What Georgia's reworked 2020 SEC schedule means for its Playoff chances
With the pandemic forcing the SEC to shift to a 10-game, conference-only slate for 2020, Georgia’s schedule was shaken up.
That meant that instead of the regular 2 cross-divisional teams this year (Alabama and its permanent SEC West opponent, Auburn), Georgia would face 4. The good news? Dawgs fans shouldn’t feel let down by the league after adding Arkansas and Mississippi State.
It’s about as friendly as possible for any number of reasons.
The Razorbacks — set to host Georgia for the first time since 2014 — find themselves in a massive rebuild. Former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman will need a few years to wash away the remains of the failed Chad Morris era, but facing his former boss will make for a nice storyline before an expected Georgia win. The Dawgs will get another look at Feleipe Franks, too, who struggled in 2 losses to the Dawgs as Florida’s quarterback. The grad transfer is expected to win Arkansas’ starting QB job.
What of Mississippi State, now set to pay a visit to Sanford Stadium? I’d like to say that game would be a win for Georgia, too.
But with the weird, wacky offensive guru in Mike Leach in charge, could we be in store for a weird, wacky contest between the hedges? Could the Stanford grad transfer, K.J. Costello, become the latest quarterback to blossom in Leach’s Air Raid system? Will a revamped defensive line be able to hold Kylin Hill in check? With Leach stepping in for the deposed Joe Moorhead, don’t mark this down as a sure win just yet.
Overall? When looking at the Georgia schedule from start to finish, the games that could shape Georgia’s College Football Playoff hopes remain Alabama (in Tuscaloosa) and the annual trip to Jacksonville to face Florida.
The usual, obligatory stat about Nick Saban never losing to a former assistant belongs here, but Kirby Smart, 0-2 against the Crimson Tide head man, has a chance to be the first to do it this season. And, if order is restored in a now Joe Burrow-less SEC West and things hold to form in the East, he might have 2 chances. But this still could very well be a loss that could put some pressure on the Dawgs to avoid dropping 2 games in-conference and seeing their championship hopes evaporate.
Florida’s hopes of toppling Georgia and ending the Bulldogs’ 3-game winning streak in the series rests partially on the arm of Kyle Trask. Defensively, the Dawgs haven’t been able to establish a consistent, effective pass rush, so if Trask (who threw just 7 interceptions in 354 pass attempts in 2019) is given the time and opportunity to make plays, it might be a long day for the secondary. On top of that, a bevy of talented defenders, including Shawn Davis, Kaiir Elam and Marco Wilson in the backfield, could be a test for Georgia’s receiving corps and whoever wins the starting QB job.
Here’s 1 other game that might hold some weight when it comes to Georgia’s Playoff chances: Auburn.
Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix is a media favorite to take a big next step in his development, and that, along with a defense led by a pair of seniors in lineman Big Kat Bryant and run-stopping linebacker K.J. Britt, might equal a game that’s too close for comfort. For Auburn, that game might be a key to it unlocking its own path to the Playoff, not to mention its regular gauntlet of Alabama and LSU.
To sum it up, if you’re a Georgia fan, you’ll come away knowing that with the 2 new additions in Arkansas and Mississippi State, things don’t become more difficult. But while it might largely be business as usual, the potential of things going belly-side-up remains.
But at least Georgia isn’t stuck with Missouri’s schedule.