TAMPA — If Georgia does not repeat as Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champions in 2012, it will not have the schedule to blame.
The SEC on Wednesday finally released its new football schedules for next season and the Bulldogs made out well. They dropped the Oct. 6 game at Alabama and picked up a road game against new conference member Missouri in Columbia, Mo., on Sept. 8. Meanwhile, UGA’s traditional SEC opener against South Carolina was moved back to Oct. 6. That game will also be on the road, as originally scheduled.
The only other change for the Bulldogs was their game at Kentucky, originally scheduled for Oct. 13, moves back one week. That will eliminate what was originally an off week before the Florida game. However, the Gators also lose their off week before playing the Bulldogs, so neither team has an advantage.
Georgia’s non-conference opponents of Buffalo (Sept. 1), Florida Atlanta (Sept. 15), Georgia Southern (Nov. 17) and Georgia Tech (Nov. 24) remain the same.
“I don’t think anybody in this conference has an easy schedule,” Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Wednesday. “We have nothing to base a road game to Missouri on. There’s no question going to Columbia, Mo., is going to be a tremendous challenge. just like Florida going to Texas A&M is going to be. I know within our building nobody is thinking there’s anything easy about our schedule.”
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt declined comment on the new slate. “I think the focus should be this game and that’s what we’re going to be focued on,” he said. “I don’t want to get too far down the road. Let’s finish up this season and we’ll talk about those things in the future.”
McGarity said it’s important to note that Georgia is not replacing Alabama with Missouri. The Bulldogs simply are keeping Auburn as their traditional rival from the West and had to honor their return game with Ole Miss after playing the Rebels in Oxford last season.
It should also be noted that the new schedule, revamped to accommodate new conference members Missouri and Texas A&M, is intended for just one year. The SEC will reconvene in the spring to look at schedules for 2013 and beyond.
“The SEC transition team and our athletic directors did a great job with significant logistical challenges in a short time frame in developing the 2012 football conference schedule,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “The ability to come together for the conference is what makes the SEC so strong and that was evident yet again in this process.”
Said McGarity: “The entire scheduling process was difficult and the transition team led by the SEC office had to deal with some very difficult scheduling challenges and formats. That’s why it took a long time to make it through.”
McGarity remains skeptical that the league would go to nine conference games.
“It really restricts scheduling flexibility to do that, especially when it comes to traditional rivals and having a seven-game home schedule,” McGarity said. “That’s going to be very difficult to do.”
Georgia’s players were essentially oblivious to the changes.
“I really don’t pay attention to any of it,” sophomore linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “We just watch film, look at the personnel and line up and play. We can’t help who we play. We don’t make the schedule. So we just go out there any chance we get and try to make the best of it.”
Said fellow linebacker Alec Ogletree: “I didn’t know anything about it. I’m still trying to focus on this year and getting this last game over with. I’ll worry about next year when it’s time to.”
Here’s how the new slate looks:
2012 GEORGIA FOOTBALL SCHEDULE