ATHENS – Georgia drew what should end up being a tough assignment for its eighth SEC opponent next year. All in all, however, it’s a schedule that could have been a lot worse.
Georgia will play at Arkansas in 2014, rather than Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M, though the Razorbacks figure to be much improved in head coach Bret Beilema’s second season.
In addition, Georgia will have an open date the second week of the season, in between playing Clemson and South Carolina.
The second-week bye, after opening at home against Clemson, seems a good break for Georgia. While it's off that weekend, South Carolina will host East Carolina.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said Georgia didn't ask for the open date prior to traveling to South Carolina.
"It's just basically the conference making the non-conference schedule work," McGarity said. "And so that was just a result of scheduling and availability of the non-conference teams, and the proper dates and things like that. We have no say-so in that."
The Bulldogs also have a bye the weekend prior to the Florida game, for the third straight year. The arch-rival Gators also have a bye before the game, but their two West division opponents are Alabama (on the road) and LSU (at home).
The schedule does have one drawback: Georgia will go more than a month without playing at Sanford Stadium: It will play at Missouri and Arkansas in consecutive weeks, then have a bye, then the Florida game in Jacksonville, followed by a trip to Kentucky.
Meanwhile, there was a minor change to Georgia's non-conference schedule, as Troy replaced South Alabama. Troy will visit Athens on Sept. 20, the week after the South Carolina game. It will be the second-ever meeting between Troy and Georgia, the first coming in 2007, when Georgia won 44-34 in Athens.
McGarity said the change was "facilitated" by the SEC office in order to make the conference schedule dates work, and that Georgia does not owe South Alabama any money for a buyout. South Alabama now plays South Carolina.
"The conference office had to get involve and really facilitated the nonconference scheduling piece in order to make a lot of the elements work in the conference schedule. Dates, availability and things like that," McGarity said. "We were not a party to all those discussions. We were involved in (asking us) whether it's okay. But the conference office basically took it from there in terms of the nitty-gritty involved with everything."
Georgia and Arkansas last met in 2010, in Athens, and the Razorbacks won 31-24. The previous year saw Georgia's previous trip to Fayetteville, and the Bulldogs won that shoot-out, 52-41.
Georgia will now go at least seven years without playing Alabama in the regular season, as those two teams last met in 2008. Obviously they became acquainted in last year's SEC championship, and could again either of the next few years.
Now the focus can turn to the 2015 schedule. At one time, the SEC hoped to release the 2014 and 2015 schedules together, but there came a point when it became too complicated, so they're being handled one year at a time.
That leads to the natural question: Is all this worth it? Did adding Texas A&M and Missouri, and keeping permanent cross-division rivalries like Georgia-Auburn, make it worth all this hassle?
"I think what gets lost in the shuffle is that, especially in '13 and '14 and '15, schools had already committed to nonconference games," McGarity said. "Some schools were complete. We had three of four scheduled. And so you talk about that, you talk about the scheduling parameters that already exist in scheduling, to where each school had to have four home games (and) four road games. You had certain schools that wanted to maintain a certain (game) on a certain weekend of the year.
"So when you feed all that information into a computer, there's just so many different variables that it has to consider. And you're not gonna get a clean schedule. It would be a good question for the conference office to discuss how many different versions had to be produced to get to a schedule that agreed with - you couldn't have a unanimous decision on it. ... Just the time and effort it takes to go through all of the variables that have to be imputed. It's just mind-boggling."
It would be even harder to do it within a nine-game SEC schedule, according to McGarity.
"You complicate it even more," he said. "because we already had three games scheduled in '15. Some schools are done for many years. So nine games, it may help a few. But you're changing your whole philosophy on scheduling if you go to nine games."
The full schdule:
Aug. 30: Clemson
Sept. 6: Open
Sept. 13: at South Carolina
Sept. 20: Troy
Sept. 27: Tennessee
Oct. 4: Vanderbilt
Oct. 11: at Missouri
Oct. 18: at Arkansas
Oct. 25: Open
Nov. 1: Florida (Jax)
Nov. 8: at Kentucky
Nov. 15: Auburn
Nov. 22: Charleston Southern
Nov. 29: Georgia Tech