Georgia Football: Analysis of Dawgs' Rotating SEC Opposition for Next 5 Years
On Monday, the Southeastern Conference released a 12-year rotation of non-division football opponents through the 2025 season.
Obviously, these games will not conflict with traditional in-division matchups, nor do they replace permanent cross-divisional rivalries. So the Georgia Bulldogs will continue to play SEC East foes per tradition, and the Dawgs will also maintain their annual rivalry with the Auburn Tigers. This week's announcement, however, solidifies Georgia's eighth conference game each year.
Here is a look at each of Georgia's next five rotating SEC opponents.
2014: Arkansas Razorbacks
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
Series Standing: Georgia is 9-4 all-time against Arkansas.
Last Meeting: The Bulldogs suffered a 31-24 loss to Arkansas on September 18, 2010, in Athens, Georgia.
Arkansas struggled mightily in 2013. After starting 3-0 with new head coach Bret Bielema, the Razorbacks lost each of their final nine games and failed to register a single conference win.
Obviously, the hope—if not the assumption—for Arkansas fans is that Bielema's crew can reverse a downward spiral that began two years ago with Bobby Petrino's unfortunate motorcycle accident and the drama tied thereto.
To get things back on track, the Hogs will rely heavily on a stout running game led by Alex Collins (1,026 rushing yards in 2013) and Jonathan Williams (900 yards in 2013). After all, Brandon Allen, the returning starter at quarterback, completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes last season.
Fortunately for Georgia, the strength of this Arkansas offense directly aligns with the strength of Georgia's defense. The front seven for the Dawgs should be fierce in 2014 thanks to a host of returning starters, most of whom played well last year. If Georgia can control Arkansas' ground attack, there's reason to expect Georgia's offense to roll and create a comfortable lead on October 18.
2015: Alabama Crimson Tide
Location: Athens, Georgia
Series Standing: Georgia is 25-37-4 all-time against Alabama.
Last Meeting: The Bulldogs lost the 2012 SEC Championship Game in heartbreaking fashion.
Payback would be doubly sweet for the Bulldogs in this game, as a victory over the Crimson Tide would begin to make up for an embarrassing 2008 home loss to Alabama and a frustrating setback in Atlanta in 2012.
That being said, there are far too many variables at play to predict a victory for the Dawgs. If a host of offensive weapons, including Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell and Keith Marshall, returned for senior seasons in 2015, there would be cause for optimism in this matchup. But as it stands now, that possibility seems unlikely.
Accordingly, it's hard to know what to expect from Georgia's offense and its new quarterback in 2015—whether it's Faton Bauta, Brice Ramsey or Jacob Park.
Defensively, Georgia will be without leading tacklers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, three-year starter Damian Swann and a number of pass-rushers in 2015.
To be fair, an equally high rate of attrition can be expected of Alabama's roster, but the Crimson Tide have a better track record of replacing departures as of late. Alabama was won 10 or more games in each of the past six seasons. Georgia has posted two eight-win seasons and one six-win season over that same time frame.
2016: Ole Miss Rebels
Location Oxford, Mississippi
Series Standing: Georgia leads the series against Ole Miss 32-12-1.
Last Meeting: Georgia defeated Ole Miss 37-10 at home in November 2012.
It's hard to project what either of these two teams will look like in 2016, but there is one noticeable trend to keep an eye on: Ole Miss recruiting.
Since Hugh Freeze arrived in Oxford, the Rebels have attracted an impressive load of talent. Most notably, each of Freeze's last two recruiting classes have ranked in the nation's top 15, according to 247Sports. If that level of recruiting success becomes habitual, the Rebels will be able to compete with any team in the country—and Georgia will be no exception.
If recruiting battles between the Bulldogs and Rebels continue to heat up, this game could take on new meaning. Earlier this week, Kendarius Webster (an Ole Miss signee) told Michael Carvell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Freeze had to reach out to Mark Richt regarding a recruiting matter. "I'm not going to say Coach Freeze got mad," Webster explained, "but they had a conversation."
2017: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Location: Athens, Georgia
Series Standing: Georgia leads the series with 17 wins and six losses.
Last Meeting: Georgia defeated Mississippi State 24-10 at home in 2011.
For whatever reason, the most recent games in this series have been fairly low-scoring. Neither team has managed to score more than 27 points in any of the past four matchups. That trend may or may not continue in 2017, but hopefully that year's edition of Bulldogs vs. Bulldogs brings entertainment for fans.
One storyline to keep an eye on is Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. A few down years could result in his firing prior to this game, but (equally likely) a few strong years could lead to him moving to a bigger-name program. Right now, his job is secure, but 2017 would (in theory) be his ninth season in Starkville. That seems like an awful long time.
2018: LSU Tigers
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Series Standing: Georgia has a 13-16-1 all-time record against the Tigers.
Last Meeting: The Dawgs defeated LSU at home in a barn-burner in 2013.
Although this game is more than four years away, it's hard to not be excited about this matchup given both teams' strong histories and the thrill of last year's game between the Dawgs and the Tigers.
If nothing else, this game gives Georgia fans an excuse to head to the bayou and one of the most raucous stadiums in all of college football.