Over the next several weeks, I will be previewing the 2012 Georgia football schedule as college football is on the fast track to kicking off the regular season. This three part series begins with the focus on the Dawgs’ first four games of the 2012 campaign. The highlight of the opening month will likely be a showdown in the “Show Me State” for Georgia’s Southeastern Conference opener against Missouri on September 8.
Before the Bulldogs come face to face with the Tigers, they begin the year at home against Buffalo. On paper, this is certainly a tune up game but it will be good for the Dawgs to get some of their parts in place before hitting the road in week two. Georgia would be well served to treat the season opener against the Bulls as a dress rehearsal. Bulldog Nation can get an early glimpse of who will step up up at the running back position, and the coaches can decide which side of the ball Malcolm Mitchell can contribute the most. Somewhere in the not too distant past, a Michigan fan had a similar train of thought going into the Appalachian State game in 2007. Remember how well that turned out?
Catastrophic possibilities aside, I will assume that Georgia wins the first game, and begins the year 1-0. Missouri will be chomping at the bit to take a bite out of Bulldog Nation, as suspension and depth issues have left the Bulldogs ripe for the picking early in the year. By the time the final whistle blows, this game will come down to three key factors. First, quarterback Aaron Murray must exercise his turnover demons from a year ago and play a polished game in a hostile environment. Georgia may have to outscore Missouri, and that task will ultimately fall on the shoulders of the signal caller. Second, Georgia must make a few key stops on defense to keep the Tigers at bay. The more out of control the game gets on the scoreboard, the more confident Missouri becomes.
The final key factor in taming the Missouri Tigers stands on its own as a key element for the entirety of 2012 and beyond. Georgia must clean up the special teams woes that haunted them during key portions of last season. The Bulldogs can not afford to give Missouri good field position or quick scores on special teams. To borrow a phrase from the legendary Larry Munson, the Bulldogs must hunker down and play hard nosed football to win this all-important road game that will define the first half of the 2012 season. My gut says that Georgia wins by ten on the road in a game that is tight all the way through.
Georgia returns to Athens 2-0 and confident after passing a big road test. Florida Atlantic comes to town the next week hoping to catch a napping Bulldog. Unfortunately for the Owls, it will be a long night as Bulldog Nation rolls to win number three in a row. Bulldog Nation welcomes the Vanderbilt Commodores between the hedges for the fourth game of the year.
After the punt block that caused a moment of sheer panic throughout the entire Georgia program, the Dawgs will not look past Vanderbilt this season. Even so, Jordan Rodgers and company will be looking to make a loud statement early in SEC play. Vanderbilt will put up a fight, but Georgia is too talented to drop one at home. Projected record thus far: 4-0.
In part two, I will peer into my imaginary crystal ball once again as Georgia looks to devour the meat of their Southeastern Conference schedule.