Given that we’ve constantly bitched about the lack of quality of Georgia’s 2018 home schedule, I don’t think any of us would try to argue that the Dawgs play one of the conference’s tougher slates this season. Athlon, in fact, ranks Georgia’s schedule as the conference’s second-easiest.
Non-Con: Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee, UMass, Georgia Tech
East Home: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida (in Jacksonville, Fla.)
East Road: South Carolina, Missouri, Kentucky
Crossover: at LSU, Auburn
Georgia takes a big step backward with its non-conference slate in 2018. The only Power 5 opposition comes in the form of annual in-state rival Georgia Tech, and the Bulldogs are one of just two SEC teams that never have to leave the comfort of their home stadium for a non-conference game this season. The Dawgs get to host divisional games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt as well. The SEC East road matchups should prove to be slightly more difficult, particularly an early-season matchup against rival South Carolina in Columbia. The annual rivalry game in Jacksonville against Florida is intriguing, given the Dan Mullen factor. While Georgia’s most difficult tests in 2018 will come in crossover matchups against LSU (away) and Auburn (home).
Not sure I get the “given the Dan Mullen factor” reference there, but I think most would agree that South Carolina, LSU and Auburn are the key challenges on the schedule as we peer at it in mid-May. I also think most would agree that on paper, the most challenging of those three challenges will be played between the hedges. In short, this is a manageable — and I mean that in the literal sense, from Smart’s perspective — slate of games.
The Dawgs do play seven conference games in a row, so they will feel the SEC grind, although there is the usual nicely timed bye week before the Cocktail Party. But so will their rivals, which, for the most part, don’t have the depth that Georgia enjoys. And even those three challenges are at least somewhat cushioned, as South Carolina is sandwiched between two cupcake games, Vanderbilt at home precedes the road trip to Baton Rouge and Georgia will face UMass after laying it all out against Auburn.
What no one knows at this early date is whether a surprising program emerges during the season to make the schedule tougher in that regard. On the other hand, nobody knows if there’s a program that proves to be a 2018 flop, either. All in all, the schedule appears to shape up as something that gives Georgia an advantage this season.