Sept. 1, Buffalo, noon. Last year’s opener was against the Boise State Broncos, and for Georgia it didn’t go well. This year’s opener brings the Buffalo Bulls (not to be confused with the Buffalo Bills) to Sanford Stadium. This should work out rather better. The Bulls were 3-9 last season, 2-10 in 2010. They played Tennessee in October and lost by three touchdowns, and the Vols wound up 5-7. In sum, no sweat. Bulldogs win.
Sept. 8, at Missouri, 7:45 p.m. Sweat will be required in Week 2. This is the Tigers’ inaugural game in their new conference, and Memorial Stadium, forecasts coach Gary Pinkel, “will be pretty cramped.” Mizzou has lost only one home game the past two seasons, that to No. 4 Oklahoma State last year. In 2010 it beat No. 1 Oklahoma in Columbia. This is a very dangerous and losable game for the visitors. That said … Bulldogs win.
Sept. 15, Florida Atlantic, 7:30 p.m. A less dangerous game. The Owls were 1-11 last season. Their first three games were against Florida, Michigan State and Auburn — all of which Georgia would play, two of which it would beat. Florida Atlantic lost the three games by an aggregate 98 points. Not much else to say about this one except that FAU’s coach is Carl Pelini, whose older brother Bo coaches Nebraska. Bulldogs win.
Sept. 22, Vanderbilt, TBA. The lasting memory of last season’s Georgia-Vandy game was of Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s postgame squabble with Commodores coach James Franklin. The Bulldogs nearly squandered a 16-point lead, and Franklin wasn’t pleased with Georgia’s decorum. Franklin got mileage out of his we’re-nobody’s-doormat message, but now his team must play in Athens. Bulldogs win.
Sept. 29, Tennessee, TBA. Big year for the Volunteers. Bigger year for coach Derek Dooley, who’ s 11-14 at Tennessee, 4-12 in SEC play. The Vols already will have played North Carolina State at the Georgia Dome and Florida at Neyland Stadium, so there’s a chance they could be ranked when they arrive in Athens. There’s also a chance they could be 2-2 and playing to stay above .500. If so, the Dooley Watch will be on. Bulldogs win.
Oct. 6, at South Carolina, TBA. Both teams should exit September unbeaten. (South Carolina has a tricky Thursday night opener at Vanderbilt.) Both should be ranked in/near the top five. South Carolina beat Georgia in Columbia in 2010 and won the SEC East, beat Georgia in Athens last season and didn’t win the East. Gamecocks fans are convinced theirs was the better team in 2011. A big-time game in a big-time setting. Bulldogs lose.
Oct. 20, at Kentucky, TBA. With its front-loaded schedule, Georgia benefits from a week off. It also benefits from having to resume hostilities against Kentucky, which has stalled under Joker Phillips. The UK alum is 4-12 in SEC play, 11-14 overall. Coming off its loss to South Carolina, Georgia again is in the position of having to win out in SEC play and hope the Gamecocks stumble twice. They did last season. Bulldogs win.
Oct. 27, Florida (in Jacksonville), 3:30 p.m. Under Mark Richt, Georgia has never beaten Florida two years running. (Then again, Georgia under Richt has beaten the Gators only three times.) But he is 1-0 against Will Muschamp, which is semi-significant. Richt was 0-1 against former Florida coaches Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer. Muschamp might well get it going against his alma mater, but not just yet. Bulldogs win.
Nov. 3, Ole Miss, TBA. How bad were the Rebels in 2011? They were 2-10 overall, 0-8 in SEC play. They lost to LSU and Alabama by the collective score of 104-10. They lost to Vanderbilt, long the standard for SEC misery, by 23 points. They lost to Kentucky by 17. They lost to Mississippi State, itself a raging disappointment, by four touchdowns. But they have a new coach, having gone from a Nutt (Houston) to a Freeze (Hugh). Bulldogs win.
Nov. 10, at Auburn, TBA. In Gene Chizik’s first three seasons at Auburn, he won a BCS championship while compiling a losing record against Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and Georgia. The Tigers have new offensive and defensive coordinators, Scot Loeffler having replaced Gus Malzahn and Brian VanGorder (formerly of UGA, Georgia Southern and the Falcons) having succeeded Ted Roof. There is as yet no replacement for Cam Newton. Bulldogs win.
Nov. 17, Georgia Southern, TBA. This could either be a great or a grievous bit of scheduling. On the one hand, Georgia could have just clinched the SEC East title at Auburn and might be ripe for the picking, and the Eagles won’t bring anything short of maximum effort. On the other, playing Georgia Southern should help the Bulldogs prepare for their next game, coach Jeff Monken having apprenticed under Paul Johnson. Bulldogs win.
Nov. 24, Georgia Tech, TBA. The first three meetings between Georgia and the Johnson-coached Tech were ferocious. Last season was a relative snooze. Playing without its best backs, Georgia still won easily. That seemed an indication that a narrowed gap — before Johnson arrived, Georgia under Richt had never lost to Tech — has again begun to widen. We’ll see this year if that was the cold truth or a red herring. Bulldogs win.
By Mark Bradley