competition. In 2018, the Bulldogs gave Florida State all it could handle, and last November, they hung 52 points on Georgia's rival Florida.

In this battle of Bulldogs, however, Georgia will have a clear-cut advantage.

11. Sept. 24 vs. Kent State

Sean Lewis has done one of the most remarkable coaching jobs in FBS over the last few years at Kent State, including a trip to the 2021 MAC Championship Game. If the Golden Flashes perform any better than 1-3 to start the 2022 season, it might be his best work yet.

Kent State faces a brutal gauntlet in non-conference play with road games against Washington, Oklahoma, and wrapping it up at defending national champion Georgia. The Golden Flashes will be well-tested by the final weekend of September, but likely won't put up much resistance.

10. Oct. 15 vs. Vanderbilt

Regular SEC East cellar-dweller Vanderbilt is undergoing a massive rebuild in Clark Lea's second season. The Commodores draw Georgia in as favorable a position as possible, sitting between the Bulldogs' dates against two different rivals (Auburn and Florida).

However, even in a quintessential trap-game slot, Georgia overpowers Vanderbilt across the board.

9. Nov. 26 vs. Georgia Tech

The longstanding rivalry became a matchup of former Nick Saban assistants with Georgia Tech's hire of Geoff Collins in 2019. Kirby Smart's Bulldogs have won the three meetings since by 24 and 45 points twice.

Georgia has dominated Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate in the last four years, with the Bulldogs holding the Yellow Jackets to 14 combined in three of the four matchups. Expect the defensive dominance to continue.

8. Oct. 1 at Missouri

Missouri's ongoing rebuild means the Tigers are likely at least a year away from serious contention. Georgia blasted Missouri a season ago in a contest that saw the Bulldogs run up 40 straight points after the Tigers got on the board first with a field goal.

7. Oct. 8 vs. Auburn

New head coaches in this era of college football are afforded little leeway in turning around a program. Bryan Harsin heads into 2022 sitting on one of the hotter seats for a coach with just a single season at his current program, the result of a five-game losing skid that doomed Auburn to a sub-.500 finish a season ago.

After letting the Iron Bowl slip away last November, the Tigers need a signature SEC win. Hosting Georgia is an opportunity at just such a win.

6.  Nov. 12 at Mississippi State 

Mike Leach's Air Road-based approach is certainly unconventional, even as other programs in the SEC continue to adopt spread and hurry-up principles. Mississippi State's Will Rogers is sure to put up monster numbers by design, but will need a truly outstanding performance against the Georgia defense.

As one of the more distant outposts in the SEC footprint and with cowbells CLANGA'ing, Georgia will face one of the more unique and challenging road environments.

5. Sept. 17 vs. South Carolina  

South Carolina emerged as one of the 2021 season's surprises, finishing on the right side of .500 thanks to some nail-biting wins. Shane Beamer's energy resonates in the Gamecocks, who head into 2022 with one of the nation's more experienced rosters and the highly anticipated addition of Spencer Rattler.

4. Nov. 5 vs. Tennessee

Josh Heupel's arrival on Rocky Top after more than a decade of disappointment has hopes high for the Volunteers once more. Georgia stifled Tennessee's high-powered last season, but otherwise, the Vols employed one of the most effective and electric systems in the conference.

3. Oct. 29 vs. Florida (in Jacksonville) 

Another head coach with experience under the Nick Saban tree, Billy Napier, is in his debut season at Florida. Napier flourished at Louisiana, elevating the Ragin' Cajuns into the Top 25 and contention for the Sun Belt championship. He inherits a talented roster that includes promising young quarterback Anthony Richardson.

2. Sept. 3 vs. Oregon (in Atlanta)

Coordinator of last season's national championship-winning, historically dominant defense, Dan Lanning, begins his next chapter against his old team. With Lanning at the helm, Oregon seeks to make a statement against the defending champs right in their own neck of the woods.

Despite the loss of All-American defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, Lanning has a talented roster in his first year with the Ducks. This matchup can set the tone for the winner's entire season.

1. Nov. 19 at Kentucky 

A berth in the SEC Championship Game may well be at stake when Georgia visits Lexington. That's a rare scenario in the history of the conference, but Mark Stoops has steadily built Kentucky football up to this point when the Wildcats can realistically be included in the SEC title conversation.

With Jacquez Jones, J.J. Weaver and Trevin Wallace at linebacker and Octavius Oxendine on the interior, Kentucky boasts one of the nation's most talented front sevens.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @KyleKensing and subscribe to his newsletter, The Press Break