ATHENS — What figures to be a reloaded Georgia football team will once again have a schedule conducive to a championship run in 2022.
The SEC released the 2022 schedule, and while it’s not prolific for the Bulldogs’ season ticket holders -- Kirby Smart won’t complain.
Much like this season, Georgia has a marquee neutral-site matchup to look forward to in its opening week. The Oregon Ducks flying to Atlanta to play the Bulldogs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in what will be a much-anticipated battle.
An ultra-soft “buy” game with Sanford is next on the schedule before Georgia has the luxury of easing into SEC play with winnable road trips to South Carolina and Missouri. The Gamecocks and Tigers are sandwiched around another cream puff “buy” game, Kent State.
RELATED: SEC releases football schedule for 2022 season
The only team that has a “bye” before playing Georgia next season is Florida, and vice versa.
SEC West teams Alabama, Auburn and LSU, meanwhile, play two teams coming off a bye.
LSU and Ole Miss have byes before they play the Crimson Tide, and Arkansas and Mississippi State have byes before they play Auburn.
Tennessee and Alabama will be coming off bye weeks before they play LSU.
In the SEC East, South Carolina faces teams from Texas A&M and Vanderbilt that are coming off bye weeks.
Georgia fans will not be shedding any tears of pity. In 2019, the Bulldogs played FIVE teams coming off byes.
The 2022 schedule, however, looks to be a friendly one.
Oregon, in fact, might prove to be the toughest game on the schedule. The Ducks figure to be even better than they are now.
Here’s a “star rating” on each game, five being must-see, and one-star a game to give away the tickets:
5 stars - Oregon: In Atlanta, The Ducks will be Pac-12 favorites and a sure Top 10 team, perhaps Top 5 with experience at WR, OL and the defensive front seven. And you know you can’t wait to see what cool uniforms they break out!
2 stars - Vs. Samford: The home opener. The last time FCS Samford mixed it up with an SEC team was 2019, a 52-0 loss to Auburn. Bet you didn’t know: Jimbo Fisher played QB at Samford for then-coach Terry Bowden and won Division lll National Player of the Year.
3 stars — at South Carolina: It should be a more competitive game than this season’s contest with about 9 UGA defenders headed for the 2022 NFL Draft and QB Luke Doty back for the Gamecocks. Shane Beamer is already counting up how many 5-star players Georgia returns.
1 star — Vs. Kent State: If there’s a home game to miss, it’s the one against Nick Saban’s alma mater. Texas A&M opened with a 41-10 win over this MAC program earlier this season. Kent State lists Drew Carey, Steve Harvey and Michael Keaton among its notable alumni -- but not Saban?
3 stars — at Missouri: The “Show-Me” State isn’t one of the better trips on account of it not being drivable from Athens and Columbia’s relatively remote location. It’s too early to know if Eli Drinkwitz can put teeth back into Tigers. The football stadium is among the blandest in the SEC.
4 stars — Vs. Auburn: The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will no longer be among the South’s coldest rivalries now that it’s been moved up to October. It’s hard to know what to expect from Auburn, which hasn’t won in Athens since 2005 and has lost 7 of the past 8 meetings.
2 stars — Vs. Vanderbilt: We’re assuming the Commodores will show up this time after skipping out on Georgia’s 2020 Senior Day with COVID issues. Vanderbilt doesn’t figure to be competitive for a long time, because the school really doesn’t seem to care about football.
5 stars — In Jacksonville, Florida: The Gators could be trouble for the Bulldogs if QB Anthony Richardson turns out to be the superstar he’s said to be. This game has the makings of a shootout that will decide the 2022 SEC East Division champions.
4 stars — Vs. Tennessee: The Vols should be much improved in 2022, enough to make this an interesting game. Georgia will still have more talent, and by November, a young Bulldogs’ defense will have grown up enough to ensure victory.
3 stars — at Mississippi State: Starkville is more than chicken-fried steak and cowbells. The trick is getting there, with Memphis, Birmingham and Jackson all at least two hours away (You’ll want to fly into the “Golden Triangle Airport). The Maroon Bulldogs won the last time the teams met in the Magnolia State, 24-12, in 2010.
3 stars — at Kentucky: Catching a Big Blue basketball game in Rupp Arena would make for an interesting trip. It’s a long drive from Athens. Oh, and dress warm, Lexington gets chilly in November.
2 stars — Vs. Georgia Tech: If the game is close, that’s not a good sign. If the game is a blowout, that’s not very interesting. Elite recruits will want to be at more compelling games, many of the best at the Alabama-Auburn game. Bring your smartphone to keep up with the Iron Bowl, as it could decide who Georgia plays in the SEC Championship Game.
The 2020 SEC football schedule