Expansion is improving UGA’s SEC schedule, with 2025 looking particularly exciting.

The conference announced this past week that the schedule that year will see the same exact SEC matchups as 2024, with the home sites simply reversed. That means Georgia will face Alabama, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas Between the Hedges in 2025 and Auburn, Mississippi State and Tennessee on the road, with Florida in Jacksonville, as usual. (Actual dates for the games haven’t been announced yet.)

Since the SEC East and SEC West divisions are going away this year, the top two teams in the 16-team conference standings at the end of the regular season will meet in the championship game in Atlanta. The same will be true next year, too.

Georgia’s 2025 game against Bama will be the Crimson Tide’s first visit to Athens since 2015, and it will be the Longhorns’ first trip ever to Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. Texas and Georgia last met in the 2019 Sugar Bowl and the visit to Austin this season will be the first trip there for the Dawgs since 1958.

Basically, the elimination of divisions means fans are going to see more variety in the conference opponents that visit Athens. Even the stopgap eight-game conference schedules for 2024 and 2025 — put in place while SEC leaders wait to see what ESPN will pay for a ninth game — have provided opponents that are more appealing to those Dawgs fans who had grown tired of the same lineup of SEC East opponents year after year.

Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss are set to visit Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium again in 2025. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz/Dawgnation)

This fall, the conference opponents coming to Athens will be Auburn, Mississippi State and Tennessee, plus it’s a home year for UGA against Georgia Tech, which annually satisfies the conference mandate that each SEC member play one opponent from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac “12″ or a major independent.

Some years, Georgia adds another major nonconference opponent, such as Clemson this year and UCLA in 2025, but the meeting with the Tigers is one of those neutral-site games the Dawgs periodically play against marquee opponents in places such as Atlanta and Charlotte, and UGA will travel to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, for the 2025 game against the Bruins.

Meanwhile, the rest of the nonconference schedule for those two years leaves much to be desired, with Georgia facing Tennessee Tech and UMass this year, and Austin Peay and Charlotte in 2025. (The Tech game will be in Atlanta that year.)

I have mixed feelings about those neutral-site games like Clemson and the nonconference road trip to UCLA. While they tend to be entertaining (and usually draw a great TV time slot), they take away from the home schedule.

I understand their attraction is that they are one-shots, and a home-and-home deal isn’t required, but while this year’s Aflac Kickoff Game featuring Georgia and Clemson Aug. 31 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will be the second time the grand old rivalry has been renewed in the past three years, it has been a decade since the Tigers last played the Dawgs in Athens!

The Dawgs will return to the Rose Bowl in 2025 to open the season against UCLA. (Craig McCrary/special) (Craig McCrary/special/Dawgnation)

That 2014 match was a classic game that saw Todd Gurley run for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns, return a kick 100 yards for another and the Dawgs routing the Tigers, 45-21.

Speaking of that 2014 season, it also was the last time Georgia played as good a home schedule as it will face in 2025.

And my buddy Joel Provano pointed out this week that the 2013 schedule was even more impressive, though the results weren’t that great. As Joel remembers: “We opened with No. 8 Clemson [at Clemson], then played No. 7 South Carolina. After a breather against North Texas, we played No. 6 LSU. Next, we played an unranked Tennessee in Knoxville and then a Missouri team that was ranked [No. 25] and finished 12-2. Three weeks later, we faced No. 7 Auburn.”

Unfortunately, it was a bad year for Georgia in terms of injuries, and the Dawgs ended up finishing 8-5.

Anyway, getting back to upcoming seasons, the upgrading of the conference portion of the home schedule and the adding of the occasional big-name nonconference team is all well and good, but UGA otherwise continues to bring some really mediocre opponents to Athens.

Let’s face it, UMass and Austin Peay aren’t programs that make a trip to Athens for fans — with the exorbitantly priced parking and traffic headaches that entails — look very enticing.

The Clemson Tigers haven’t played Georgia in Athens since 2014, when Todd Gurley had a great day. (AJC file) (BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJ/Dawgnation)

Of course, Georgia’s certainly not alone in this. Because of the toughness of the conference schedule, once they’ve satisfied the mandate for one major nonconference team, SEC programs tend to fill out the rest of their schedule with “guarantee” games against weaker opponents.

For example, besides Wisconsin and South Florida, Alabama faces Western Kentucky and Mercer this coming season. Tennessee has an even more one-sided nonconference schedule, with Chattanooga, Kent State and UTEP joining North Carolina State. And while Auburn faces California this season, they also will play Alabama A&M, New Mexico and ULM.

Now, I recognize that college football scheduling is a complicated business, and major schools like Georgia tend to book lesser programs like Austin Peay because they are willing to take a guaranteed fee for a visit to Athens, and they don’t demand a return trip by the Dawgs. Home games make more money for Georgia than road games (with the possible exception of the trip to Jacksonville).

Still, I can’t believe there aren’t some better-known mid-majors, to use a basketball term, that wouldn’t also take a a one-game deal — perhaps from the ACC?

And, even if there aren’t, UGA could make its nonconference games of greater interest to its fan base by scheduling Georgia State, Georgia Southern or even Kennesaw State, once it completes its move to Conference USA. Any of those would be a more worthwhile addition to the schedule than Western Kentucky (set to visit Athens again in 2026).

Thankfully, upcoming seasons will see the likes of Louisville, Florida State and Ohio State visiting Athens, but if the remainder of the nonconference slates in those years continues the current trend, there’ll still be games where season ticket holders are offering their seats to friends and family.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was noncommittal about adding a ninth conference game. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz/Dawgnation)

That’s fine, as long as those folks with season tickets are willing to keep paying for schedules that feature the likes of UT Martin, Ball State and UAB (from last year’s home schedule). However, eventually some fans may decide they’d rather pay a bit more for the good games on the open market, forgo the season ticket package and stay home and watch the cupcakes on their big-screen TV in the comfort of their air-conditioned den.

Meanwhile, still under discussion for 2026 is the SEC switching to a nine-game conference schedule, with each team having three annual opponents (Georgia’s likely would be Florida, Auburn and Kentucky).

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey was noncommittal this week, saying “We continue to monitor changes across college sports as they relate to future scheduling.”

However, considering the way conferences have a way of imploding lately — Clemson has joined Florida State in going to court to try and break out of its seemingly ironclad contract with the ACC — probably the best thing for fans to do is adopt the slogan that Smart has lifted from Nike for his Dawgs this season: Assume nothing.

Brock Bowers speaks to members of the media during UGA’s Pro Day at the Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. (Hyosub Shin/AJC) (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Dawgnation)


It’s good to see that most of the folks making projections for next month’s NFL Draft see former Georgia tight end Brock Bowers going in the first round, with some predictions having either him or Marvin Harrison Jr. as the first nonquarterback taken.

Bowers would be a good bet for any team. As ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said this past week, “Bowers can play anywhere. You can move him around. He can play in the backfield. He can be H-back, fullback, tight end or slot wide.”

As Georgia fans know, Bowers is a generational talent. He caught 175 passes for 2,538 yards and 26 touchdowns in three seasons with the Dawgs, also scored 5 career rushing TDs and won the John Mackey award (given to the nation’s top tight end) two times.

I still believe that if he had been 100 percent for this past season’s SEC Championship Game, Georgia’s offense would have been more effective against Bama and UGA probably would have gotten its threepeat.

I remember after Bowers’ freshman year at Georgia, a friend predicted that he’d be the next Travis Kelce in the NFL. That still sounds like a safe bet.

Kirby Smart is concerned that the current NIL system isn’t fair to all players. (Tony Walsh/UGA) (Tony Walsh/Dawgnation)


A lot of fans are very uncomfortable with the idea that, at some point in the not too distant future, college football may replace the unpredictability of the transfer portal and NIL money with schools paying players as employees with contracts.

However, there’s a sort of half-measure alternative that might be easier for fandom to swallow: revenue sharing.

Several coaches have come out in favor of all those millions that football programs are drawing from ESPN being shared with the talent that makes the game possible, and Georgia’s Kirby Smart is one of them.

Smart, who will make $12 million this year, said at a recent meeting of the Macon Touchdown Club that he’s concerned that the current system, where players sign outside deals to profit off their name, image and likeness, favors the younger recruiting prospects.

“Sometimes I question the system that we have now, if it’s best for the student-athlete,” Smart said. “It may be best for the freshman, but it may not be best for the sophomore, junior or senior.”

Smart noted that “when you’ve got a guy who’s been starting for three years and he may not be getting the same thing that a freshman gets, it can destroy your team from within.”

Smart said he’d “love to see a little more fair system” than what we have now.

Perhaps revenue sharing could be that system.