Georgia football-Oregon-2022-Week 1
112021 Athens: Georgia tight end Brock Bowers scores a touchdown against Charleston Southern in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Georgia football-Oregon: 3 things that excite us about Week 1 2022 opener

Georgia will be looking to defend its national title, as the game will be the first game for the program since it beat Alabama to end the 2021 season.

But the title defense is far from the only interesting subplot surrounding the game. While we’re still over three months out from kickoff, below are some of the things that excite us about what should be a top-15 matchup between the two programs.

Georgia’s tight ends vs. Oregon’s linebackers

In terms of matching personnel, there might not be anything bigger than Georgia’s tight ends against Oregon’s linebackers. Georgia’s tight end room might be the best overall position group in the country. Brock Bowers returns after setting numerous program records for Georgia last season. So too does mammoth tight end Darnell Washington.

Add in spring standouts Arik Gilbert, Brett Seither and Oscar Delp and Georgia is in a position to overwhelm most opposing defenses with what it has in its tight end room.

But Oregon might have the talent to at least battle the Bulldogs. Linebacker Noah Sewell is one of the most unique players in the country and should be able to handle the physicality of the Georgia offense. He ranked second in tackles last season in the Pac-12. Justin Flowe is a former 5-star prospect who has battled injury. But if he’s healthy, he should have the athleticism to hang with Bowers and company. Mase Funa is also a name to know for the Ducks.

Both position groups figure to have plenty of Sunday players. Whichever group has the superior day on Sept. 3 is probably going to end up winning the game.

Kirby Smart vs. Dan Lanning

Smart is 3-0 against his former assistants but neither Shane Beamer nor Sam Pittman fielded teams as talented as Lanning will on Sept. 3. The Ducks, from a talent perspective, are perhaps the best team on Georgia’s regular-season schedule.

This will be Lanning’s first game as a head coach for the Ducks but he has a unique knowledge of the Georgia team after spending the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs. He recruited and molded many players on this 2022 team.

Related: Dan Lanning wants to ‘finish the right way’ with Georgia football as he makes big moves at Oregon

Like Smart, Lanning’s first game will be a neutral site game in Atlanta. And while Smart certainly had some growing pains as a coach in his first year on the job — Georgia went 8-5 in 2016 and it has lost only five regular-season games since — he did get a win in the Georgia Dome over North Carolina to start his career.

Smart has proven he can win a national championship at Georgia, the biggest reason he was brought to Athens. Now he’ll attempt to maintain these high standards so the program doesn’t go another 41 years without a title. That challenge starts against one of his more accomplished assistants in Lanning, who was twice a Broyles Award finalist in his time at Georgia.

New Georgia defense vs. New Bo Nix

Many of the key faces from last season’s defense will now be playing in the NFL. Georgia had five first-round selections, all of which came on the defensive side of the ball. Gone too is linebacker Nakobe Dean and cornerback Derion Kendrick.

But the new-look defense will likely be seeing a familiar face when it takes the field, as Oregon landed transfer quarterback Bo Nix this offseason. While he has yet to be named the starter at Oregon, his time at Auburn likely helps him against what should still be a talented defense.

Defensive tackle Jalen Carter steps into a bigger role, while Kelee Ringo will look to become a true lock-down cornerback. Georgia will lean on veterans Nolan Smith and Chris Smith to emerge as leaders for the defense, while Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Kamari Lassiter and a host of promising prospects look to make an impact with this defense.

Related: Jalen Carter ready for new Georgia football defensive line challenge: ‘Whatever they need me to do I’ll do it’

Georgia will also have two co-defensive coordinators this time around, with Glenn Schumann and Will Muschamp both taking over for Lanning.

The Bulldogs are likely to lean on their offense in this game, as Georgia is far more experienced and talented on that side of the ball. But how this defense attacks the former Auburn quarterback will be an important first step for the 2022 Georgia defense.

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