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GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Nov. 24
Coach: Paul Johnson, 43-22 in four seasons at Georgia Tech (141-58 overall).
Last year: 8-5 (5-3 ACC), finished third in the Coastal Division; lost to Utah in overtime, 30-27, in the Sun Bowl.
Best win: A dominating 31-17 win over Clemson, the eventual ACC champions.
Worst loss: A lifeless 24-7 loss at Miami, who finished the season 6-6.
Returning starters: 16 (eight offense, six defense, two special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Steady, perhaps down a little. The Jackets get most of their critical pieces back on offense, including last year's top three rushers (one of whom is quarterback Tevin Washington). Against the better defenses on their schedule, though, Paul Johnson's Tech teams have needed a game-breaking receiver to really give the offense an edge, and they don't appear to have that this year. On defense, the transition to Al Groh's 3-4 system still hasn't quite fallen into place, and it won't get any easier with last year's leading tackler, linebacker Julian Burnett, unlikely to play this season thanks to a neck injury sustained in the bowl game. In addition, the defensive line loses both Jason Peters and Logan Walls (though T.J. Barnes has the size, at least, to fill Walls' shoes at the all-important nose tackle spot).
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): Having gotten a sample of the Paul Johnson-style triple-option against Georgia Southern the previous week, the Dawgs show up fully prepared on defense, holding the Jackets under 250 rushing yards for the second straight year. Meanwhile, Aaron Murray, who fired off four TD passes against Tech in Atlanta last year, picks up right where he left off, while Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley victimize a Jacket rush defense that finished 66th in the nation in 2011.
Worst-case scenario: Tech's running game once again catches the Georgia defense napping and denies the Dawgs their shot at an 11th win in the past 12 installments of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate." It's weird -- Georgia has solidly corralled Johnson's triple-option in the Bulldogs' last two trips to Atlanta, but they've gotten torched both times Johnson has come to Sanford Stadium, giving up 409 rushing yards in 2008 and 411 two years ago. This year's Georgia defense has the potential to be the best Richt has put together since he arrived in Athens, but they can't afford to go to sleep against Tech, particularly with the Jackets fielding one of the nation's most experienced offensive lines. Fortunately, if the Dawgs are looking at another trip to the SEC title game by the time Tech rolls into town, they should be able to avoid looking ahead: Richt's four SECCG-bound Georgia teams have managed to block out such distractions enough to pound the Jackets by an average of three touchdowns.
GEORGIA SOUTHERN EAGLES
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Nov. 17
Coach: Jeff Monken, 21-8 in two seasons at GSU.
Last year: 11-3 (7-1 Southern), earned the SoCon title; won the first two rounds of the FCS playoffs before falling in the semifinals, 35-7, at eventual national champions North Dakota State.
Best win: The 31-10 victory at ninth-ranked Wofford that clinched the conference championship.
Worst loss: The four-TD loss to North Dakota State, but again, the Bison went on to win it all.
Returning starters: 15 (eight offense, seven defense, zero special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Steady. Matching the Eagles' deep FCS playoff run from last year is by definition a tall order, but they have the personnel to make it happen, and the program seems to have adjusted nicely to the system being run by third-year head coach Jeff Monken. After wandering in the wilderness for four years under Brian VanGorder and then Chris Hatcher, the Eagles have returned to their triple-option roots -- no surprise given that Monken served under former GSU and current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson for more than a decade. He'll have another strong stable of runners this season, led by SoCon Freshman of the Year Dominique Swope (1,023 yards and seven TDs in 2011) and do-everything star Jerick McKinnon.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The Dawgs stay focused, keep the Eagles' option attack under control and get a nice tune-up as they prepare for yet another installment of "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate" with Georgia Tech the following week. While it's odd to be facing an FCS squad so late in the season, the Southern game actually comes at a pretty good time for the Dawgs: They'll be facing a team that not only runs the same kind of offense Tech runs, it's a team coached by a guy who helped run that offense at Georgia Tech for two years (and at Navy for many years before that). Basically, it's like they're getting a preview of GT before the Yellow Jackets even come to town.
Worst-case scenario: The Georgia starters are still on the field well into the fourth quarter as the Dawgs get yet another test from a triple-option offense. Paul Johnson's system has run the Bulldogs ragged on a number of occasions; last season's game was the first time in four years that UGA beat Tech by more than a single score. But the Eagles themselves have been known to give the Dawgs an unexpectedly close game now and then. In 2004, the Eagles held the ball for an eternity and only allowed Georgia a 13-7 lead at halftime before the Dawgs pulled away with a big third quarter. Four years before that, Georgia allowed GSU running back Adrian Peterson 152 yards in a lackluster 29-7 victory. With this year's UGA-GSU game sandwiched between matchups against two of Georgia's bitterest (and longest-standing) rivals, there's a risk of the Georgia players not staying focused or taking the Eagles as seriously as they should, and that could allow the game to stay interesting for a lot longer than Georgia fans would like.
Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala., Nov. 10
Coach: Gene Chizik, 30-10 in three seasons at Auburn; 35-29 overall.
Last year: 8-5 (4-4 SEC), finished fourth in the SEC West and defeated Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Best win: A 16-13 victory at then 10th-ranked South Carolina, which would come back to haunt the Gamecocks by the end of the season.
Worst loss: The 42-14 drubbing by Alabama, the eventual national champions. Numerically the Tigers' beatdown by Georgia was worse, but losing by four TDs carries a special sting when it's in the Iron Bowl (and in front of your home crowd, no less).
Returning starters: 18 (seven offense, nine defense, two special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Up, but perhaps only incrementally for the time being. The Tigers are certainly in a better position than they were this time last year, when they were poised to bring back only seven starters from the previous season's national-title-winning squad; the fact that they still managed to win eight games with such an inexperienced roster was, if not a minor miracle, then certainly a noteworthy achievement. In hiring former Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to replace Ted Roof, they've also made a definite upgrade in the DC's office. However, the transition from Roof to VanGorder will entail some initial growing pains regardless of the returning talent. And that defense will still have its work cut out for it compensating for an offense that no longer has Gus Malzahn running it and appears to have come no closer to locating an every-down starting QB.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The Dawgs repeat last year's shocking blowout of the Tigers on a different field, strangling the regrouping Auburn offense and carpet-bombing VanGorder's new-look D. The latter task will certainly be the more difficult of the two, but it's not like Mark Richt isn't familiar with what VanGorder (and his secondary coach, fellow ex-Georgia DC Willie Martinez) will try to put on the field. The key is Georgia's offensive line -- if they've managed to grow up a bit in the first two months of the season, then they could be formidable against an Auburn run defense that ranked 94th in the nation last season. Should Georgia beat Auburn again this year, it'd be their sixth win in the last seven installments of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, and would tie up a perennially close series the Dawgs last led in 1984.
Worst-case scenario: VanGorder proves he knows his old boss better than his old boss knows him, and his relatively experienced defensive front stifles the Dawgs' rushing attack, turning the game into a grueling trench battle from which the Tigers eventually emerge victorious. With the UGA offensive line rebuilding and Isaiah Crowell sent packing, Bulldog Nation just can't afford to assume anything about the ground game at this point. And if that part of the offense can't give VanGorder something to respect, his defensive ends, Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae, will feel free to tee off on Aaron Murray just like David Pollack and a succession of nasty DEs swallowed up opposing quarterbacks when BVG stalked the sidelines in Athens.
OLE MISS REBELS
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Nov. 3
Coach: Hugh Freeze, first season at Ole Miss; 10-2 overall.
Last year: 2-10 (0-8 SEC), finished last in SEC West.
Best win: A 38-28 win at Fresno State, who would finish the season 4-9.
Worst loss: A 52-3 loss to LSU in which the home crowd had to endure the humiliation of watching Les Miles call four straight kneeldowns inside the Rebel 10 -- with five minutes left in the game.
Returning starters: 17 (eight offense, seven defense, two special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Up, but only because the Rebels can't go any further down. The 2012 Rebs finished 80th or worse in Division I-A in every major offensive and defensive category save for pass defense -- and that was primarily because most of their opponents ran up such huge early leads that they just didn't have to pass much. And while 17 returning starters would provide a glimmer of optimism for most programs, how excited can you really get about returning that many players off such a terrible team? Hugh Freeze's talents as an offensive strategist, which helped turn a moribund Arkansas State program into a winner, may yet pay dividends in Oxford, but it's unlikely to happen this season with the roster he's got.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The Dawgs display no hangover from the previous week's trip to Jacksonville, energizing the Homecoming crowd with a blowout of the Rebels. The Georgia defense should do just fine against an Ole Miss offense devoid of proven talent at any of the skill positions; the offense might have a bit more to prove after its ultraconservative game plan netted only 27 points in last year's trip to Oxford, but either way, Georgia will be a heavy favorite in this matchup.
Worst-case scenario: Smarting from a loss in Jacksonville (or, alternatively, hung over from a big win), the Dawgs lose focus and let the Rebels hang around until late in the game. With Ole Miss falling between the Cocktail Party trip and the annual grudge match with Auburn, this game would be a perfect opportunity to let an overmatched opponent look way better than it ought to. It took Georgia a while to truly put Ole Miss away last season, and if the Dawgs are looking ahead to an SEC title shot when the Rebels come to town this year -- entirely possible, given the schedule -- Freeze could find an opening to make this one close.
EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla., Oct. 27
Coach: Will Muschamp, 7-6 in one season at Florida.
Last year: 7-6 (3-5 SEC), finished third in the SEC East; beat Ohio State 24-17 in the Gator Bowl.
Best win: The bowl win, followed by a 48-10 shellacking of Kentucky in which the Gators looked more like the Spurrier-era juggernauts of the 1990s than they have in quite a while.
Worst loss: A 41-11 loss at top-ranked LSU that could've been even worse if a 52-yard TD run by Brad Wing (yes, the LSU punter) hadn't been nullified by a penalty.
Returning starters: 18 (seven offense, ten defense, one special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Up, but it's still not clear by how much. Factors mitigating toward a good season include a defense that returns as much experience as any in the country and an overall roster that's gotten more comfortable in Will Muschamp's system; the latter prompted CFB oracle Phil Steele to project the Gators first in the SEC East, probably the first time in 2012 anyone's picked a team other than South Carolina or Georgia to win the division. However, the offense that was the Gators' Achilles heel in 2011 remains very much in transition. The QBs on their 2012 roster completed a grand total of 38 passes last season, and the team is now on its fourth offensive coordinator in as many years. The schedule alone should put the Gators back in a bowl game, but which bowl -- and whether it'll accompany any degree of noteworthy progress -- is still anyone's guess.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The Dawgs' offense scores 30 while the defense hammers a Gator offense that's still finding its footing, earning consecutive victories in this rivalry for the first time since Steve Spurrier became the head coach. At the risk of overstating the importance of this one game, back-to-back wins for the Bulldogs would signal a major shift in the Georgia-Florida series. It wouldn't mean that Georgia was destined to go on a decade-long dominant streak, but it would seem to indicate that Florida's two decades of near-automatic dominance over their Bulldog rivals had come to an end. And honestly, after going 3-18 against Florida in the years from the beginning of Spurrier's tenure to the end of Urban Meyer's, a simple return to 50-50 parity is something most Dawg fans would welcome. (Then again, if Muschamp turned out to be a disaster and the Dawgs won the next five or six straight, it's hard to imagine anyone in Athens complaining.)
Worst-case scenario: Georgia's offensive line fails to protect Aaron Murray and the offense sputters just as it seems to have done in all 18 of those losses dating back to 1990 -- sending Georgia to a defeat that indicates Florida won't be laying down for their northern arch-rivals just yet. The Gator offense might still be very much in transition, but Muschamp, a defensive guru going way back, already has the Florida D operating at a very high level (eighth in the nation in total defense last season), so he's got the tools he needs to turn this game into the agonizing defensive slog that has signaled doom for Georgia in the past. The conventional wisdom is that, at the very least, Georgia has to crack 24 points to have any hope of winning in Jacksonville -- and while that doesn't sound like a very high bar to clear, the Gators always seem to have a knack for making it way harder than it looks.
Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky., Oct. 20
Coach: Joker Phillips, 11-14 in two seasons at Kentucky.
Last year: 5-7 (2-6 SEC), finished fifth in the SEC East.
Best win: The season-ending 10-7 victory over Tennessee that snapped a 26-year losing streak to the Vols.
Worst loss: A 38-8 loss to Vanderbilt in which the 'Cats trailed 24-0 at halftime.
Returning starters: 13 (six offense, six defense, one special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Down — maybe not by much, but when you only won two league games the previous season, does it really matter? The Wildcat offense was an absolute disaster area in 2011 (next-to-last in the conference in rushing, dead last in passing yardage, overall yardage and scoring), and there are few indications coming out of Lexington that things will get substantially better this year. They're still searching for a feature tailback, and while there are two relatively experienced QBs on the roster (Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton), everyone in Kentucky blue is crossing their fingers and praying true freshman Patrick Towles makes an immediate impact when he arrives on campus. The defense had its moments last season but must replace its two most productive players, linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Winston Guy.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The completely rebuilt UK secondary allows Aaron Murray to bomb away and roll up considerably better numbers than he did the last time these two teams faced off (an ugly 19-10 Georgia win that nevertheless clinched the SEC East for the Dawgs). Georgia's defense should have no trouble handling a Kentucky attack that will likely be stuck in neutral for a second straight year; what Dawg fans would really like to see after last year's slog is a show of offensive firepower. The strength of Kentucky's defense will be its line, particularly going up against Georgia's regrouping offensive front, so Murray needs to have a good game to keep the Wildcats honest and open up some breathing room for Isaiah Crowell.
Worst-case scenario: A Georgia team either high off a victory over South Carolina or moping from another loss loses focus in Lexington and allows another UGA-UK game to turn into a cover-your-eyes trench battle. Given the disparity in talent between these two teams, it's likely Georgia can escape with a win even if they give another subpar effort, but that wouldn't send a great message with the Cocktail Party trip on deck. The offensive line, in particular, needs to come together and keep Aaron Murray's jersey clean. Either way, maintaining focus will be a challenge considering that this game falls directly between the two biggest games on Georgia's 2012 schedule, at least in terms of repeating as SEC East champions.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS
Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C., Oct. 6
Coach: Steve Spurrier, 55-35 in seven seasons at South Carolina, 197-75-2 overall.
Last year: 11-2 (6-2 SEC), defeated #20 Nebraska 30-13 in the Capital One Bowl, finished the season ranked #9.
Best win: If not the bowl win, then the 45-42 win over the Dawgs in Athens, of course.
Worst loss: A 16-13 home loss to an Auburn team that turned out to not be all that good.
Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, six defense, one special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Down, perhaps, but not by much. The 'Cocks lose a number of important pieces on defense, not the least of which is Melvin Ingram, the defensive end who embarrassed the Dawgs several times over last season. As long as they have super-sophomore Jadeveon Clowney to anchor that line, though, they'll be in decent shape. And while they lose the two biggest pieces of their passing game in receiver Alshon Jeffery and QB Stephen Garcia, this really has never been a typical Spurrier throw-it-all-over-the-place offense. Certainly not since running back Marcus Lattimore arrived in Columbia, and he's back to terrorize SEC defensive lines after missing half of the 2011 season with a knee injury
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The rapidly improving Dawg defense makes a major statement by finally figuring out how to stop Lattimore, and Georgia outlasts Carolina in the kind of grueling defensive struggle that (until recently) typified this series. The Bulldog D should be salivating for revenge against Lattimore at this point, considering that he's gashed them for 358 yards and three TDs in their two meetings thus far. This game is taking place far enough into the season that Lattimore's knee injury shouldn't be affecting him anymore, but he may have to shoulder a heavier burden now that the passing game is rebuilding. The Gamecocks may not miss Stephen Garcia's erratic play, but his replacement, Connor Shaw, averaged only 22 passing attempts per start in 2011 and will certainly miss the athleticism and sure hands of Alshon Jeffery. If the Bulldog secondary -- which, to Spurrier's highly amusing consternation, will be back at full strength by this game -- can reduce the Gamecock aerial attack to an afterthought, then the front seven can zero in on Lattimore and turn this into the type of game the Dawgs have proven they know how to win.
Worst-case scenario: Shaw holds his own, opening up opportunities for Lattimore and sending Georgia to another defeat -- which would not only put the Dawgs well behind the 8-ball in the SEC East race, it'd also mark their first three-game losing streak to South Carolina in the program's history. Face it, Bulldog Nation -- as much as you might hate to give props to either the Ol' Ballcoach or the Gamecock fan base, the struggles at Tennessee and Florida have opened a door for the 'Cocks to become Georgia's main obstacle to the division title. Carolina isn't a perfect team by any stretch, but Spurrier finally has a game-breaking tailback and a game plan that plays to his strengths, and as we've seen, he won't hesitate to bludgeon the Dawgs to death with it, even if it means he doesn't get to chuck it down the field 50 times a game like he did at Florida. Last year's bounce-back by Richt and the Bulldogs was certainly impressive, but for that reclamation project to be complete, they've got to prove they can dominate the good teams on their schedule and not just the scrubs -- and for now, at least, Spurrier's Gamecock squad is the bellwether.
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Sept. 29
Coach: Derek Dooley, 11-14 in two seasons at Tennessee, 28-34 overall.
Last year: 5-7 (1-7 SEC).
Best win: An early-season 45-23 shellacking of a Cincinnati team that went on to win 10 games.
Worst loss: The season-ending 10-7 loss at Kentucky -- the Vols' first loss to the Wildcats since 1984.
Returning starters: 20 (10 offense, eight defense, two special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Rising, albeit slightly, and if only because it's highly unlikely both the Vols' game-changing receiver (Justin Hunter) and starting QB (Tyler Bray) will lose substantial chunks of the season to injury again. Tennessee is tied for second in FBS in terms of starters returning from 2011, and having the Bray-Hunter combo back will be a huge boost for an offense that all but ground to a halt without them last year. But a surprising amount of coaching churn in the offseason, plus a general sense that Derek Dooley is fighting for his job after two losing seasons in Knoxville, makes it seem like the Vols still have their backs against the wall despite being stocked with experienced players.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): A Georgia secondary that will be back at full strength following a raft of early-season suspensions goads Bray into another mistake-filled game. letting the Dawgs roll to an early lead and cruise to the finish on the legs of their running backs. Bray has as much raw talent as any QB in the conference right now, but he just hasn't managed to put it all together against the Vols' better opponents -- in two seasons, he's amassed a 143.82 overall quarterback rating but just 117.4 against Tennessee's top rivals (Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina). Having both Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson to throw to will help him out immensely, but the Bulldogs' front seven is nasty enough to goad him into some of those inexplicable decisions Bray's opponents have come to know and love.
Worst-case scenario: An improving Tennessee offensive line keeps Bray's jersey clean and lets him make plays to Hunter and Rogers, and the rebuilt Georgia O-line can't hold up their end of the bargain -- allowing the Vols to keep up on the scoreboard and sneak out of Athens with a close win. The UT run defense was mediocre at best last year, but you can blame part of that on the schedule -- teams like LSU, Alabama and Arkansas ran up big early leads on the Vols and then downshifted into run-heavy mode as they cruised to the finish line. Losing linemen Malik Jackson and Ben Martin hurts the Tennessee defense, but otherwise they return enough talent and experience to make life very difficult for Georgia if the Dawgs' offensive front hasn't managed to gel in the first month of the season. And while it would've been insane to think of the mighty Vols as a "trap game" 10 or even five years ago, the 2012 schedule slots them in between heated grudge matches against Vandy and South Carolina; if the Dawgs are looking ahead to the Columbia, through which the path to the SEC East title apparently runs these days, they could be vulnerable to handing Vince Dooley's boy an upset win.
For more on the Bulldogs be sure to check out Dawg Sports.
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Sept. 22
Coach: James Franklin, 6-7 in his debut season at Vanderbilt.
Last year: 6-7 (2-6 SEC).
Best win: The season finale, a 41-7 road shellacking of a Wake Forest team that went to a bowl.
Worst loss: A 27-21 overtime heartbreaker to a bad Tennessee squad they had every chance to beat.
Returning starters: 18 (nine offense, seven defense, two special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Rising, slightly. From a team that earned what was only Vandy's fifth bowl bid in program history and put up a decent fight in nearly every team it played, the Commodores return a ton of experienced talent. That bodes well for a defense that performed quite well for the most part in 2011. What's less certain is whether the Commodore offense can put up consistent production for the first time since Jay Cutler graduated six years ago. James Franklin was hired for his offensive prowess, so expectations will be high that he can get the 'Dores' offensive attack in gear.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): A defense that's still royally pissed about last year's game comes out with guns blazing and holds the 'Dores to single digits on the scoreboard. Let's face it, the Bulldog defense has double motivation to play hard against Vandy this season -- sure, Franklin's postgame dustup with Todd Grantham last season went viral in a hurry and provided the Dawgs with reams of bulletin-board material, but even if that little incident had never happened, the Bulldog D should have chips on their shoulders simply because they didn't play that well in Nashville last October (199 rushing yards at better than five yards per attempt, for starters). Everyone's talking up Georgia's defense as one of the very best in the country this season, and this should be a statement game for them. Not that that renders the offense an afterthought or anything, but if Aaron Murray can have the same kind of game he had against the Commodores last year (326 yards, three TDs and only one pick), Georgia will be in good shape.
Worst-case scenario: Vanderbilt's defense knocks the rebuilding Bulldog offensive line for a loop, stymies Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley, and upsets the Dawgs in Athens. Remember, Vandy's going to have chips on their shoulders about last year's game too, and whatever else you can say about Franklin, he's given the Commodores the kind of swagger few current SEC fans have seen in their lifetimes. Vandy beat Georgia in Athens six years ago, they came within a few plays of knocking off the Dawgs last year, and they'll ride into Athens in September fully believing they can win. Georgia's defense should be able to corral a Vanderbilt attack that's been inconsistent at best the last few years, but the pressure will be on the offense to minimize mistakes and put some points on the board early. If they can stun Vanderbilt with a couple quick TDs, they'll be in good shape, but a low-scoring defensive slugfest would play into the Commodores' hands in much the same way the 2006 game did.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC OWLS
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga., Sept. 15
Coach: Carl Pelini (first year as a college head coach).
Last year: 1-11 (0-8 Sun Belt).
Best win: 38-35 over sad-sack UAB (though you could make the case they actually played better in a closer-than-expected 30-14 loss at Auburn).
Worst loss: The season finale, a 26-0 home loss to UL-Monroe and an utterly inappropriate way to conclude the coaching career of the legendary Howard Schnellenberger.
Returning starters: 15 (six offense, eight defense, one special teams).
Stock watch for 2012: Steady, though it's not like they could get much worse. The defense should get a shot in the arm from the fiery new head coach, who helped resurrect a Nebraska defense that had completely wasted away under Bill Callahan. It's the offense, though, that needs the most help after finishing next-to-last in Division I-A in scoring and dead last in total yardage last season. And that offense is attempting to move to the spread, which makes their task doubly difficult. If Pelini can coax even three wins out of this team, it'd be seen as a sign that he's got the program moving in the right direction.
Best-case scenario (from the Dawgs' perspective): The offense breaks the half-century mark and the defense pitches a shutout, giving Georgia some momentum as it heads into a battle with Vanderbilt that's suddenly become plenty heated. Both of those goals are attainable -- Georgia's running game should be able to call its shot against a way-undersized D-line that's moving to a 4-3 alignment, while the Bulldog defense should have no trouble containing an Owl offense that's basically starting from square one. If all goes as planned, there won't be a single UGA first-stringer on the field five minutes into the third quarter.
Worst-case scenario: Weary from the previous week's road trip to Missouri, the Dawgs let FAU hang around well into the second half. Whether the Dawgs are riding high after a big SEC-opening win in Columbia or smarting from an upset loss, FAU qualifies as a classic "sandwich" game, considering that the following week's matchup with Vandy has somehow turned into an emotional grudge match. Georgia isn't above playing sloppy in these sorts of early-season bodybag games, so if the rebuilt offensive line falters or the short-handed secondary gives up some big plays to the Owls' QB (whoever that ends up being), this matchup could turn into something a little different than the layup Bulldog Nation likely expects.
The pundits say Georgia's been blessed with another clear path to the SEC East title, but that doesn't mean there won't be pitfalls along the way.
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