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An early look at the 2018 schedule
After an amazing season in the second year of the Kirby Smart era, expectations are higher than ever for Georgia football. Luckily for Smart and his Dawgs, the 2018 schedule sets up nicely for another title challenge.
While there isn’t an important out-of-conference game looming to cause excitement within the fan base, like the trip to Notre Dame last year, there also isn’t an important out-of-conference game like the trip to Notre Dame looming to cause anxiety within the fan base, like the trip to Notre Dame last year. But there is a big road game to get pumped for/lose sleep over in the mid-October trip to LSU. Auburn and Georgia Tech will once again be welcomed to Sanford Stadium, while the South Carolina game returns to its traditional early season slot.
Although it’s still early in the offseason, it isn’t too early to look ahead and try to predict how the Dawgs will fare. Let’s go.
Austin Peay — I believe the title game loss is going to keep the Dawgs focused in the offseason and make them ready to come out guns blazin’ at the start of next year. This game could be used to vent a lot of frustration. I honestly feel kinda bad for Austin Peay. WIN
at South Carolina — With a 9-4 record and an Outback Bowl win over Michigan in the books, Will Muschamp has the Gamecocks moving in the right directions. (2015 me can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.) He could make them a challenger to UGA in the East in time, but not next season. WIN
Middle Tennessee — I don’t know anything about Middle Tennessee, I only know Georgia will win this game. WIN
at Missouri — Drew Lock lit up Georgia in a 53-28 loss to the Dawgs, and he could do it again in 2018. The keys will be A) how Georgia’s new-look secondary is playing three games into the season, and B) how Lock is adjusting to new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley. Since it’s in Columbia, this game could be closer than you want or expect, but Georgia should get it done. WIN
Tennessee — The 41-0 clean sheet is the kind of result that sticks with a team and fan base for a while. The head coaching change might buy Georgia a few consecutive seasons worth of wins over the Vols, maybe more depending on how good or bad Jeremy Pruitt is at his job. But new or old coach won’t matter next season. Georgia has these Vols’ number, and they know it. WIN
Vanderbilt — Vandy has two victories over Georgia in the last five seasons, its best stretch against UGA since the early 90s. But with UGA in the ascendancy, those upsets are going to become few and far between once again. WIN
at LSU — This is the big one next season. A trip to Death Valley to face Coach O and the Tigers. GUMBO! GUMBO! FOOTBAW! I like Georgia’s long-term prospects better than LSU’s, but next season could be tricky. The Tigers have a strong early schedule, with games against Miami in Week 1 and Auburn in Week 3, as well as Ole Miss and Florida. If the Tigers come into the Georgia game undefeated, it’ll mean they’re a really good team playing in a major home game. If they come in with one or two losses, they’ll have their backs against the wall as they fight to stay in the SEC West race in a major home game. Either way, I’m going with the Tigers. LOSS
Florida — Florida still has no idea what it’s doing at quarterback and it didn’t have a rusher break 600 yards last season. Until Dan Mullen can teach the Gators more about this whole running and passing thing, Smart should have a field day coaching against that offense. WIN
at Kentucky — I don’t really know what to expect from Kentucky next season. The Cats bring back some great players on defense as well as RB Benny Snell Jr., but lose QB Stephen Johnson. I do, however, expect Georgia to win. WIN
Auburn — This has always been a big game, but the double-header from 2017 makes it even bigger. There’s a renewed sense of hate between Georgia and Auburn fans, and, frankly, I love it. As for next season, the Tigers will be tough. Kerryon Johnson is back. Jarrett Stidham is back. Jeff Holland and a number of star defenders are back. But with the game in Athens and a trip to the Atlanta potentially on the line, I like Georgia’s chances. WIN
UMass — Do I really need to say more than … WIN
Georgia Tech — One thing that’s great about Georgia Tech is that it doesn’t change. It may get a little better or a little worse, but you always know what to expect. If you can stop the triple-option, you can stop the triple-option, and Georgia Tech will never be a problem. Smart can stop the triple-option. Georgia will come away with its first back-to-back wins over Tech since ’12 and ’13. WIN
For those of you who didn’t count along, that’s 11-1 with only a loss to an SEC West opponent, which would mean a second straight trip to the SEC Championship Game and a chance to play in the College Football Playoff. I wouldn’t be shocked by 10-2. Losses to Auburn, South Carolina and maybe Florida seem possible but not probable, especially in the cases of the latter two. Plus there’s always room for an upset to the likes of Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky or Tech, but none of those seem all that likely at this stage.
I think we’re looking at anything between 12-0 and 10-2. With 10 wins or more, Georgia should be in place to play for the SEC title and a spot in the CFP once again. 9-3 or worse would be a gut-punch and be seen as a major setback in light what was accomplished in 2017.
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Who’s staying? Who’s going?
The offseason attrition has begun. Trenton Thompson announced he’ll forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. And as was long speculated, Jacob Eason announced he’s leaving the program. It’s expected he’ll transfer to Washington.