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Monday, June 24, 2013
Ranking Georgia's toughest games of 2013

By David Ching

It’s Rankings Week at DawgNation. Each day this week, we’ll rank some aspect of Georgia’s football program and the teams and players the Bulldogs will face in the 2013 season. Today we’re ranking the Bulldogs schedule in terms of difficulty and importance. On Tuesday we’ll rank the top 10 offensive players Georgia will face in the fall.

1. Nov. 2 vs. Florida (Jacksonville, Fla.): We are not yet to the point that Florida can leave its traditional spot atop Georgia’s list of must-win games. Yes, Georgia has beaten the Gators in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1980s, but all of that momentum would be erased by one flat effort in Jacksonville. This figures to once again be one of the season’s most important SEC East games.

2. Sept. 7 vs. South Carolina: Georgia once dominated this series, but South Carolina has won four of the last six against the Bulldogs, including the last three. Without question, the Florida and South Carolina games are the most important dates on Georgia’s schedule. If Georgia wins them both, the Bulldogs will play for the SEC title for a third consecutive season.

3. Sept. 28 vs. LSU: LSU might be the best team on Georgia’s schedule, but the non-division game against the SEC West power does not carry the same weight as the matchups with Florida and South Carolina. As the last game in a demanding first month of the season, it will be interesting to see whether Georgia can handle LSU’s physicality on Sept. 28.

4. Aug. 31 at Clemson: The opener is certainly a daunting challenge -- taking a rebuilt defense to Death Valley to face a talented offense before a national television audience. Clemson has its own rebuilding to do, however, having lost 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington, 1,400-yard receiver DeAndre Hopkins and several key players from a defense that was fairly average last year. This is a big game from a national perspective, but the Bulldogs have bigger fish to fry in terms of reaching their conference goals.

5. Oct. 12 vs. Missouri: The 2012 Tigers didn’t have the depth necessary to handle the SEC’s physicality over the course of a full season, but they gave Georgia all it could handle before Jarvis Jones put them away in the fourth quarter. Mizzou has great skill talent on offense. If it has improved along the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs can’t afford to bring less than their best to this one.

6. Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt: Georgia’s trips to Nashville in odd-numbered years have become regular trap games with the Bulldogs barely surviving Commodorew upset bids in 2007 and 2011. Those Vandy teams weren’t as good as the one that won nine games last season, either, so the Bulldogs could have a tough time on their hands in the Music City on Oct. 19.

7. Oct. 5 at Tennessee: Just as Georgia exits its grueling September schedule, it takes an Oct. 5 trip to Knoxville -- the site of two of the most humiliating defeats of Mark Richt’s UGA tenure (2007 and 2009). First-year coach Butch Jones’ Vols are a bit of a wild card this year, but it’s probably at least a year before they can rebuild the talent base enough to contend.

8. Nov. 16 at Auburn: Following last season’s historic implosion, it’s hard to know what to make of this Auburn team under a new coaching staff. Georgia has thrashed its oldest rival 83-7 over the last two seasons, so the Tigers will be hungry to reverse that trend. But they might not have the talent to pull off the upset this year, particularly without an established quarterback running Gus Malzahn’s uptempo offense.

9. Nov. 30 at Georgia Tech: Let’s fast it, this rivalry hasn’t even been competitive over the last two seasons -- and it’s not going to be until Georgia Tech starts recruiting more successfully. Sure, Paul  Johnson’s offense can make things interesting for a while, but once Georgia’s potent offense builds a double-digit lead … game over.

10. Nov. 23 vs. Kentucky: New coach Mark Stoops is trying to generate some enthusiasm about football in Lexington, which is no easy task in a hoops-crazy state. But the Wildcats will be another wild card in the division this fall with a new coaching staff and revamped offense that could give opposing offenses some trouble.

11. Sept. 21 vs. North Texas: Georgia will win this first opportunity to catch its breath in an otherwise grueling first month of the season. North Texas is not a horrible team -- it’s probably better than most of the nonconference tomato cans Georgia played in 2012 -- but it doesn’t have anything close to the talent required to leave Athens with a win.

12. Nov. 9 vs. Appalachian State: As Michigan fans can attest, Appalachian State is not your typical FCS cupcake program. It’s a game Georgia can’t overlook entirely, and considering that it’s situation between contests against Florida and Auburn, the Bulldogs have every reason to fall into that trap. Nonetheless, it’s a game that Georgia should win fairly easily.