Welcome to the latest installment of Dawg Sports Wants To Know, in which we take on some of the most pressing questions facing Bulldog Nation.
It may not feel like it, but college football season is right around the corner. No, really. We’re only five weeks out from SEC Media Days. Seven weeks out from the start of fall practice. And less than three months away from kickoff in Charlotte between the ‘Dawgs and Dabo’s School for Boys Who Like Auburn, But Loovvveeee Lakes.
Clearly that opener has taken a lot of the preseason focus for fans and media. Some would even say it’s the most important game of the 2021 season.
But is it really? In fact there are a couple of games on the slate that could lay claim to the title of “most important game of 2021.” Let’s look at the contenders.
Clemson, September 4th. It’s an easy choice in some respects. A national prime time audience. A matchup of likely top five opponents. A chance to establish the Bulldogs’ place in the national title conversation.
But consider this. If Georgia loses to Clemson in anything but a blowout and then wins out from there Kirby Smart’s squad is still likely playing in the SEC title game for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
In fact, an 11-1 Georgia whose only loss is a close week one defeat to a top 3 Clemson squad could in theory still get into the CFB Playoff with a close loss to a #1 Alabama in Atlanta. That game could really be more about playoff seeding than entry. In short, while the opener against Clemson will draw a lot of eyeballs and more than its share of national commentary, in the end it’s likely just a glorified showcase game.
Auburn, October 9th. I know, I know. The Plainsmen are retooling after having sent the Gus Bus to the scrap yard. But consider this: the Tigers return quarterback Bo Nix, tailback Tank Bigsby, and a handful of key playmakers on defense. Georgia should be favored in this one. But an unexpected loss to Lakeless Clemson would put the ‘Dawgs squarely behind the eight ball early in the 2021 season.
Florida, October 30th. There was a time when it appeared this game might have lost some of its relevance. But by beating an injury-plagued Georgia team and booking a trip to the SEC title game in 2020, Dan Mullen has garnered a lot of press headed into 2021. The 2021 World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party may well decide the winner of the SEC East, as it has for what seems like four decades now. What’s more, while a loss to the Country Gentlemen might give them a boost, a loss to Dan Mullen’s Florida team would give that Darth Vader costume wearing, goofy dancing, brawl starting doofus in Gainesville a two game winning streak. And that, I cannot bear.
Alabama, whenever. Even without Mac Jones, with a retooled receiving corps, and a host of other new moving parts, the Tide are still going to be the prohibitive favorite in the SEC West. It’s likely the Bulldogs’ path to the College Football Playoff and ultimately a national title will run through the Crimson Tide. If that’s the case Kirby Smart and his team could beat every team in their path but have it all come to naught with a defeat against the final boss.