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Battling Complacency: Georgia’s 2023 Schedule

Battling Complacency: Georgia's 2023 Schedule

Better never rests. Those were the words Kirby Smart used at SEC Media Days to describe the mindset of his Georgia football team heading into the 2023 season. Expectations are high for the 2023 season in Athens. Georgia is the two-time defending national champion and was undefeated in SEC play last year. Vegas has the Dawg’s win total at 11.5, and the media anointed them as the favorite to win the East and the SEC this season. Georgia collected 181 of the 291 votes to win the conference. Only nine of the 31 teams predicted to be the champion before the season at SEC Media Days went on to win the SEC Championship Game. No team has won three national championships since Minnesota in the 1930s. While history may not be on its side, Georiga’s 2023 schedule needs more punch.

Georgia’s strength of schedule ranks just 63rd in the nation. Of the four D1 schools in Georgia, the Dawgs have the third most challenging schedule behind Georgia State (35) and Georgia Tech (37). With so many preseason accolades, complacency may be Georgia’s most challenging opponent this season. Here are four regular season games, two home and two away, that could hurt Georgia’s chances at repeating as SEC Champion or playing for another national championship.

Battling Complacency: Georgia’s 2023 Schedule

South Carolina Gamecocks

🗓️ September 19th
📍 Between the Hedges

Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks have had difficulty competing with Georgia during his first two years in Columbia. South Carolina has been outscored by an average of 44-10 in the two games. After the loss in 2021, Beamer had a memorable take on the talent gap between the two teams. “They’re big, physical, and fast. Other than that, they’re freakin’ good. That’s why they’ve got the top defense in the country. There wasn’t some magical scheme they came out with tonight. They’ve got 5-star recruits everywhere, and they play physical.” While the talent gap still exists, South Carolina has shown steady improvement under Beamer.

Last year they closed the regular season by knocking off Tennessee and Clemson to end the season.  South Carolina has fought and knocked off a more talented Georgia team. In 2019, the Gamecocks knocked off third-ranked Georgia 20-17 in double overtime.

Auburn Tigers

🗓️ September 30th
📍 Jordan Hare Stadium

Georgia has won 15 of the last 18 meetings in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Smart helped make quick work of Bryan Harsin’s tumultuous tenure on The Plains by outscoring the Tigers 38-10. Hugh Freeze steps into Harsin’s shoes to bring respectability and championships back to Auburn. Freeze has an innovative offense and helped lead his former team Ole Miss to two upset wins over Smart when he was defensive coordinator at Alabama. Jordan Hare can be a louder and more challenging environment for visiting team.  This game will likely be the 3:30 CBS game or on primetime and will be an early test for Carson Beck or Brock Vandagriff. Auburn may also pull off a few tricks as they did with the Prayer at Jordan Hare in 2013.

Ole Miss Rebels

🗓️ November 11th
📍 Between the Hedges

Get your popcorn ready as Lane Kiffin brings his Rebels to Sanford Stadium in early November. This game falls in the middle of a tough SEC stretch that sees Georgia face Florida and Missouri before Ole Miss and might catch Georgia looking ahead to Tennessee the following week. Kiffin is a keen offensive mind and can maximize his talent’s potential. His use of tempo and analytics has him challenging opposing defenses by avoiding punting and using all four downs to gain first downs. Kiffin also has brought in Pete Golding to stabilize the Rebel defense.

Tennessee Volunteers 

🗓️ November 18th
📍 Neyland Stadium

This should be the top game in the SEC East and will make its case in the SEC. Josh Heupel looks to build on an 11-2 year two season in Knoxville. The Vols had two big upsets in 2o22 knocking off LSU on the road and taking down Nick Saban and the Tide at home in Neyland on a last-second field goal. The Vols must find a running game against Georiga and convert third downs to succeed. These two factors have been missing and have made the last two years largely non-competitive. Another electric and rocking crowd environment could also factor in with Georgia’s young quarterbacks.

SEC Championship Game

🗓️ December 2nd
📍 Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA

Georgia’s played in five SEC Championship games in Smart’s seven seasons in Athens. In 2017 and 2021, Georgia lost the SEC Championship game twice and still made the College Football Playoff—the margins for error to look to be smaller in 2023. The Big Ten could again have two representatives as Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State vy for Midwest supremacy. USC and Washington look to be primed to represent the Pac-12 in its final year of existence. Clemson and Florida State will return the ACC to the playoff after being shut out the last two years, and Texas and the Big 12 will look to build on TCU’s historic 2022 run.

Winning the SEC Championship secures Georgia’s place in the College Football Playoff. Lose, and the chances are significantly reduced. LSU seems primed to take another step forward in Brian Kelly’s second year in Baton Rouge and Saban and the Tide are primed to show David Pollock and college football that they still need to be finished.

This is where Smart and his staff will prove valuable. They understand the challenges before them and their team. That’s why they looked to the New Zealand All Black’s motto of Better Never Rests for the 2023 season. Smart and his team are shutting out the outside noise and looking inward. “What drives us for this season is intrinsic motivation. We won’t be controlled by outside narratives, what people say, and who will be the quarterback. He went on. “The intrinsic motivation comes from within and what we want to do. This team is still defining itself.” Georgia fans will look for that intrinsic motivation to be fully displayed throughout Georiga’s 2023 season.

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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