When we discussed potential records that Georgia could break this year on Thursday, I let it slip in the last of six projections that I think Georgia will go 12-0 during the regular season. That’s a bold prediction, something they’ve never done since going to a 12-game regular-season schedule in 2002.
Bold, yes, but certainly not out of the question, and there are numbers to back that up. ESPN’s FPI Index might be computer mumbo-jumbo for some people, but there’s rhyme to their reasoning. They have Georgia as a favorite in all 12 games, with nary a single one even close to a 50/50 toss-up.
But this, of course, is the SEC and running the table is never easy. Shoot, Alabama has won five national championships in nine years under Nick Saban, and only in the first title run (2009) did the Crimson Tide go undefeated. Alabama won titles in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2017 with regular-season losses to LSU (2011), Texas A&M (2012), Ole Miss (2015) and Auburn (2017). (Alabama also had undefeated regular seasons in 2008 and 2016.)
With that said, even though Georgia should win all 12 and will be favored in each, here are the four games that provide the biggest concern:
1. Auburn at Georgia, Nov. 10
The shortest computer odds are in this late-season showdown in Athens, where the FPI is 66.7 percent in Georgia’s favor. To me, that’s a little high because this should be a nail-biter. We already know Auburn can beat Georgia because the Tigers did it last year during the regular season.
Sure, Georgia got them back in the SEC Championship Game, but every Auburn fan from Fairhope to Huntsville will tell you they were too banged up in the title game to give the Bulldogs a fair shot. That gauntlet of No. 1 Georgia, No. 1 Alabama and Georgia again over a four-week period was just too much.
The Tigers have a talented veteran quarterback in Jarrett Stidham and one of the best defensive fronts in college football. That alone gives them a chance to win, even on the road.
2. Georgia at South Carolina, Sept. 8
FPI gives the Bulldogs a 79.1 percent likelihood of winning. What makes this scary, though, is that it’s the first SEC game of the year, and it’s on the road in a hostile environment where the fan base simply despises the Bulldogs. South Carolina keeps getting better every year under Will Muschamp, and they will be a formidable early-September foe.
The Gamecocks also have an experienced quarterback in Jake Bentley. He has been through a season-plus of SEC rigors, and he knows what it takes to win. He might not be the best quarterback in the SEC, but he can get things done. This is one tough SEC opener.
3. Georgia vs. Florida, Oct. 27 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
FPI gives the Dawgs a 78.7 percent edge. To me, there’s a big gap in talent levels between these two teams, especially at some critical positions. But it’s Florida-Georgia, and cocktails and all that, so you never know what might happen.
New Florida coach Dan Mullen knows how to get things done and he’s great at game-planning. You know he’s going to give Georgia his best shot. There have been many times where these two teams have gotten together in Jax and the favored Bulldogs got beat.
4. Georgia at Missouri, Sept. 22
FPI clearly favors Georgia, at 78.3 percent. I went back and forth between this game and the LSU showdown in Baton Rouge (Oct. 13), but I just don’t like that LSU offense at all. I’ve talked about quarterbacks in this first three games here, and Missouri’s Drew Lock is better than all of them.
What if Georgia gets in a shootout with him? He’s capable of throwing for 300-plus yards and three or four touchdowns against anyone, including the Bulldogs, and again, it’s another SEC road game. This is definitely one to pay attention to.