ATHENS — Football fireworks are just around the corner with the Georgia football season-opener less than 10 weeks away.
It seemed as good of an excuse as any to rank the Bulldogs’ home football games, in order of anticipation, for the coming season.
It’s the best, but not only because it’s the first game of the season and features a national flavor.
The Ducks’ offensive line returns intact, and Bo Nix brings a dimension of elusively that will buy time and test the Georgia secondary right out of the gate.
Dan Lanning knows everything about UGA scheme and personnel, but the Bulldogs have some insight into Oregon personnel via new receivers coach Bryan McClendon, who spent two years with the Ducks.
Oregon has shown it can travel across the country and play well, upsetting Ohio State in Columbus last season, 35-28.
Smart is 3-4 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium with wins over North Carolina, Auburn and Cincinnati, and three losses to Alabama and a loss to LSU.
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This should be the top ticket in Athens this season, with the Vols coming off a 7-6 season that saw Coach Josh Heupel improve Tennessee from a 3-win team to a 7-win team.
Most notably Tennessee set single-season school records for points, yards and touchdowns behind SEC pass efficiency leader Hendon Hooker, who returns.
It figures to be another test for a reloading Georgia offense, with the Vols spreading the field and playing faster than any team in the nation.
The Georgia offense, bolstered by a strong run attack, will surely look to stay on the field and control the clock in this early November meeting in Athens.
Heupel was the co-winner of the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award.
Georgia fans are still getting used to playing the Tigers in the warmer conditions of October after Smart and the UGA administrators agree with Auburn and Tennessee types that it was time to move the game.
The Bulldogs have won five in a row and and eight of nine, and they’ll make it nine of 10 against a struggling program that might not even see its second-year head coach make it through the season.
Auburn has fallen on hard times, but the rest of the UGA home schedule is so bad, this game ranks No. 4.
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The other four
Samford, Kent State, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech don’t merit their own categories for the purposes of this column.
Not only is Samford an overmatched FCS opponent — it gave up 70 points to Florida last season, and 52 to Auburn in 2019 — but it’s also a Sept. 10 afternoon kick. This will be a popular game for Georgia fans to give away tickets.
Kent State is a noon kick on Sept. 24, so don’t put away your suntan lotion quite yet, and if you weren’t able to give away your Samford tickets, more people might be interested in his game against a MAC opponent.
Vanderbilt is scheduled to come to Athens on Oct. 15 and all indications are that the Commodores plan to show up.
The last time Vandy was scheduled to play in Sanford Stadium was 2020 Senior Day, and Vandy canceled twice, allegedly because of COVID — but it somehow managed to play a home game with Tennessee in between the cancellations.
Georgia’s outgoing senior class in 2020 was denied a chance to set a new school record for most wins by a class because of the Commodores’ shortcomings.
This game will get ugly fast, and then it’s just a matter of how Smart is feeling that day. UGA was up 35-0 after one quarter last year when JT Daniels came out before the start of the second quarter.
Georgia Tech is the final game of the regular season, and there’s no reason to believe this game will hold much if any intrigue.
The Yellow Jackets, like Auburn, could be on the verge of a head coaching change and will likely be so worn down and beat up by this stage of the year Smart can name his score.
The scores of the last four Georgia-Georgia Tech games: 45-0, 52-7, 45-21, 38-7. Once again, Smart gets to decide who plays in the second half, and gets to send out his seniors, one by one, to standing ovations in the third quarter.