GEORGIA SCHEDULE (analysis & prediction)
Han Vance has successfully predicted every single Georgia win/loss/opponent through the SEC championship game for 2 seasons.
Corrected for clarity and expanded:
AUG 31 Georgia at Vanderbilt 1-0 ~ Nice! The Vandy Commodores made a bowl in 2018 and have been state champions of Tennessee for years, but as the only private school in the SEC they are at such a distinct disadvantage that I don’t even see them as a good fit to continue as a member of the great football conference. An upstart with far greater resources, UCF would make a much better SEC program. In a good year, the little Commodores finished below .500. Vandy shines at baseball and often enough at men’s basketball to earn their keep in the league. This is not baseball or basketball, though, and the SEC East’s defending football champions have not lost a divisional game in a full two-and-half years. Good for the fans to have an opener that is not a fluffy cupcake in smoldering Athens, like most years, or a neutral site game which could easily net an early loss, such as has happened. Georgia needs the conference win here. I’ll be reporting on the cultural experience, as Nashville Music City is big time South. Little Vandy loses their tops-ever quarterback but remains well-coached. Look for new-Georgia to end this sad two-game losing streak with a blowout win.
SEP 7 Georgia vs. Murray State 2-0 ~ The Racers, another basketball school, come to the Classic City as a new home season gets going a full week into the college football season. I have Georgia projected to open as the #3 team again, with mighty Clemson-Bama a clear 1-2 atop the polls after four straight national titles, split between them two apiece. Look for my forthcoming “Power in the Piedmont” article for further explanation, but in summation, in their four-year run as kissing cousins, a full playing term for a college athlete who never redshirts, only Georgia otherwise even appeared in a national championship game. Three times the nation saw Alabama vs Clemson (Clemson 2-1) in the American finale. Why now? Because I would rather see say rival Clemson scheduled in this slot than a cupcake, as the seasons are so long that losing a single big game – for either school, and Georgia has totally owned the defending champs outside of one close loss in their stadium – would not doom these old football powers to anything short of another national championship. (Clemson comes back on the regular season schedule in 2024, 2029, 2030). Dawgs win big but count me out of Sanford Stadium by halftime, when I will gladly take it to the house in The City and watch the game tape later (twice). I’d rather be watching the bigger name games in real time, across the national landscape. With the recently-modified redshirt rule, where kids can play four games and it not count towards eligibility, here is the game you may see the most players cracking the rotation and battling serious Southern sun. Last year’s opener was unbearable from front few rows, sun side.
SEP 14 Georgia vs. Arkansas State 3-0 ~ About now, I start to get really anxious, y’all. We have waited so long for our football season to start, are 1-0 in the SEC and wholly untested. And, we’re watching mid-majors (or less the week prior) roll through Between the Hedges in a lingering summer heatwave. I truly dislike it. Last year Dawgs played three cupcakes, which was straight up unacceptable and replacing one with any Power 5 team could have swayed the College Football Playoff committee, as Georgia were 5th and still in the argument. That with what I rightly called the most garbage Georgia schedule in years. If you are going to play the lesser, especially so many, let them be of interest as a tailgating opponent by scheduling more in-state schools. I’d love to see colleges go away from this fluff stuff altogether or way, way minimize it. It’s too boring for the dollars spent. I’d rather see UCF here – even if it did have to be in a home-and-home in Orlando. I’d be glad to forgo the traffic of 316 for a trip to O-Town. Or how about slating struggling Georgia State or surging Georgia Southern. I’d sub a far-flung plane trip easily for a second cupcake, too, like say UCLA, who are on future schedules (2025 and 2026) or a classic versus Michigan, who have the most wins of any college program.
SEP 21 Georgia vs. Notre Dame 4-0~ Get your T-shirts ready here for: CANINES vs. CATHOLICS II (on a gray silvery all-cotton shirt of highest quality). Many kudos to A.D. Greg McGarity on scheduling this home-and-home, with a gap year between to accommodate. The Fighting Irish were Georgia’s best regular season win of glory-filled 2017 (20-19) and made the CFP in 2018 behind the national coach of the year, Brian Kelly. He has been around long enough (most wins out there) to get his guys up for this game in Athens, but it may be too hot to handle. Losing here would be recoverable for Georgia, with the whole SEC slate still up ahead (save Vandy). While winning gives the Dawgs needed margin for error. Georgia has not lost at home in two full football seasons. Won’t lose this game, I hope. Let’s go!
BYE ~ Two byes this year, each before Georgia’s biggest SEC East rivals.
OCT 5 Georgia at Tennessee 5-0~ Georgia often enters Tennessee week untested and unrested. This time the league did it differently. The last trip to Rocky Top was 41-0, and I saw us stop them in Athens with the Hilley family last year. Then the crew stopped through Knoxville on the way to Kentucky last season to watch the side street of their Homecoming parade and have a drink with some cool locals. Jeremy Pruitt and a cast of other Georgia/Bama former coaches know Kirby and company well enough to conspire a Vols home win. But, the talent disparity is still too great. Dawgs will be able to overcome their hate, even in their home state. No Hail Mary or late fullback catch should be needed here, as Georgia gets the Heisman Trophy campaign fully going with D’Andre Swift running all over them and into the checkerboards. Lose on the road here in a loud road site, the sky would seem to be falling. Georgia and Tennessee have 13 SEC championships each, tied for second. The nasty “newer” series is all notched up at 23-23-2.
Oct 12 S Carolina at Georgia 6-0 ~ Here is an absolute must win regardless of the outcome at Rocky Top. Georgia alum Will Muschamp has done an average at best job since first getting hired at Florida as head coach and is simply not the winner he was widely-lauded to be. Predicting lasting success for any head coach based on a good record and prowess as a coordinator is not statistically sound. Until a head coach wins on the field for a consistent period of time, not one or two good seasons, judgement should be reserved. Muschamp busted in Gator-land and was relegated, eventually, to the Chickens. Coaches often peak in year two or three in a run with a program. Carolina has one SEC East divisional crown, ever.
Oct 19 Kentucky at Georgia 7-0 ~ Kentucky had its best football team last year and actually deserved the bigger NY6 bowl over both LSU and Florida, they had the better resume entering the bowls. Beating Penn State did not give them the boost a win over Michigan, who swooned, and UCF, who played without undefeated QB “Money” Milton, would have but they still finished pretty highly ranked, which just does not happen for Big Blue football. They will probably take a step back in 2019 and won’t win in Athens. I enjoyed visiting the Bluegrass last year, good people.
BYE ~ Here is always the most important practice time and biggest game of the regular season upcoming. I think Georgia is probably (overvalued-to-date) 7-0, but could easily be a (stronger-than-it-looked) 6-1, if talented CFP entrant ND somehow survived the heat and sound of Sanford. September 21st being hot would be a real benefit to home-standing Georgia, who have not lost at home at all the last two seasons. The second most likely spot for an early loss would be at a suddenly re-surging UT, who should be a much bigger home threat in two years considering how far they dipped. Coach Smart inherited a 10-win team (who had won 10 / 10 / 8 / 12 / 10 in the five years before his arrival) and has simply maintained averaging 10 wins (10.66: 8 / 13 /11) with last year, therefore, a slightly above-program-average year. Eight years is no short trend, either, two full four-year class periods. I had looked to 2017, 2019 and 2020 as most-probable brightest program spots, based on maturity of roster; Georgia had the youngest team in the SEC in 2018. Unforeseen was the early NFL departure of all but one prominent proven pass catcher: TE Isaac Nauta, WR Riley Ridley, WR Mecole Hardman and power back RB Elijah Holyfield, plus the known matriculation of CB Deandre Baker (school’s only ever Jim Thorpe award winner) who seemed to me light years better than the rest of the UGA DBs, OLB/(basically a pass rushing) DE D’Andre Walker, the only proven pass rusher on a team that failed to get many sacks at all from others for two years, C Lamont Gaillard who may have been the real offensive MVP of 2018, WR Terry Godwin who was hurt most of ’18 but could have been a difference-maker. Throw in a new offensive play caller, after the offense hit a near record numeric clip and a new defensive signal caller – I regarded the Mel Tucker factor so much higher than most Georgia fans did – plus usual league catch-up factors which besiege most successful head coaches by the fourth season, at a school.
Nov 2 Florida vs Georgia in Jacksonville 7-1 ~ I’m taking Florida in a close game, as many of the national pundits will be, based on their stronger finish and the fact that Georgia simply can not sweep the East indefinitely. Winning a projected seven straight overall before this, Georgia would be due for a loss and has suffered an away from home regular season blowout loss each of the last three years (more than that, actually, but just looking at Kirby’s teams). I don’t see the bad, dicey road spot this campaign, leaving the Cocktail Party with veteran coach Dan Mullen in his second year and coming off a top 10 debut the likeliest L on the schedule. If Georgia wins this game and is 8-0, the Dogs are an immediate legit national championship contender. I would also not be that surprised for the loser to win the East and then the SEC. Fact: SEC East outplayed the SEC West last season.
Nov 9 Missouri at Georgia 8-1 ~ They are on probation and have not been able to win the SEC before. In fact, only Tennessee, Florida and Georgia have ever won the SEC championship game from the East, while only Auburn, LSU and the elephant in the room have ever won the SECCG from the West. Therefore, big picture only those six programs ultimately matter nationally. Solid program at Mizzou has beaten Georgia once, it was in Athens on their first trip. Spoiler alert: I do not feel they or any SEC team will be able to take Georgia out Between the Hedges. Again, the most likely home loss is ND. For the record, if Georgia loses to ND, they’d win in JAX, would have to or major negativity would swirl in the program about the slippage since winning the SEC. I see Georgia a very solid 7-1, then 8-1. Their offense is led by Kelly Bryant, the Clemson transfer, and Lil Dooley calls the plays. Georgia/Virginia alum and son of the legend, he did well there last year after coaching with the Dallas Cowboys, until the final play call of the bowl. A slow QB run, when you had the top passer in the whole SEC. Why?
Nov 16 Georgia at Auburn 9-1 ~ Georgia was blessed to get an (eventual four-loss) Auburn in that SECCG, after they’d foolishly ground their runner to a halt. Old Aubie has been in the tank since then, folks, and is usually the most highly-overrated sporting program in the wide universe. They are often top 10 preseason, and when at peak can beat anybody – see two years ago when they beat both of the national championship game entrants. Especially in the Jungle on the Plains – those are basically opposites by the way, so are Eagles and Tigers, you Plainsmen. Never short on nicknames or roster talent, the place will be rocking early, as Kirby Smart finally ends the really rough trend of getting blown out on the road in every single true away game versus the vaunted but overhyped SEC West. Dawgs win.
Nov 23 Texas A&M at Georgia 10-1 ~ Finally, we play my grandpa’s school. If Georgia were undefeated and looking ahead to Atlanta and Bama again, in part, this could be a home loss, versus veteran head coach Jimbo Fisher and a rich, talented team. I have 9-1 Georgia getting a 10th win in the Classic City. Not playing any league member for so long is just crazy.
Nov 30 Georgia at Georgia Tech 11-1 ~ Atlanta is in GEORGIA.
That’s that. First time ever 11-1 in three straight years. That’s good.
UGA was first ever 11-1 twice in a row last year, and then the wheels fell off on a 12th win, that never came. It’s going to be tough to get back to Atlanta for three straight years and win, but if Georgia does, makes it, I have Georgia beating Alabama in a 10-point win, then winning an ATL Peach Bowl of the CFP in a third straight (subway trip for me) game in The City.
That outside shot of making a CFP as a one-loss at-large without winning the SEC East could also hit, and I’d be fully good with that. Any close, late game between Alabama and Georgia would clearly be significantly advantageous to Bama in terms of mental execution, from the very top down through any roster members who may expect not to win.
The other CFP slot is the Fiesta, where I’d love to go – such a fun area. Georgia played Arizona State out there not that long ago.
The national championship game will be in New Orleans, where Georgia just failed to show up. How cool would that be to win it all again in NOLA.
#1 hosts #4 in site closest to #1, unless #4 is located too advantageously near the site, as was the case with Oklahoma and last year’s Cotton Bowl CFP, relocated to the other CFP site for Bama. #2 and #3 get what is left. I could see a #1 Bama and a #4 Dawgs still get ATL, where they’ve owned UGA.
If Georgia enters the CFP undefeated, they would look to become the second ever undefeated CFP champion, as Clemson just did. That is such an unlikely, long scenario to the top. Champs drop a game, usually.
I see Georgia winning one total national championship, (either) 2020, played in January of 2021, in Miami (or this upcoming 2019 season). While I was all-in on 2019 for the last three years, I also missed on perhaps Georgia’s best team talent-wise not getting past Alabama in Atlanta, in overtime in the 2017 season finale (played back in January 2018). That was the shot, and the next two years are shots.
I had Clemson winning it all in 2018 once Urban Meyer ran afoul (again) at Ohio State, who I also still had beating mighty Bama, again, if they had played in the CFP. Notre Dame was a champion of nothing, therefore not too worthy of CFP, really. Georgia had no legit claim at all with two losses.
I have to favor Clemson to repeat and get 3-of-4 right now, eliminating fully and finally Alabama as best program in the country. Georgia: 2020. Fromm’s senior year, when less changes have happened.
These are my picks. I look back to my preseason picks when I evaluate how I did at season’s end. During season, I usually pick Georgia every week. If you ever hear me not pick my Dawgs during a season, the coaches are blowing it so badly, as they were entering the Cocktail Party of 2016. I had to pick Florida in their last win in the series, once Chaney-under-Kirby had shown to have an offensive system that was inept in its basic RRP (run-run-pass) predictable formula. Fixed only after another (14-point) loss.
I’m only so proud of 2017, still. And, a poorly-coached ending to 2018 erased any goodwill I had about mostly rebounding late in 2016. This is a make or break year for Georgia, who should be favored in every single regular season game for the second straight year. Should be able to make it a good one, considering what does come back and a manageable schedule.
Georgia played just five good teams: Kentucky, Florida, LSU, Alabama and Texas, last campaign and went sub .500 there (2-3); none was proven a bonafide national championship opponent. Bama was nowhere close to Clemson, who played without their best player in an easy blowout win. While Kirby dropped to .500 postseason (1-0; 2-1; 0-2) in his career, point blank not the significant improvement he was hired to produce on the biggest spots, when you throw in an annual road blowout.
Anything short of a 14th SEC championship will be somewhat of a failure in this fourth Smart campaign, unless Dawgs can somehow eke into the CFP without it and win it all. That is probably more likely than going 15-0.