The Georgia Bulldogs schedule eases up after the midpoint of the season, as the final six games include just one away game (at Kentucky). However, the annual meetings with Florida and Auburn pose an interesting challenge regardless of the projected winner.
Sitting at 5-1 (as predicted here in part one), Georgia will likely be sitting in – or just outside of – the Top Ten. Following a four-game stretch to start SEC play, the Bulldogs will likely go through some visible growing pains during this transition year.
Georgia may thrive knowing it is not the presumptive favorite to win the SEC East crown, and perhaps that is just what head coach Kirby Smart and his team need to surprise everyone in 2016.
Here’s an analysis of the second half of the season:
2016 GEORGIA BULLDOGS SCHEDULE ANALYSIS: GAMES 7-12
October 15 – vs. Vanderbilt (Homecoming), Time TBD, Network TBD
The Dawgs have won 19 of the last 21 meetings with Vanderbilt, and there is no indication the Commodores will change that script in 2016. Picked to finish last in the SEC East by the media, Vandy just does not have the firepower necessary to beat Georgia at Sanford Stadium. Couple that with the fact that this is Smart’s first Homecoming in Athens as the head coach. Though Vandy head coach Derek Mason will have his team ready to compete, do not expect Georgia to fall heading into a bye week.
Prediction: Georgia 35-10
Record: 6-1 (4-1 in SEC)
October 29 – vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fl.), 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Ah, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party! The annual pilgrimage of the Bulldog and Gator faithful to Jacksonville is one of the most anticipated events in college football. Florida head coach Jim McElwain won handily in his first game against the Bulldogs last season, as Georgia decided to give backup quarterback Faton Bauta a chance following a lackluster win for Greyson Lambert against Missouri the previous week. For Smart, this game will be circled early, as he looks for his first taste of the glory that accompanies a win over the rival Gators.
Florida has some real questions at quarterback, but may have some answers this late in the season. The Gators defense should be just as good (or better) than last year’s unit. With both teams coming off a bye week, neither team will gain a significant edge over the other. What this game comes down to is the play of Georgia’s quarterbacks – most notably freshman Jacob Eason. Most people expect him to be the full-time starter at some point in the year, and if he is the guy, will he be able to handle the pressure of the rivalry game?
Georgia has lost two in a row in the series, and the Bulldogs will suffer a third straight defeat in a close loss.
Prediction: Florida 27-24
Record: 6-2 (4-2 in SEC)
November 5 – at Kentucky, Time TBD, Network TBD
The Kentucky Wildcats last two seasons were almost identical. In 2014, the Wildcats started 5-1, but finished 0-6 after the promising start. Last year, Kentucky started 4-1, but finished 1-5. See a pattern? The Wildcats have enough talent to challenge its SEC East opponents, but not actually win most games in the SEC portion of the schedule.
Head coach Mark Stoops is ready for that to change. This season, Kentucky will be starting a new quarterback in Drew Barker following the departure of Patrick Towles (who Georgia intercepted twice in last season’s win), but most of the offense returns under new offensive coordinator Eddie Gan. Where the Wildcats should be concerned is the attrition on defense following the departure of five starters.
Like last season, Kentucky will make some noise in the SEC, keep some games close, and even win some games it should lose, but following a potential loss to Florida, the Bulldogs will be angry and looking to get back on track, which should equate to a win over the Wildcats.
Prediction: Georgia 28-17
Record: 7-2 (5-2 in SEC)
November 12 – vs. Auburn, Time TBD, Network TBD
What happened to that vaunted Auburn offense? Just a few years ago, the Tigers were clicking on all cylinders. The 2016 Auburn offense will depend on what it gets from the quarterback position (similar to Georgia and Florida), but also how its seemingly shallow pool of running backs perform. Where Auburn will excel: on defense. Former LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele takes over for Will Muschamp and he will have a plethora of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Auburn kept it close against Georgia last year as both teams struggled to move the ball on offense, but three turnovers doomed the Tigers at home. This year, Georgia will have a slight edge by virtue of home-field advantage, but expect this to be a low-scoring, close installment in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry (which Georgia leads 56-55-8).
Prediction: Georgia 17-14
Record: 8-2 (6-2 in SEC)
November 19 – vs. Louisiana Lafayette, Time TBD, Network TBD
After finishing its SEC schedule, Georgia will have a bit of a reprieve before the final game against in-state rival Georgia Tech. Louisiana Lafayette has faced Georgia once, losing 55-7 in 2010, and do not expect this game to be any different. Yes, the Ragin’ Cajuns put up a good fight against Kentucky to start last season, at this point in the season, Georgia will be fully aware of the consequences of slipping up in a game it will likely be favored by 30 or more points.
Prediction: Georgia 49-14
Record: 9-2 (6-2 in SEC)
November 26 – vs. Georgia Tech, Time TBD, Network TBD
Georgia Tech truly fell of the track in 2015, finishing 3-9 following a breakout 2014 season which ended in an Orange Bowl win and near victory in the ACC Championship Game. Aside from a miraculous win over the Florida State Seminoles, the Yellow Jackets would like to forget 2015 ever happened.
Quarterback Justin Thomas returns for his third season, and the running back corps will be healthier, but the offense will depend on the play of the offensive line. The triple-option attack is only as dominant as the offensive line. Georgia has won 13 of the last 15 meetings against Georgia Tech, and it’s a given that Smart will want to start his tenure off with a resounding victory over an in-state rival. At some point, the Yellow Jackets may threaten the Bulldogs, but not this year.
Prediction: Georgia 24-14
Record: 10-2 (6-2 in SEC)
Georgia’s 2016 schedule is interesting due to the fact that it could truly go a variety of directions. No game on the schedule is absolutely unwinnable; however, there are some games that could go either way. The Bulldogs will likely miss out on the SEC Championship Game with two (or perhaps three) SEC losses, but fans will likely be excited about the years to come under Smart with Eason under center.