As vineyarddawg reported earlier this afternoon, the 2013 SEC schedule has been announced. As with the 2012 iteration of the Southeastern Conference slate, next year’s schedule will be an attempt at bridging the gap between the twelve-team arrangement that became the model for other leagues to follow and the ill-considered expansion that was leapt into without a care for anything but cash and has produced nothing but problems ever since.
That said, it could have been a lot worse. Given the fortuitous ways the Saturdays fall next autumn and the previously established non-conference schedule, here is the slate the Georgia Bulldogs will face in 2013:
August 31: at Clemson Tigers
September 7: South Carolina Gamecocks
September 14: open
September 21: North Texas Mean Green
September 28: LSU Tigers
October 5: at Tennessee Volunteers
October 12: Missouri Tigers
October 19: at Vanderbilt Commodores
October 26: open
November 2: Florida Gators (Jacksonville)
November 9: Appalachian State Mountaineers
November 16: at Auburn Tigers
November 23: Kentucky Wildcats
November 30: at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
As noted here previously, the “at” in front of the final regular-season outing must be viewed as tentative, inasmuch as the Red and Black’s back-to-back treks to the Plains may pave the way to a similar switch in our in-state series with the Engineers, who would rather travel to Athens in odd-numbered years than in even-numbered ones, in light of their ACC slate.
Aside from the oddity, carried over from this season, of putting an off date right after the South Carolina game instead of right before it, there is a lot to like in that schedule. Georgia gets an extra week to prepare for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party---granted, Florida gets a bye prior to meeting the Bulldogs by the St. John’s River, but at least we’re not at a disadvantage---and the slate is broken up nicely in terms of difficulty and of location.
A home date against a Division I-AA opponent breaks up outings outside Athens against our two orange-and-blue-clad rivals, and a clash with Kentucky between the hedges likewise provides a sorbet to cleanse the palate before tangling with the Golden Tornado. An off week and a Sun Belt breather provide a nice stairstep into a run that includes Louisiana State, the Big Orange on the road, and Mizzou’s first visit to Sanford Stadium.
Finally, the preservation of the rivalry-renewing opener against Clemson and the return of the South Carolina game to its typical spot in the season’s second outing offer a challenging one-two punch to inaugurate the autumn. Those who remember the Bulldogs’ stumbles out of the gate against Oklahoma State in 2009 and against Boise State in 2011 may flinch at the thought of kicking off the campaign away from home and hedge against a legitimate opponent, but, in the Mark Richt era, the Classic City Canines’ best seasons generally have begun against stiff competition.
The 2002 SEC championship season and the 2003 SEC East championship season both started with games against Clemson. The 2005 SEC championship season and the 2011 SEC East championship season both started with games against Boise State. The 2007 Sugar Bowl championship season began with a contest against Oklahoma State. Aside from Joe Cox’s and Willie Martinez’s swansong season in 2009, the Bulldogs have been at their best when getting the autumn underway with real games instead of glorified scrimmages such as those against Arkansas State in 2001, Georgia Southern in 2004, Western Kentucky in 2006, Georgia Southern in 2008, Louisiana-Lafayette in 2010, and Buffalo in 2012.
Beginning with Clemson and South Carolina allows the Red and Black to resume their longstanding practice of making the Palmetto State circuit on successive Saturdays, which the ‘Dawgs did for all but eight of the seasons from 1962 to 1987. There is also a history of good fortune associated with beginning the season against the Country Gentlemen, as Georgia opened with Clemson in 1946 (11-0, SEC champions), 1982 (11-1, SEC champions), 2002 (13-1, SEC champions), and 2003 (11-3, SEC East champions).
The most noteworthy change to the conference slate, of course, is the unexpected addition of the Bayou Bengals’ 14th trip between the hedges for the game Georgia fans hope will even the Bulldogs’ series meetings with Louisiana State in Sanford Stadium at 7-7. The Classic City Canines and the Pelican State Panthers have split their last dozen clashes, going 6-6 against one another since the start of the 1987 season, and the presence of Auburn, Clemson, and LSU on the slate makes 2013 just the eleventh fall in which the Athenians will square off with all three sets of traditional Tiger rivals in the same autumn. In only two of those years (1947 and 1991) did Georgia beat all three of them, and, if I am not mistaken, Mizzou’s addition to the schedule makes next year the first in which the Red and Black encounter four sets of Tigers in the same regular season.
For those focused on such matters, Florida faces the Razorbacks and the Bayou Bengals out of the West, while South Carolina tangles with Arkansas and Mississippi State. What else that is noteworthy did you spot in the upcoming Georgia schedule?