Oklahoma deal great, but Georgia fans want to see more big-time home games

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It's rare that Sanford Stadium has not been packed for SEC homes games, but there have been increasing no-shows for non-conference tilts.

ATHENS — Happy to hear Georgia finally secured a home-and-home deal with Oklahoma. Kind of bummed that the Sooners won’t be coming to Athens until 2031 though.

If you pay for UGA season tickets, you’re probably a little miffed about that, too. It will require some patience between Notre Dame in 2019 and UCLA in 2026.

But thankfully, there will be some meat on the non-conference schedule to tide the Sanford Stadium crowd over after that. Georgia has now set up a series of home-and-homes with Clemson, FSU and Texas to serve as a bridge from UCLA until the Sooners come to Athens.

I’m sure it’s difficult to set up these schedules. Lord knows the people in college football are always telling us that. Based on their comments, it’s comparable to planning a manned mission to Mars. And we might be about ready to do that as a human race by the time Sooners finally step between the hedges 13 seasons down the road.

But what about between Notre Dame this fall and UCLA?

I asked Georgia AD Greg McGarity if the Bulldogs might fill in some of those scheduling gaps between Notre Dame this fall and UCLA and in ’26. “You never know,” is all he offered.

The fact is, if you just sign up to become a Georgia season-ticket holder over the next five years, (as a Magill Society member, that’d cost you $25,000, plus however much individual tickets cost apiece over that span), the best non-conference home game you’re assured of seeing at Sanford Stadium during that stretch is Georgia Tech.

You’ll get Louisiana-Monroe, East Tennessee State, San Jose State and UAB as well. Other than Tech in even years, that’s all that is assured at the moment.

There’s always the SEC home slate. Every other year that’s Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and a Western Division opponent to be named later. We know that to be Arkansas in 2021, Ole Miss in 2023 and LSU in 2025.

Which is not to say the Bulldogs won’t be playing any Power 5 opponents in the meantime. They will. But you’ll have to go to Atlanta or out of state to see those games.

Georgia plays in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff three times over the next six years. It’ll get Virginia in 2020, Oregon in 2022 and Clemson in 2024. Meanwhile, there are some awesome road trips to look forward to now. In addition to Oklahoma in Norman now on Sept. 9 in 2023, there’s the long-awaited trip to return to Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 2025 to play UCLA. The Bruins do make their way back to Athens in 2026.

Hey, at least it’s trending in the right direction now. Until administrators started to realize that fewer and fewer people were showing up for their home games, the accepted “winning formula” was the kind of schedules that Alabama was putting together for so many years. Typically, the Crimson Tide would open the season against a Power 5 opponent at a neutral site, then schedule three other home throwaways.

Just look at Bama’s last four years: That was Louisville (neutral), Arkansas State, Louisville, The Citadel last year; FSU (neutral), Fresno State, Colorado State, Mercer in 2017; USC (neutral), Western Kentucky, Kent State, Chattanooga in 2016; Wisconsin (neutral), Middle Tennessee State, Lousiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern in 2015. Just ask Alabama season-ticket holders how they’ve felt about that.

At least Georgia has Georgia Tech every year. And, similarly, Florida has Florida State and South Carolina has Clemson from the SEC. But until Notre Dame comes to town this fall, Bulldogs’ fans haven’t fared much better.

Last year, the non-conference home slate was Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State, UMass and Tech. In 2017, it was Appalachian State and Samford. In ’16 it was Nicholls, Louisiana-LaFayette and Tech. The year before that was Louisiana-Monroe, Southern and Georgia Southern.

Hey, I’m all for SEC football. Those games are great and the tradition is unrivaled. But that’s only eight games that are accounted for every year. And I believe the way Georgia fans have been stepping up with their support, they deserve more for their hard-earned cash.

Most everybody in the league is making moves to fix the scheduling doldrums now. It may or may not be a sign that the College Football Playoff is getting ready to expand, but Georgia is among the SEC teams aggressively targeting Power 5 opponents for home-and-home deals in 2027 and beyond.

In their release announcing the Oklahoma deal, the Bulldogs trumpeted future arrangements with Clemson (2029 at Clemson and 2030 in Athens, and 2032 in Athens and 2033 at Clemson);  Texas (2028 at Austin and 2029 in Athens); UCLA (2025 in Pasadena and 2026 in Athens); and Florida State (2027 in Tallahassee and 2028 in Athens).

Meanwhile, though, there are some notable non-conference openings at home before then. I don’t know the ins and out of why Oklahoma couldn’t accommodate any of those dates or why nobody else of note has yet. Perhaps the SEC is asking its members to hold off so they can go to a nine-game model (which I’d like to see, for what it’s worth). But I honestly don’t know that to be the case.

Again, thank goodness for the Fighting Irish making their historic visit to Athens this fall. Georgia and Notre Dame were able to broker that deal in relatively quick fashion. Maybe the Bulldogs can work out something else with some other major opponents to fill those gaps over the next few years.

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