- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The SEC office released the conference’s 2013 football schedule Thursday afternoon, and while it is only a one-year setup -- the league hopes to develop a long-term scheduling system for 2014 and beyond -- it does address one of Bulldogs fans’ biggest gripes.
Every other season since 1996, Georgia has played Tennessee and Vanderbilt on consecutive weekends, playing both games in Athens one year and making trips to Knoxville and Nashville on back-to-back weekends the next season. In 2013, the midseason trips to Tennessee are broken up by an Oct. 12 home game against Missouri.
Perhaps the two most-discussed facets of the schedule will be how a scheduling quirk will bring the Bulldogs back to Auburn next year for back-to-back seasons, and that the South Carolina game, which before this season had been Georgia’s SEC opener every season since 1992, moves back to the front of the schedule.
"The 2013 schedule will obviously be very challenging,” UGA athletic director Greg McGarity said in a university release. “Our number one priority throughout this process was to protect our long-standing rivalry game against Auburn, and in order to keep this series intact, it necessitated a return to Auburn in 2013. We will start working on the 2014 rotating SEC schedule this Spring, and we can confirm that Auburn will be returning to Athens in 2014."
Let’s dig into some of the finer points of the Bulldogs’ new league slate:
1. Return to Auburn
Georgia plays at Auburn on Nov. 10 this season and will return to the Plains again next season as one of three repeat games in the league’s 2013 “bridge” schedule.
The conference revealed last week that it was likely as it looks to balance its non-divisional scheduling next season before settling on a long-term scheduling setup the following season. And sure enough, the SEC revealed that the Bulldogs will visit Auburn on Nov. 16, 2013.
“I think there were certain things that had to be done,” SEC executive associate commissioner Mark Womack explained in a Q&A on the conference website. “We would rather not have any repeats, but we had some this year with the 2012 schedule and we have three in the 2013 schedule.
“Historically, when we went back and added Arkansas and South Carolina to the league, we had repeat venues in that schedule as well. It’s really a matter of having to even up the home and aways within the division and outside the division, and that created issues with having to have repeat-venue games.”
2. Gamecocks move back
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier made offseason headlines when he cracked that moving the Georgia game to midseason -- it was Oct. 6 this year after the teams had always met in early September since the Gamecocks joined the league in 1992 -- was a disadvantage because he could always count on Georgia having some players suspended in that early-season matchup.
The Gamecocks didn’t have much trouble with a Bulldogs team at full strength two weekends ago, winning 35-7, but the game will be back at its previous spot in 2013. Spurrier’s Gamecocks will visit Athens on Sept. 7.
3. Only temporary
Georgia will host LSU for the first time in four years next fall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Tigers will host a return game in 2014. Womack reiterated “this is a stand-alone schedule for just 2013 that has no impact on what is going to be agreed upon going forward. It is really to get us through the 2013 year as we look to create a longer-term schedule for 2014 and beyond.”
Both Georgia and Florida will have open dates before they square off Nov. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Bulldogs also have a bye week between the South Carolina and North Texas games in September.
GEORGIA 2013 SCHEDULE
Aug. 31 at Clemson
Sept. 7 South Carolina
Sept. 14 Open
Sept. 21 North Texas
Sept. 28 LSU
Oct. 5 at Tennessee
Oct. 12 Missouri
Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt
Oct. 26 Open
Nov. 2 vs. Florida
Nov. 9 Appalachian State
Nov. 16 at Auburn
Nov. 23 Kentucky
Nov. 30 at Georgia Tech