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Oregon vs. Georgia Football Prediction and Preview

Defending national champion Bulldogs take on a familiar face as the Ducks come to Atlanta for one of the most anticipated games of the season.

These two college football blue bloods should be commended for their initiative. They have consistently given us some great early-season non-conference matchups over the last few years. In 2021, the Georgia Bulldogs got their national championship campaign off to a great start with a 10-3 squashing of Clemson, letting America know that the Junkyard Dogs were going to have one prickly defensive unit. A week later the Ducks made a big splash on the national scene with an impressive win at Ohio State, on their way to a 10-win season.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 1

But both programs enter the 2022 season with something to prove. The Bulldogs merely have to go out there and show that they are a program that can consistently contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff and another national title. Meanwhile, the boys from Bigfoot country look to establish that there may be a new leader at the helm (Dan Lanning) but double-digit win totals are still going to be a habit.

No. 11 Oregon vs. No. 3 Georgia

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
TV Network: ABC
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Georgia -17

When Oregon Has the Ball

The most intriguing — and probably the most telling — matchup in this game is easily going to be how the Oregon offensive line deals with Georgia’s defensive line. The Ducks return five of six starters up front, including three seniors. Lanning says it is the best offensive line in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs lost all three starters along the D-line to the NFL draft, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. But the three newbies Kirby Smart's D trots out there will be wildly talented as well. Sophomore nose tackle Jalen Carter could be another top-rate draftee. Getting a push and protecting new quarterback Bo Nix will be vital for the Green Gang.

And speaking of Mr. Nix, this will be his first game since transferring from Auburn. So he is certainly familiar with UGA, having gone 0-for-3 as the Tigers’ starter against their natural crossover foe. In those three games, he has gone 72-for-128 as a passer, gaining 639 yards through the air on a paltry 5.0 yards per attempt. He’ll definitely need to improvise and make things happen with his feet here, as three of their top four running backs and four of their top six receivers from last year have hit the road.

Although Georgia only has three starters back on defense, this back seven is still probably going to be one of the best groups in the country, with Carter up front and DBs Kelee Ringo (cornerback) and Christopher Smith (safety) being All-America candidates in their own right. So the UO passing game will have its biggest test all season.

When Georgia Has the Ball

Stetson Bennett became a folk hero to Georgia fans last season, leading the Bulldogs to the national title despite looking more like a guy who is running to catch a bus. It will be interesting to see if the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior can pull a rabbit out of his hat again. He started 12 games last year after JT Daniels got hurt, and even held on to the job after Daniels came back. That’s how lights-out he was. But … does he have an encore?

One of Bennett’s big advantages is that he will operate behind a standout offensive line, which has 66 career starts to its credit coming into the season. Last year, this group gave up just 16 sacks in 15 games, a remarkable statistic. Despite losing All-American defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Ducks will pose a pretty good threat to UGA's pass protection with a lot of athleticism, led by the linebacking duo of Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell, who could be the best one-two punch at the position in the country. And along the line, end Brandon Dorlus was All-Pac-12 and nose guard Popo Aumavae was honorable mention.

And of course, the two-ton elephant in the room is the fact that new Oregon head coach Dan Lanning came to Eugene after being the defensive coordinator at Georgia. So you KNOW he has all the goods on Bennett and this offense. That gives the Ducks a huge advantage going into this first game. Lanning knows how to attack Bennett, the keys to making him jittery in the pocket, and the ways to counteract that talented Georgia offense. And the best part for Oregon is that this team has the talent to wreak some havoc here.

Final Analysis

It’s obvious that both of these teams are going to be good this season, which is why they are both ranked in the top 11 of the AP poll entering the season. But I think both teams are going to be better than people expect, on their own levels. Georgia returning just three starters on defense is a red herring. Smart still has wicked-huge talent on this side of the ball, and it'll probably show up on Saturday in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. But I also think the Ducks are headed for a special season too. Dan Lanning was a *serious* hire for this program. So was his adding former Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi to run the defense.

I could see this game being a four-quarter contest. In fact, if this game was played four or five weeks into the season, I’d give the Ducks a puncher’s chance at pulling off a top-five upset on the road for the second straight season. But in this early going, the Silver Britches will display more cohesiveness on each side of the ball. Defending national champs pull away midway through the fourth quarter here.

Prediction: Georgia 28, Oregon 14

Podcast: Week 1 Preview and Predictions + Betting and Picks Against the Spread

— 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.