Of all the components in college football – playing and coaching, color and pageantry, Lee Corso and Old Lady Luck – the most important is a team’s schedule. How well you play tends to be a function of whom you’re playing, and when and where. With that in mind, we offer a detailed look at what’s ahead for Georgia and Georgia Tech.
The sexy game
For Georgia: At Clemson on Saturday. With ESPN’s “College Gameday” on hand, Death Valley denizens will be stoked by the time toe meets leather around 8 p.m. The game itself figures to last until midnight and could see 100 points scored.
For Tech: At Clemson on Nov. 14. Who knew that Pickens County, S.C., would stand as the new seat of sizzle? Yes, it’s another night game, this one on a Thursday, and if Tech holds up its end this could be a preview of the ACC championship.
The badly scheduled game
For Georgia: At Tennessee on Oct. 5. The Bulldogs will have played Clemson, South Carolina and LSU by the time they head to Neyland Stadium. And the Vols, who will already have lost to Oregon and Florida, will be starving to make a statement.
For Tech: At BYU on Oct. 12. Coming off a testing ACC run – North Carolina and Virginia Tech at home, then Miami away – the Jackets must fly to the Mountain Time Zone to face a team that plays superb defense and thrashed them last season.
The easier-than-it-looks game
For Georgia: LSU on Sept. 28. The Tigers saw 10 players leave early for the NFL, and the thought of the shaky Zach Mettenberger – once a Bulldog, you’ll recall – returning to a frothing Sanford Stadium should inspire no LSU optimism.
For Tech: Virginia Tech on Sept. 26. The Hokies were fortunate to qualify for a bowl last season. Three of their seven victories came in overtime. For more than a decade, Frank Beamer did more with less. He’s about to do less with less.
The trap game
For Georgia: At Vanderbilt on Oct. 19. James Franklin made a mission statement of his team’s 2011 loss to the Bulldogs. Last year Vandy came to Athens and lost 48-3. The Commodores will remember, and Georgia could be looking ahead to Florida.
For Tech: At Virginia on Oct. 26. This arrives at an odd moment — between home ACC dates with Syracuse and Pittsburgh that won’t feel much like ACC dates. This could also be a last stand for Mike London, whose Cavaliers upset an unbeaten Tech team in 2011.
The tough-to-figure game
For Georgia: Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 2. Richt had a losing record against three Florida coaches – Steve Spurrier (0-1), Ron Zook (1-2) and Urban Meyer (1-5) – but is 2-0 against Will Muschamp. Is a new Cocktail Party paradigm at hand?
For Tech: North Carolina on Sept. 21. Many observers love what Larry Fedora is doing with the Tar Heels. Paul Johnson and his Jackets mightn’t be so impressed. They scored 68 points on Carolina in Chapel Hill. What was that about?
The key stretch of games
For Georgia: Aug. 31 through Sept. 28. If the Bulldogs beat Clemson, South Carolina and LSU, they’ll stamp themselves as a real threat to Alabama. Lose only to Clemson and they’ll still be in great shape. Go 0-3 and it might be, “Hello, Music City Bowl.”
For Tech: Sept. 21 through Oct. 5. The Jackets were picked by the ACC media to finish fourth in the Coastal Division. Over 15 days, they’ll play the teams ranked above them: North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami. Go 2-1 and they’ll stand a real chance.
The big game
For Georgia: South Carolina on Sept. 7. It’s possible to lose this game and still win the SEC East outright. The Bulldogs proved as much in each of the past two seasons. But those schedules were skewed: In 2010 the Gamecocks had to play Arkansas and Georgia didn’t; in 2011 they had to play LSU and Georgia didn’t. This time the Bulldogs face the tougher out-of-division game (with LSU), and the Gamecocks also get to face Florida in Columbia. It will be difficult for Georgia to lose again to South Carolina and expect to play for the SEC championship.
For Tech: Georgia on Nov. 30. After his Jackets were upset by Georgia in 2009, Johnson famously harrumphed that his team, which was bound for the ACC title game, had “bigger fish to fry.” Indeed, a case can be made that no non-conference game should be the biggest on any team’s schedule. Still, Tech hasn’t beaten Georgia since 2008, and the aggregate score of the past two games was 73-27. And it must be said that the part sung most loudly in every rendition of “Ramblin’ Wreck” goes, “To heck with Georgia!” Or something like that.