Looking Ahead to the Schedule
There is still plenty of time between now and the beginning of the season with plenty of questions still unanswered, but Ill take moment to look ahead at the opponents for the Dawgs in the 2011 Season.
Sept 3 Boise Sate – Georgia Dome
Its been six years since the Broncos of Boise visited Athens and left with their tails between their legs. It doesn’t need to be said that this team can win. Regardless of conference or style of play, these guys have proven that they are a winning program and still have a chip on their shoulder. I have a feeling that they would love to erase one of the last lingering question marks on the program with a win against the Bulldogs in the state of Georgia. Quarterback Kellen Moore and leading rusher Doug Martin return to an offense that scored over 50 points 6 times in the 2010 Season. This game will be a critical one in terms of Georgia’s attempt at a National Championship. This is no longer the lose-lose situation for Georgia; a win here gives the Dawgs a win over a team that has legitimized itself in the College Football arena.
Sept 10 South Carolina- Athens, GA
Controversy over quarterback Stephen Garcia’s possible suspension by USCe has been at the focus point during spring practice, but Gracia remained number one one the latest depth chart over Connor Shaw. The real story for this game will be the performance of Marcus Lattimore who torched the Dawgs for 182 yards as a freshman in last years win over Georgia. Tackling was a major problem in this game last year and Lattimore will not be any easier in this one. Word out of Athens in the spring has been upbeat and positive on the new defense with nearly all of the players and coaches saying that the defense felt out of place with the system last year and that those problems have now been resolved. There’s only one way to find out. This game is always a dog fight and South Carolina will be coming off a game against East Carolina from Conference-USA. Georgia’s attitude after the Boise St game could have a major effect in how this one turns out.
Sept 17 Coastal Carolina-Athens, GA
It would be a great feeling going into this game 2-0 and just looking to make a few tweeks and take a breather before the full SEC slate begins. On the other hand, this could be the “draw the line in the sand” game where Georgia needs to reevaluate its goals for the rest of the season. Obviously I would love to have the former rather than the latter, but my guess is that it will be somewhere in between.
Sep 24 Ole Miss-Oxford, Miss
I have been looking forward to this one for a while as an undergrad. I am really excited to take part in a hallowed SEC tradition and experience The Grove on a game day, and hopefully do so during a Georgia win. The Rebels have seen a resurgence in the past couple of years under Houston Nutt with two consectuive wins in the Cotton Bowl, but this is not that team. Ole Miss ended last years campaign with no bowl game and only four wins. This isn’t a very strong team, but history shows that it could be a trap game on the road. The Rebels will have played Vanderbilt the week before so this should at least give us some idea how they look at this point in the season. It will be important to blow the gates off this one since it is the first of five straight SEC games for the Dawgs.
Oct 1 Miss St-Athens, GA
Unlike in the past, and unlike their cross state rivals, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are not to be looked past. Dan Mullen has made this team a force to be reckoned with. While they struggled against quality, ranked opponents; they took care of business in their non-conference schedule and proved themselves more than capable in wins against Georgia,Florida, and Michigan last year. The Dawgs will be wanting revenge after last years miserable loss in Starkville and the boys in red and black will have the best possible opportunity at home. Definitely can’t look past this game, but if this team has any aspirations of winning a championship this one needs to be a solid win. The Bulldogs will certainly need to take advantage of a game at home before a two week trip to the state of Tennessee followed by a trip to Jacksonville.
Oct 8 Tennessee-Knoxville, TN
When Georgia heads to Knoxville it will have played 3 SEC games, 2 games away from Athens, and 1 highly ranked non-conference opponent. The Vols will have played 0 road games, 0 SEC games, and 0 ranked opponents. Everyone has different views on being rested vs being in the swing of the season, but I have to think that this benefits the Dawgs. Georgia will have been tested in every way by this point in the season and will hopefully be at full speed in this one. The Vols will be rested and perhaps have begun to find their way as a team, but there is no substitute for playing against SEC speed. More importantly, this will only be Derek Dooley’s second season trying to turn this program around from several disppointing seasons and 3 coaches in as many years. Quarterback Tyler Bray showed flashes of brilliance last season but has proved this spring that he is still a youngster surrounded by a young team. The Vols may be improved from last year but this would be an unacceptable loss for Georgia.
Oct 15 Vanderbilt-Nashville, TN
I am not one for looking past anyone, but if the Dawgs can’t handle the Commodores then they have a lot more problems than looking ahead. This game should be one for final adjustments and changes before the week off and then The Cocktail Party. Up until here the schedule will be demanding but not overwhelming and whether good or bad we will know a good deal about where this team is headed going into the off week. Hopefully this will be another step towards winning the East and a fun time running around Nashville for me.
Oct 29 Florida-Jacksonville, FL
Ah, The Cocktail Party. The event that has brought me the most joy and the most despair I have experienced in my years as a Georgia fan. I’m not sure if voodoo is widely practiced in the state of Florida but one way or another Georgia has been unable to get this monkey off its back for 20+ years. The Bulldogs have been unable to do anything with their own program to change this so perhaps a change at Florida will do the trick. After a historical coaching term with the Gators, Urban Meyer is finally gone and Georgia grad Will Muschamp is at the helm. Muschamp has proven himself at Auburn and Texas but this is his first head coaching gig and its with a team with a lot more expectations than its personnel can handle. New offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will undoubtedly make the Gator offense loaded with options but quarterback John Brantley will need a lot of work compared to last year. The Gators will be very thin at wide receiver after losing a lot of talent to the draft and will now be thin in the defensive backfield after the dismissal of cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Both Georgia and Florida will be coming into this one after an off week but the Gators will also be coming off games against Kentucky, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn in a row. Odds are good that with that type of schedule, the Georgia staff will have everything it needs to evaluate and plan for this one. Richt and the team have said that they see this one as an opportunity to turn the tide of this series back in the right direction. I think they have finally realized that we can’t treat this like every other game, but we also can’t treat it as the Only important game. Confidence will be critical and as always, this one will have a direct impact on who wins the East.
Nov 5 New Mexico St-Athens, GA
I really like the timing of this game. No matter how the season is looking at this point it will be nice to come back home and get a nice win to either get back in the win column or continue our success. Hopefully the biggest headlines for this one will be whether Hudson Mason or Christian LeMay gets more snaps at backup.
Nov 12 Auburn-Athens, GA
I want this one bad and I don’t think I’m the only one. After everything that happened during this game last year and in the months since, I can imagine that the team and all the fans are ready to lay the lumber on the Tigers. The only story line for this one is win, win, win. Aubie was able to capture lightning in a bottle (no matter how much it cost) and we will see if Coach Chizik and company can do it again. With Cam Newton and Nick Fairly being such outstanding players during their national championship run, it will be hard to predict how this Auburn team will look without them. The play of these two covered up poor play by the entire defensive backfield that gave up tons of points to everyone in 2010. If this problem is not resolved and with no superstars to make up for their shortcomings this could be an interesting team to watch trying to defend its title. As far as Georgia is concerned this is another critical SEC game that could impact getting back to the Georgia Dome in December.
Nov 19 Kentucky-Athens, GA
I certainly don’t want to overlook a Kentucky team that has given Georgia a great many headaches over the past several seasons but there just isn’t much to say at this point. The Wildcats had a return to mediocrity last season though they showed in an impressive win over South Carolina that they are still an upset candidate. This one is a must win to clinch the East, not to mention a day of pride for seniors playing their last game in Sanford Stadium.
Nov 26 Tech-Atlanta, GA
This is my favorite team to hate. This game is always heated and even though it has a temptation to become a trap game I think that the rivalry and the fact that it’s the final game of the season work to fuel the players in this one. Tech did not have a very good 2010 campaign but you can throw the records out the window with this game and with the Jacket’s option offense anything can happen. This will be a good one to see how well Todd Grantham’s defense handles staying home and effectively tackling when there is so much misdirection being thrown at our boys. A win in Atlanta could be an exclamation point on the 2011 Season, but this one is a pride game. No matter where we are heading in December or January it will be a dog fight.
So there it is, just a few thoughts on what might be happening in five to seven months. I think we will be afforded a great opportunity by our schedule to plead our case to the nation but we have to win first.