Which game (besides South Carolina) will be Georgia’s toughest?

Marcus Lattimore is one of the reasons South Carolina looms as Georgia's toughest opponent in 2012. (Associated Press)

Marcus Lattimore is one of the reasons South Carolina looms as Georgia's toughest opponent in 2012. (Associated Press)

This time last year, I conducted what had become our annual survey to see which game you thought would be the toughest for the Dogs, other than the showdown in Jacksonville.

Because of the Florida game’s history over the previous couple of decades, I had decided to put it in a category all its own. It was, of course, the toughest game Georgia would face. The monkey on their back. The discussion was over which game was the next toughest.

But no longer. I think it’s fair to say there’s been a sea change in the SEC East over the past couple of years and, at least for now, I don’t believe the Florida game qualifies any longer as the automatic biggest hurdle on the Dawgs’ schedule.

Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks have taken over that spot.

Consider: South Carolina, which last year was picked by 65 percent of Junkyard Blawg readers voting in the poll as the likely toughest game on the schedule aside from Florida, has won two in a row against Georgia, which beat Florida last year.

Yes, I know I said a few weeks ago that I consider the showdown with Florida a more important game than South Carolina, and that’s still the case. Because, let’s face it, the Dawgs can lose to the Gamecocks and still win the SEC East if they win the rest of their conference schedule (which admittedly is again easier than the Gamecocks’ schedule this year). Plus, winning two in a row in Jacksonville would pretty much park the “jinx” talk on the back shelf.

But we’re not talking most important game here, or the game you most want Georgia to win. We’re looking at which game will be the toughest for the Dawgs, and I don’t think there’s much argument there. Most college football observers are picking the Oct. 6 game in Columbia as the most likely loss in a Bulldog schedule that otherwise is deemed quite manageable.

The fact that many of those picking the Gamecocks to beat Georgia are also picking Georgia to win the SEC East again in spite of that drives Spurrier absolutely crazy.

Is this a great world, or what?

So, for the sake of this exercise at least, let’s stipulate that South Carolina is the toughest game on the schedule, thanks in large part to the Gamecocks’ perennially tough defense, the assumed presence of a healthy Marcus Lattimore in the lineup and the fact that Spurrier wants it practically more than life itself.

The Bulldogs certainly don’t want to lose a third consecutive year to South Carolina for the first time ever, but it wouldn’t derail their season.

So, let’s turn out attention to which game besides South Carolina looms as Georgia’s toughest challenge.

Is it the Gators, who are still going through their post-Urban renewal? You could make a good argument that because of the series’ history and the rivalry between the two programs (and the closeness of last year’s game thanks to Georgia’s awful special teams play) that the Jacksonville classic is the next toughest game on the 2012 schedule. Florida should be tough on defense, but at this point they’re still a big question mark offensively.

James Franklin could be a big challenge for a UGA defense missing several starters. (Associated Press)

James Franklin could be a big challenge for a UGA defense missing several starters. (Associated Press)

From what I’m hearing, though, more fans are concerned about the conference opener against Missouri. Not only will it be Mizzou’s SEC debut — which means they’re sure to be jacked for it — but Georgia is entering the game with an automatic handicap in having several defensive starters suspended. Plus the Dawgs will be going without last year’s SEC freshman of the year at tailback. Also, recent history shows Mark Richt’s teams have a tendency to get off to a slow start early in the season, especially on offense. And Tigers quarterback James Franklin probably will be the most dangerous two-way threat Associate Head Coach Todd Grantham’s defense will face all season.

As for the rest of the non-cupcake part of the schedule, there’ll probably be a bit more interest in the game with Vandy this year, thanks to the chippy nature of last year’s visit to Nashville, but it still would require a definitely subpar performance on the part of the Dawgs for the Commodores to win in Athens.

Which game (besides South Carolina) will be Georgia’s toughest this year?

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Tennessee should have a potent passing attack and is likely to be more of a challenge than last year. Some even see this as the “trap” game for the Bulldogs this season, but Georgia still should be a comfortable favorite over Dooley Junior’s Vols.

Kentucky has been known to be surprisingly tough against the Dawgs in recent years, but on paper it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this year.

Ole Miss? Still pretty much a disaster.

Auburn, of course, always has the potential to be a tough game, though the Tigers remain something of an unknown at this point.

And Georgia Tech and its tricky offense are always dangerous.

So how do I vote? I’m going with Missouri as the toughest game this season after South Carolina.

What about you? Feel free to share your comments, vote in the poll or do both.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

199 comments Add your comment

Pat

July 11th, 2012
10:39 am

Florida. No brainer.

RxDawg

July 11th, 2012
10:45 am

Hmmm, I’ll cheat and say two of em.

Florida for historic and pshycological reasons.

Auburn for the behind the scene stories and exact opposite reasons from Florida.

Ok, one more. I’m scared to death of Mizzou. I just feel like were going to drop an L in that one.

Westicles

July 11th, 2012
10:45 am

One thing is for sure: Georgia Tech will NOT be UGA’s toughest game.

Of the teams listed on the poll, I’d have to say Florida. Last time UGA beat UF twice in a row was 1988-89.

James

July 11th, 2012
10:49 am

South Carolina game is all that matters.

If Rev. Richt gets beat by a team from a state that has a population less than metro Atl, 1 million less, for the 3rd straight year, he should be fired. We have tons more to offer a kid than USC, it’s the worst stadium and city in the SEC. Their facilities rank in bottom tier in football and their fan base is half the size of UGA’s. Would be like Bama or LSU getting beat 3 straight by Missy St. Of course their fan base would not accept that, ours likely will.

Sam

July 11th, 2012
10:52 am

Florida and Auburn. Both defenses will be pretty stout which might put the game in the hands of our special teams…and we are depending on two true freshmen.

RxDawg

July 11th, 2012
10:52 am

And for the record, I’m actually not that worried about South Carolina. We should of creamed them last year, they just won because of fluke turnover plays. Our offense and special teams gave them 28 points…thats just crazy. I think we handle them.

DIT

July 11th, 2012
10:53 am

I think Mizzou and UF are equally as tough.

Since Vince

July 11th, 2012
10:57 am

UGA should NEVER lose to the chickens. UGA will lose in both Columbia’s and to the dreaded Gators. Woudnt surprise me if we lost to Vandy as well.

Dawg Haus

July 11th, 2012
11:03 am

Missouri simply because the team will be so short-handed. Florida is the more important game.

Dawgmess

July 11th, 2012
11:10 am

Missouri. Our Dawgs had better get their ‘tune-up’ out of the way with Buffalo and show up in Memorial Stadium with their tails curled.

tony

July 11th, 2012
11:13 am

chilidawg

July 11th, 2012
11:20 am

Mizzou. Green-Beckham will have an impact.

SSIgator

July 11th, 2012
11:21 am

UGA has not won back-to-back games against UF since 1990. Don’t see anything with this UGA team that would indicate that this could be the year.

Paddy

July 11th, 2012
11:25 am

Dawgs will be shorthanded but not depleted. We win in Mo. but it will be real, real close

Dawg Haus

July 11th, 2012
11:28 am

Agreed, Paddy. Even if Franklin is fully recovered from that shoulder surgery, he has to deal with Georgia’s front seven before he can even think about getting the ball off to a receiver.

lanier

July 11th, 2012
11:33 am

Fla always just because who they are

Dawggie

July 11th, 2012
11:33 am

I hate Florida

ARdawg

July 11th, 2012
11:36 am

Florida IMHO is the toughest. They want to keep the upper hand as much as we want it back. Until we again make them our beeyotch they are in our head.

If CMR can keep The Old Bawl Sack out of his head we cruise past SC, no problem. Richt can’t out coach him but we can easily out play them.

Mizzou wants to do good but, they don’t have the horses. Franklin isn’t enough and the Defense is one they haven’t seen in the Big 12. Easy win in Mizzou even with a depleted squad. I’ll be at that game.

The Vols scare me. If Bray hadn’t gotten hurt last year, we come close to losing that one

SSIgator

July 11th, 2012
11:36 am

“I don’t believe the Florida game qualifies any longer as the automatic biggest hurdle on the Dawgs’ schedule”

You could be right Bill. Since UGA has lost to KY, Vandy, as well as UCF and MSU in bowl games in recent years, I guess they should not be counted as “automatic wins” either.

ARdawg

July 11th, 2012
11:37 am

SSI

All indications are that this is the year for back to back wins but, we’ve had those indications before and didn’t get it done

gomdawg

July 11th, 2012
11:41 am

I think Tennessee, Florida and Missouri.

SSIgator

July 11th, 2012
11:46 am

ARdawg

July 11th, 2012
11:37 am
SSI

All indications are that this is the year for back to back wins but, we’ve had those indications before and didn’t get it done

Coaching?

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

ugaclassof2004

July 11th, 2012
12:02 pm

Until we can beat Florida 2 years in a row( something we haven’t done since the Dooley era), they are our 1# nemisis. Richt has gotten a handle on the rest of UGA’s rivals( and he has been kicking the ever living dog crap out of Auburn lately for some reason). But Florida? Well except for that shelacking we gave them in 2007, we have not played well against this team, even when we win. I can deal with Florida beating us if they have the better team like they did in 2006 and 2008. But when the Gators are down, like they have been the last couple of years, we need to be winning our share. I to this day with NEVER forgive any of those losses to Ron Zook. We had the better team every single year, and we were 1-2 against him. All I’m saying is that when Florida is down we need to be sticking it to them like they would be sticking it to us if we were down.

Dawg Tired

July 11th, 2012
12:12 pm

Missouri is scary at their place. First SEC game in school history. UGA secondary back in Athens eating brownies, etc.

Elise

July 11th, 2012
12:15 pm

If we get beat by SOS again, I may stop going. Coach Richt has been paid almost 25 million bucks to fall behind SOUTH CAROLINA?!

Vampire Bill

July 11th, 2012
12:17 pm

I can see losing to Vandy. You know Franklin hates us with a passion.

Chris

July 11th, 2012
12:20 pm

Until we beat Florida 3 to 4 times in a row (not 2 in a row), or at least beat them something like 3 out of 5 years, or 4 out of 6 it will ALWAYS be Florida. We have allowed Florida to dominate us over the span of 20 something years which is by far the biggest disappointment in the history of Georgia football. Until we right that ship, Florida will always be our biggest and toughest rival.

knoxdawg

July 11th, 2012
12:24 pm

Missouri and Florida in a tie. Both equally important and both being equally tough.

Desert Fox

July 11th, 2012
12:31 pm

MO. Its on the road, they’re no cupcake, those darned suspensions and no IC. I’d even put MO ahead of SC. Both games will be tough and away. I’d be more optimistic if it were not for all the attrition, suspensions, etc., over the off season and no apparent fix to our special teams play. These early games will either be CMR’s demise or his finest hour.

Greg

July 11th, 2012
12:34 pm

Bill,
Please don’t ask us for our input and then you tell us what the answer should be. Sakerlina lost a lot of talent on defense, not to mention maybe the best defensive coordinator in the league. One could make a very strong case that Florida is Georgia’s toughest opponent, including this Bulldog.

Greg

July 11th, 2012
12:36 pm

And Missouri is being vastly overrated. It doesn’t matter how excited their fans are going to be. If that mattered, Tech would be 100-0 against UGA.

Columbus Dawg

July 11th, 2012
12:40 pm

Many BIG Dawgs around here are simply fed up with the fact that Richt can not get the team ready to go out of the chute. If you don’t think that the money men had a lot to do with Richt’s less than stellar contract, you had better think again. McGarity obviously was not going to come out bashing Richt this year, but he and ALL of the boosters that I know have not changed their minds about what is expected of this team. There is no way that a team like Mizzou, even with a great passing game, should stop Georgia with the across the board talent on the Dawgs roster. The Tigers do not have an SEC type running game, nor do they possess a defense any where near what the Dawgs will field. If the Dawgs lose this game, Richt’s seat will be hotter than it was pre 2011, and he knows it.

With all this being said, I do believe that we will see the return of the old Richt, the one that hardly ever lost on the road, and the Richt that actually liked to run the ball successfully. Nobody wants to talk about UGA’s receiving corps, which will be just as good as Mizzou’s. I do not think the Dawgs drop this one. Richt absolutely MUST entrench the “One game at a time” mentality in this current group of players much like he did in 2002.

I think Bobo has received advice from more than one respected football mind this offseason, and being the DGD that he is, will do everything he can to shed the current image that most have of him as OC. Murray’s continued maturing and a running game that has lacking will help his cause. I do think that the Dawg Nation will surprisingly pleased with the improvements this season. The defense will be way ahead of where it was early in 2011, and Mizzou ain’t Boise.

Dawg Haus

July 11th, 2012
12:45 pm

Greg, good point on USCe. I was talking to an alumnus at the gym the other day and he seemed pretty concerned about losing both Coach Johnson and a pretty talented group of players. He also said the biggest concern over there, and rightfully so, is whether Lattimore will be able to fully recover from that brutal knee injury.

USCFan

July 11th, 2012
12:45 pm

You guys are going 8-4 this year … losses to Mizzou, South Carolina, Florida and Auburn.

Erin Murray for Heisman

StevoDeg

July 11th, 2012
12:50 pm

I’m tempted to say Mizzou because of our suspended secondary, but I still think our front 7 will be strong and fast enough to give Mizzou’s line all they can handle. I think we win that without too much issue. So, I chose Florida because of the importance. Like the article said, another win here would certainly move us away from the talk about how we can’t beat Florida and if we can dominate them in all 3 aspects, it will be a large step in showing our maturity.

bubba4dawgs

July 11th, 2012
12:51 pm

Tennessee is hungry and Bray is healthy along with perhaps the best receiving corps in the nation save for perhaps Mizzou. The Vols young team that Dooley took over a couple of years ago have grown up and should win 8-9 games this year. Bray is a slinger and might well turn out to be the best quarterback in the SEC this year. All I gotts say is watch out for’em!

wow !

July 11th, 2012
12:54 pm

GEORGIA TECH

DAWG258

July 11th, 2012
12:54 pm

SSI gripping to what once was……. it’s over.
A. you have no QB
B. you have no RB
C. this is the worst set of WR’s you’ve had since 90′
D. I don’t see any all americans coming back on your defense.

Just try to
A. pass your drug test
B. go .500 this season and go to Shreveport

Florida owns you Mutts

July 11th, 2012
1:15 pm

DAWG258 is the typical Dawg…all bark and no bite. Why don’t you all actually win more than 3 out of 21 BEFORE you start talking about how things are “gonna be”. Usual Dwag fans and sportswriters…always what you’re GONNA do…never what you have DONE.

SavannahDawg

July 11th, 2012
1:25 pm

Why does every writer talk of how amazing South Carolina’s D was last year? Our offense hung 42 on them. If you recall, USC’s offense only scored 17 on our D (We gave them 28 points… 1 fumble for TD, one INT for TD, one fake punt for TD, and another INT that they ran back to like the 10 yard line… so I’m not giving that one to their offense, either.)

50 ARRESTS/4 YEARS

July 11th, 2012
1:25 pm

Any arrests this week?

chazzo

July 11th, 2012
1:25 pm

UT and UF will be tough games. Anyone thinking those games are foregone conclusions is sadly mistaken. I hope the coaches and players don’t fall into that category. Mizzou will be tough because our secondary will be depleted.

GT will be the second toughest though after SC.

What I would love to see: UGA beats SC, UT, UF, AU, and GT in the same season.

chazzo

July 11th, 2012
1:32 pm

PS as far as UF goes: The Dawgs toughest opponent is the Dawgs.

UGA Insider

July 11th, 2012
1:32 pm

It is UF without a doubt. You must keep Muschamp down and keep the pressure from the fans on.

ARdawg

July 11th, 2012
1:34 pm

SSI

No doubt in my mind it is coaching. Yours and ours

dmr

July 11th, 2012
1:39 pm

Synergy. It is part of football. I don’t like the fact that Georgia refuses to hire a special teams coach. It makes me nuts. That said, it will be Missouri. Why, you may ask? Here’s why. Second game of the season. Georgia will not have been tested. Secondary in flux and missing key members. Special teams may come into play. BOOK THIS: If Mike Bobo has Aaron Murray throw the ball more than 25 times in this game, Georgia will lose. Georgia will need to focus on ball control, clock management, keeping the defense fresh, and avoid any type of shootout. Georgia can physically wear this team down, but if they start trying to chuck the ball all over the place and don’t use the clock, Missouri will make use of their talented wide receivers. This will be ALL on Bobo’s game plan in my opinion. 6 – 8 yard passes, keep moving the chains, run the ball, limit the number of plays the defense has to be on the field.

harold

July 11th, 2012
1:44 pm

UGA PLAYS ONE TOP 20 TEAM—-A CUP CAKE SCHEDULE. NON CONFERENCE SCHEDULE IS LAUGHABLE.

IF RICHT CAN’T GO 13-0 WITH THIS “CREAM PUFF” SCHEDULE IT IS TIME FOR RICHT TO GO.

Clay

July 11th, 2012
1:47 pm

@Florida owns you mutts — interesting that you only chose to include the past 21 years in you conclusion thereby editing the validity of your comment… You don’t take a series and chop it off at the end… Every game counts, so why don’t you tell us the real data now? Oh wait, on a UF education you may have trouble researching all the simple words that were just used… Here it is buddy—(Georgia’s count 48-40-2, but even if you use Florida’s count we are still up 47-40-2) Good luck catching up to us with ole hot headed Muskrat over there.

Dale

July 11th, 2012
1:48 pm

UGA fans make me laugh. You act so high and mighty yet you can’t beat nobody when it really counts.

Haha jus poking you some.

I am a Clemson fan and better yet a Clemson grad and if you will quit being scared and let us in the SEC we can resume what was one of the best rivalries in the country even though I know you don’t want none of Sammy Watkins or Andre Ellington.

And the cooters are cheating bad in case you havent noticed. It won’t last long.

But for the record if we were playing this year, Dabo and the boys would take you by 7-10.

Tiger Out!