UGA faces a daunting, front-loaded 2024 schedule, with its toughest games on the road.

Kirby Smart’s Dawgs must travel to games at Kentucky, Alabama, Texas and Ole Miss, and play neutral-site games against Clemson (in Atlanta) and Florida (Jacksonville).

The Dawgs have a 30-4 record in true road games under Smart and have a 15-game winning streak in those games, having gone undefeated on the road during the past three regular seasons.

Georgia has not lost a true road game since falling to Alabama in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

So, at this early date, which 2024 opponent looks to be the toughest? Originally, I probably would have said it was a tossup between the trip to Austin to play Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns and the return visit to Alabama at Tuscaloosa — the latter just because of … history.

But with Nick Saban retired and a boatload of talent having followed him out the door, I think it’s likely that this year’s Tide will be down a notch or two in difficulty level for opponents. That doesn’t mean I see Bama as an easy game … just not Georgia’s toughest.

Georgia is set to make its first visit to Austin to play Texas since 1958. (Lauren Tolbert/UGA) (Lauren Tolbert/Dawgnation)

No, I think Texas is likely to be Georgia’s toughest opponent in the upcoming regular season.

Mississippi, where portal king Lane Kiffin has restocked with a bunch of new transfers, also could be tricky, and you never can dismiss Dabo Sweeney’s Clemson Tigers completely.

However, I agree with my buddy Joel, who said this week: “Ole Miss might be a struggle, but I’m not convinced they’re on the Dawgs’ level. As for the opener, I think we’ll handle Clemson.”

I think so, too.

Meanwhile, coming off a playoff loss to Washington, Texas — like Georgia — has lost some talent to the portal and the NFL (including running back Jonathon Brooks and wide receiver Xavier Worthy) and had some staff reshuffling. But third-year starting quarterback Quinn Ewers has said he’s coming back (which makes you wonder whether Arch Manning might think about departing when the May portal opens up) and the Horns also picked up some transfers (notably several receivers, including Isaiah Bond from Alabama, and former Bama tight end Amari Niblack, as well).

Texas also has veteran talent on the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary, and, like Georgia, has recruited well. (The 247 Sports recruiting class ranking currently has the Longhorns in fifth place, while the Dawgs are in first place.)

ESPN already is building up the Georgia-Texas game as one of the season’s blockbuster matchups. The network’s Heather Dinich thinks it could be one of the season’s defining games, noting that for Georgia “it would be viewed as a quality road win in the eyes of the [playoff] committee, and it will influence who might play in the SEC title game.”

However, with the SEC scrapping divisions this year as Texas and Oklahoma join, Dinich said that the game against Texas shows “how much more difficult Georgia’s climb will be in the new SEC.”

The last time the Longhorns and Bulldogs met was the 2019 Sugar Bowl, when Texas prevailed 28-21. I’m not going to make a prediction on Georgia-Texas at this point, but it’s noteworthy that while the Athletic has picked the Longhorns in its early season SEC predictions, the Texas-oriented Longhorns Wire run by USA Today picked Georgia as UT’s only loss.

Is Kirby Smart college football’s top coach, now that Nick Saban has retired? (AJC file) (AJC file/Dawgnation)


The general consensus among college football observers is that, with Saban gone, Georgia is indeed the “new” Alabama.

But does that make Smart the “new” Saban?

The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel tackled that topic recently, noting that four years ago, he ranked Clemson’s Sweeney up there with Saban, before the Tigers got ordinary again.

Smart, he concluded, is the most likely successor, “and not just because he effectively built an Alabama clone in Athens. Since 2017, he has won two national championships and played for a third; won at least 11 games in all but the shortened 2020 season; gone 8-0 in SEC play in each of the last three seasons; and signed the No. 1 or 2 class in the country in five of the last seven years.

“Oh, and he’s only 48. He could theoretically keep winning 85 percent of his games for even longer than Saban did.”

Sounds good, but Mandel cautioned that Smart “might not ever match or eclipse Saban’s seven national titles simply because it’s going to be harder to win them consistently in the new system.

“Georgia will have to beat one, possibly two more opponents than it did before. Who knows whether Saban himself would have won that many if some of his teams had to advance through another round or two.”

It’s true that Smart does face a tougher competitive environment than Saban did, what with both the SEC and the College Football Playoff expanding. Matching Saban’s seven natties might be an impossible dream.

Still, after looking over the other coaches that are out there in the college game, I can’t really see anyone else whose strengths, resources and laser focus can match those of Georgia’s head coach.

So, if anyone is going to have a realistic chance of challenging Saban’s status as college football’s GOAT, I think it’s going to be Smart.

The hedges have surrounded the field at Sanford Stadium for 95 years. (University of Georgia) (University of Georgia/Dawgnation)


The hallowed hedges surrounding Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium are among the best-known traditions in all of college football — one of those rare instances where the much-overused word “iconic” is applicable.

Dawgs fans thrill before each home game when stadium announcer Brook Whitmire intones, “If your blood runs red and black … It’s time to tee it up betweeeeeeeeen the hedges!”

Opposing teams coming into Sanford Stadium are well aware of the special place the hedges hold in UGA lore, so their players frequently tear off sprigs (or entire branches) of the shrubbery after the rare home loss by the Dawgs.

Anyway, because tradition is one of my favorite things about college football, I was pleased to see this week that the UGA Athletic Association will begin work in February to protect that legacy by having the hedges “revitalized.”

The hedges around the stadium date back 95 years, but the current shrubs — the “sons and daughters of the original hedges” — were installed after the stadium served as a soccer venue during the 1996 Olympics, some 28 years ago.

Departing students get a good view of the hedges at the 2023 spring graduation ceremony. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz /

My son Bill and I were on hand for the bronze medal men’s game held there between Brazil and Portugal. And, with the famed hedges having been temporarily removed to accommodate a bigger playing field, the field itself having been flattened, and all that Centennial Olympics green dressing up the place, it was like being in some sort of alternate universe version of UGA’s stadium.

At a $100,000 cost to the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, the current hedges were propagated nearly four years before that, from 4-inch cuttings that were taken from the original hedges and then planted and grown (until they were 54 inches high and 24 inches wide) at two separate nurseries, one in Thomson, two hours east of Atlanta, the other in a secret location in Florida. So, those hedges — Ligustrum sinense, or Chinese privet — now are 31 years old, still within their expected lifespan of 20 to 40 years, but ready for refreshing.

The job will include a full soil replacement, irrigation and drainage work, as well as replanting existing hedges and replacing some with new hedges from the same lineage. Plans call for the work to be completed by the G-Day intrasquad game (the date of which has not yet been made public).

In announcing the revitalizing of the hedges, the athletic association noted that the current ones have been there while the Dawgs accrued a 144-28 home record (an 84 percent winning percentage). During that time, Georgia has captured four SEC titles, a pair of College Football Playoff National Championships and enters the 2024 season riding an FBS-leading 25-game home win streak.

Not bad for an invasive species that is common around Georgia creeks.

UGA X, aka Que, is seen at the 2022 SEC Championship game in Atlanta. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz/Dawgnation)


Retired mascot Uga X, fondly known as Que, died peacefully in his sleep Tuesday morning. Born May 27, 2013, the Damn Good Dawg formally began his tenure as mascot on Nov. 21, 2015, and retired following the 2022 season, passing the collar to his successor, Boom, known officially as Uga XI.

During Uga X’s time as the official Georgia bulldog, the school had a football record of 91-18, won two SEC titles, played in seven New Year’s Six bowls and won two national championships, making him the most decorated of the Uga line of mascots, which the Seiler family of Savannah started providing in 1956.

Predictably, the advocacy group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) used Que’s passing as an opportunity to gain publicity while maligning the University of Georgia for its live mascot.

PETA complained that Georgia’s choice of mascot is “promoting unhealthy, breathing-impaired, flat-faced breeds like English bulldogs.”

Their main beef seems to be with the English bulldog breed itself, and its breathing difficulties exacerbated by breeders wanting as flat a face as possible.

However, laying that on the University of Georgia is ridiculous. They say UGA shouldn’t contribute to the problem by having one of those dogs as a mascot. Do they really think if UGA didn’t have that mascot that the breed would go away?

Que (left) and Boom participate in the April 2023 passing-of-the-collar ceremony. (University of Georgia) (University of Georgia/Dawgnation)

And PETA completely ignored the fact that the Uga mascots are not mistreated in any way — they are beloved family pets when they’re not representing the university — and that Que lived a long and sweet life. As my brother Tim put it: “How many other dogs have a special hotel room?”

As you’d expect, Bulldog Nation gave PETA a pretty good thrashing on social media. As one post said: “Ah, yes ... try to capitalize on the normal death of an older pet who was well cared for.”

And more than one Georgia fan gave PETA a taste of its own hyperbole. As one asked: “Wait, what?! You want the whole breed eradicated?”

Que was a beautiful dog and a great mascot.

I found a quote from Charles Seiler, whose dad Sonny started the Uga mascot line, to be quite touching:

“Things will be a little different around the house for a while,” Seiler said. “Que traditionally starts barking for his breakfast around 5:30 a.m. This morning, Boom waited until 6 a.m. to let us know he was ready for his breakfast, so he’ll be a little later each day.”

RIP, Que. You earned it.


My final two quarters at the University of Georgia in 1974 were an eventful time that saw protests, lots of naked students, tear gas, foosball being outlawed briefly in Athens and those all-important job interviews for us seniors. It also was a so-so time for UGA athletics, with the Bulldogs finishing the spring in the middle of the pack of the 10-team SEC. However, several Dawgs football players did get their names called in the NFL Draft. Click here to relive that time in my latest College Life in the New South post.