Georgia receiver Ladd McConkey makes a move after catching a pass during the second half of last season's win at Auburn. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)
HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Second look: Does Georgia have the easiest home schedule in college football?

ATHENS — Georgia football has the easiest home schedule in college football, per ESPN, but that should come with an asterisk.

The Bulldogs have only three SEC home games this season as their designated home game with rival Florida is in Jacksonville this year.

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Other than that game, Georgia faces just one Top 25 opponent — Tennessee — at Sanford Stadium.

ESPN analyst Chris Low notes Georgia plays Oregon in Atlanta in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is not a true home game, even though it is in close proximity to Athens.

But for season-ticket holders at Sanford Stadium, the schedule is pretty barren and might even produce some empty seats in the student section.

Georgia plays Samford in its home opener at 4 p.m. on Sept. 10 on what could be a scorching afternoon.

UGA will blow out the FCS school, but Smart might take it easy, as his father, Sonny Smart, was a two-year starting center at Samford where played from 1968-1970.

This begs the question: Is there a soft spot in Smart’s heart when it comes to football?

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The other true home game in September is another blowout with the potential for more heat, at noon kick-off against Mid-American Conference School Kent State.

The Golden Flashes don’t exactly figure to light it up in Athens, particularly when one considers this will likely be a beaten-down team, as they open at Washington on Sept. 3 and play at Oklahoma on Sept. 10.

There will be a lot of bumps and bruises on the Kent State team and that increases the odds the UGA running backs run wild, to the point Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton might both go over 100 yards.

The Golden Flashes — Nick Saban’s alma mater — have the toughest non-conference schedule per ESPN.

Georgia’s other true home game is against Auburn on Oct. 8. It will be interesting to see just how hot the seat is for Tigers’ coach Bryan Harsin by that point.

Auburn opens with cream puffs Mercer and San Jose State, but then plays Penn State, Missouri and LSU at home before making its first road trip of the year to Sanford Stadium.

The Tigers were selected by ESPN as having the toughest road schedule. In addition to Georgia, Auburn travels to play Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Georgia’s home game after Auburn is against Vanderbilt, which from all indications plans to show up for this game.

Of course, the Commodores backed out of their last scheduled game at Sanford Stadium — twice — in 2020, citing COVID concerns. Somehow, it’s worth noting, Vandy managed to play Tennessee in between its cancellations with the Bulldogs.

Georgia gets a week off after the Commodores before playing its next home game in Florida, meeting up with the rival Gators in Jacksonville.

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If Smart has his way, this could be the last time UGA plays a designated home game with Florida away from Athens.

One week later, Georgia plays its third and final SEC home game of the season against Tennessee.

The Vols haven’t won in Athens since 2016, when former Georgia high school quarterback Josh Dobbs hit Jauan Jennings with a Hail Mary pass in the closing seconds in Smart’s first year as head coach.

The regular season finishes for Georgia against ACC opponent Georgia Tech. Things have been ugly and lopsided in this game the past four years, to the point it has become a popular game for fans to give away tickets.

The Yellow Jackets made ESPN’s list as having the toughest open to the season, as they begin the year playing Clemson in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday, Sept. 5, A home game with Western Carolina follows, and then Georgia Tech hosts Ole Miss and UCF.

Former UGA assistant and fan favorite Sam Pittman has a schedule worth noting and has to be wondering how these 2022 games were scheduled in advanced.

The Razorbacks play a brutal slate, opening with No. 23 Cincinnati at home and also playing No. 15 BYU on the road in mid-October.

The Hogs have a four-game stretch of:

• Sept. 24 vs. Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas

• Oct. 1 vs. Alabama in Fayetteville, Ark.

• Oct. 8 at Mississippi State

• Oct. 15 at BYU

After an Oct. 29 trip to Auburn, Arkansas plays host to Liberty (Nov. 5), LSU (Nov. 12) and Ole Miss (Nov. 19).

All the Arkansas games are in Fayetteville this season, on campus, in part to make the most of potential SEC recruiting weekends.

ESPN ranks Arkansas’ schedule as the hardest in college football.

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