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Monday, June 24, 2013
Roundtable: Most intriguing game in '13

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s difficult first month on the schedule is the talk of the Bulldogs’ offseason, with games against Clemson, South Carolina and LSU likely to determine the trajectory of the season before Georgia even makes it to October.

That brings us to this week’s DawgNation roundtable question: Which game on Georgia's 2013 schedule is most intriguing and why?

Radi Nabulsi: For me, it has to be the Florida game. Don’t get me wrong, the Clemson battle will be fascinating to see if the new Bulldogs defense can withstand a scoring juggernaut. The subsequent game against South Carolina could decide the SEC East race. Even the LSU game should be riveting as we see two former teammates go head to head in Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger. Plus we will see which team can handle losing more than a half-dozen players to the NFL.

Jadeveon Clowney
Ending a three-game losing streak against South Carolina is the most important task the Bulldogs have this season.
Still, the Florida game is the benchmark for every season. Georgia has finally won back-to-back games against the Gators after not having done so for 20-plus years. The two biggest items missing from Mark Richt’s tenure in Athens are a national title and an acceptable record against Florida. Going 4-8 in that game has lost Richt some fans and hurt his reputation as a coach. But a win this season would make the series even going back to 2004. Stats like that are important for the fanbase, but what it would really do is to exorcise the notion that Georgia just cannot win that game.

The Bulldogs get little credit nationally since no matter how well they do before that game, they often leave Jacksonville trailing the Gators in the polls and the standings. A third win in a row would go a long way on the recruiting trail and in Richt’s legacy. More importantly, I think that is the game that will determine who wins the SEC East. A third trip to Atlanta could be the one that puts the Bulldogs into a national title game. A loss would feel like business as usual.

Kipp Adams: While the season opener versus Clemson will have all the flash that a battle between two Top-10 programs with Heisman hopefuls and prolific offenses deserves, in the end it is still a non-conference matchup. The annual regular-season goal for Mark Richt during his tenure at Georgia has been to earn a berth in the SEC championship game, which he has done five times in 12 seasons. This year the expectations in Athens will be to get there again, and win it.

Aaron Murray, entering his fourth year as the starting quarterback, is set to rewrite many Georgia and SEC records this fall. But one thing he has been unable to do thus far is defeat South Carolina. Steve Spurrier will have his Gamecocks ready to play Sept. 7 when they arrive at Sanford Stadium, and the head ball coach is hoping to reel off his fourth straight win against Georgia, something South Carolina has never done since the two schools started playing in 1894. One question Georgia faces is how it will stop Jadeveon Clowney, a potential Heisman candidate and first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft. In two games against Georgia, Clowney has six tackles, four tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. More importantly, he has two wins.

While the winner of this game is the likely favorite to win the SEC East, Georgia has overcome losses against South Carolina the last two seasons en route to playing in Atlanta. The loser of this season's game might not be so lucky.

David Ching: It’s South Carolina for me, too. Tailback Marcus Lattimore and Clowney were the driving forces behind the Gamecocks’ wins over the last three years. With Lattimore now in the NFL, South Carolina no longer has that dynamic one-two punch. It will be interesting to see whether the Gamecocks’ offense can be anywhere near as effective against Georgia with Mike Davis or Brandon Wilds toting the rock instead of Lattimore, who in my opinion was college football’s best running back before losing portions of the last two seasons to injury.

The Clemson and LSU games might be awfully difficult for Georgia, but the most intriguing game for me is the one that’s most important for Georgia to win in order to return to Atlanta. I believe South Carolina will be the better than Florida, so I’m most intrigued by what Georgia can do against the Gamecocks on Sept. 7.

We also posed the question to the posters on our message board, The Pound. Here is a sampling of their responses:

* themarkcoys: “I'll go with Vanderbilt. I know it’s a new season, but UGA knows what to expect from just about everyone else on the schedule. Vanderbilt is landing some solid players, [James] Franklin is a good coach and the last time UGA went to Nashville, we just about saw a WWE cage fight. “

* jeverett10: “It’s got to be South Carolina, I mean Clemson is intriguing and all, but if we beat USC, it could propel us for the rest of the SEC schedule. We lose and things could get pretty shaky before September is up.”

* Perry.James: “If we are saying intriguing -- Clemson. Old rivalry renewed. Two potential NC contenders. Lots and lots of storylines. Young D vs. explosive offense. That’s ‘intriguing’ most to me. Now -- most IMPORTANT -- got to be South Carolina. If we lose to LSU AND Clemson, our natty chances are over. Let's say we go 2-1, and one of those two wins isn't South Carolina, everything could be out the window. Got to win the division, and that means beating S.C.”

* darryl8223: “I will give you some variety and say LSU. They got a lot of their offense back, but had even more losses on the defensive side of the ball than UGA. ... If the key word is ‘intriguing’ I will go with LSU. UGA had the Fighting Tigers beaten when they last visited, only to have the game stolen by an overzealous official who called an unsportsmanlike on A.J. [Green, late in a 20-13 loss in 2009].”