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Why Georgia shouldn’t expect to play Georgia Tech in Mercedes-Benz Stadium

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Why Georgia won’t be playing Georgia Tech in Mercedes-Benz Stadium

There was some interesting scheduling news made on Tuesday, as Georgia Tech announced it would play one home game a year in Mercedes-Benz Stadium beginning in 2020 and running through 2024. The Yellow Jackets will play Notre Dame in 2020 and ’24, and host Clemson on Sept. 5, 2022 as a part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. Georgia will also play in the 2022 Chick-fil-A Kickoff, as it will play Oregon on Sept. 3.

The games for the ’21 and ’23 seasons have yet to be filled. Many Georgia fans wondered if the Bulldogs would fill either of those slots, given Georgia plays at Georgia Tech in odd-numbered years.

However, it looks the Bulldogs will still be making trips to Bobby Dodd Stadium in those seasons. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech Athletic Director Todd Stansbury said the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry game should remain a home-and-home.  This makes sense, given Georgia fans would likely greatly outnumber Tech fans at a “neutral” Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Georgia fans usually pack Bobby Dodd Stadium when they play the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta.

Even without a game against Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs will still be making plenty of trips to the home of the Atlanta Falcons in the next few seasons. Georgia is scheduled to play in the stadium in 2020 against Virginia, 2022 against Oregon and 2024 vs. Clemson.

Related: Predicting what Georgia’s football schedule could look like for the 2020 season

The stadium also hosts the SEC championship game every year, which Georgia has appeared in each of the past two seasons. Mercedes-Benz Stadium also hosts the Peach Bowl, and will serve as one of the two semifinal venues for the College Football Playoff in 2019. The other venue is the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Az.

Georgia could play three straight games in Atlanta in 2019, as the Bulldogs visit Georgia Tech on Nov. 30. The SEC championship game is schedule for the next week on Dec. 7. Should Georgia make the College Football Playoff and play in the Peach Bowl, the Bulldogs would take the field in Atlanta again on Dec. 28.

The Bulldogs have owned Georgia Tech in Atlanta, as the Yellow Jackets have not beaten Georgia at home since 1999.

The three best position groups for Georgia football heading into 2019

Georgia has plenty of talent. Under Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have recruited better than anyone over the past three seasons, and they’ve established that they’re one of the best teams in the country.

But what parts of Georgia’s team are the best? We know it’s RBU, but are the running backs really one of the best parts of the 2019 team? Kirby Smart has long been regarded as one of the best defensive backs in the country. Are the safeties or cornerbacks better for Georgia? And both lines of scrimmage are stocked with talent.

So we’ve decided to factor in starting experience, talent and total depth in determining which position groups are Georgia’s biggest strengths heading into the 2019 season:

Offensive guard

Georgia’s offensive line is loaded with talent. It brings back four starters from a year ago, and may very well have the best offensive line in the country. The overall talent might be better at tackle with Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, but Georgia actually might be better off at guard.

If Thomas or Wilson were to go down, there would admittedly be more concern about who the replacements might be. At guard, there are just more options behind juniors Ben Cleveland and Solomon Kindley. Sophomores Cade Mays and Trey Hill both started games for Georgia at guard in 2018. Hill is expected to contend for the starting center spot in 2019 as well.

Related: A talented contingent will compete for right to carry on Georgia’s rich tradition at center

There’s also Jamaree Salyer and Clay Webb waiting in the wings. Both prospects were rated as 5-star recruits, and will push for playing time. Between starts and talent on the roster, Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman has proven why he deserves to be the highest paid offensive line coach in the country. No position coach recruits and develops talent better than him. And Georgia’s assemblage of guards hammers that point home.

Safety

It’s only fitting that the position that Smart played for Georgia might be the best part of his defense in 2019. The Bulldogs bring back both starting safeties in 2019. Senior J.R. Reed made the decision to put off the NFL for one more season, while junior Richard LeCounte — Georgia’s leading tackler in 2018 — will also return.

LeCounte will have to hold off some talented youngsters, specifically sophomore Otis Reese. He started the Auburn game as a freshman, and is a bigger safety than LeCounte. Georgia also brought in one of the best safeties in the 2019 recruiting class in Lewis Cine. The 4-star prospect was the No. 3 overall safety in the 2019 recruiting cycle, in addition to being a top-50 overall prospect. He enrolled early, and will be one of the many freshmen to watch for Georgia during spring practice.

This unit will be led by a new coach in 2019, as Charlton Warren replaces Mel Tucker as the defensive backs coach. The Georgia secondary will also have to replace Deandre Baker, as the cornerback won the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award. But with the safeties Georgia has for 2019, that should be a much easier task than it normally would.

Running back

After safety there isn’t an easy answer. Both inside and outside linebacker have a ton of young talent. But they don’t have a ton of proven options at either position. Jake Fromm might be the best player on the team, but the depth behind him is very shaky at quarterback.

That’s why we’re going to go with the running back position as Georgia’s third strongest position group heading into 2019. It has a proven star in junior running back D’Andre Swift. After a slow start to open the 2018 season, Swift had a strong close to the season, and finished with 1,049 rushing yards. Look for him to have an even bigger year in 2019, as long as he stays healthy.

The Bulldogs have to replace Elijah Holyfield, who did rush for over 1,000 yards last season. But senior Brian Herrien has at least shown he can provide a spark to the Georgia offense, even if it has only been in a small sample size. Zamir White is another name to know at the position. He was the No. 1 running back in the 2018 recruiting class, but he is also coming back from an ACL injury.

There’s also speedy sophomore James Cook and incoming freshman Kenny McIntosh, who might be best suited to fill the bruiser role that Holyfield occupied. Georgia is RBU for a reason, and the position group will be a big reason the Georgia offense is one of the best in the country in 2019.

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