Somewhere, Mark Richt is smiling.
After looking at Georgia’s 2012 schedule, he has to feel pretty good about his team’s chances at not just another SEC run but possibly a BCS run.
Outside of the talent expected back in Athens, Georgia was dealt a pretty favorable hand when it came to scheduling, as the Bulldogs will once again miss Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. The Bulldogs were supposed to play Alabama, but that game was dumped, and Georgia will play Ole Miss.
So instead of playing a team currently preparing for the Allstate BCS National Championship Game, Georgia will take on a Rebels team bringing in a new coaching staff after a 2-10 season.
(Stop giggling Georgia fans!)
Georgia’s other Western Division opponent is Auburn, which will take place in Auburn on Nov. 10, a week after the Ole Miss game in Athens.
The combined 2011 winning percentage of Georgia’s 2012 opponents is .500.
Georgia will most likely get some prime-time billing very early, as the Bulldogs will travel to Columbia, Mo., to take on new SEC member Missouri.
The Bulldogs’ nonconference opponents are Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern and archrival Georgia Tech.
Things are set up nicely for Georgia to make it back to Atlanta, while South Carolina fans should be happy to know that the Gamecocks pick up LSU on the road and keep Arkansas next season.
Ole Miss, which sported the worst SEC record in 2011, has arguably the toughest schedule. The Rebels’ conference road games are Alabama (Sept. 29), Arkansas (Oct. 27), Georgia (Nov. 3) and LSU (Nov. 17). Ole Miss also hosts Texas (Sept. 15) and new SEC member Texas A&M (Oct. 6).
This schedule looks like a tailgater’s dream, but it will have new coach Hugh Freeze’s hair turning gray. Nine of Ole Miss’ 11 FBS opponents made bowls this season and the combined 2011 winning percentage of Ole Miss’ 2012 opponents is .701.
What an absolutely brutal way to start for Freeze.
As for the newbies, Texas A&M’s first conference game in the SEC comes at home against Florida on Sept. 8, while Missouri will host Georgia the same day. The site for Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas (Sept. 29) hasn’t been announced, but there’s a chance these two won’t play in Dallas in 2012. The Aggies haven’t released all four nonconference games but will open with McNeese State and play SMU in Dallas.
Outside of playing in the SEC West, the Aggies' schedule isn’t overwhelmingly difficult, as LSU and Missouri will come at home.
Missouri also hasn’t finalized its nonconference schedule but will host Arizona State after Georgia. Four of Missouri’s first five games come at home, including Alabama on Oct. 13, but will play on the road three times in November.
Florida and Tennessee won’t open conference play against each other for the first time since 1995. The 2001 game was postponed until the end of the season because of the events of 9/11. These two will play on Sept. 15.
South Carolina and Georgia also won’t open SEC play against each other. That game has been moved to Oct. 6.
Alabama-Tennessee, however, will be played on the third Saturday in October (Oct. 20). After a very rough 2011, the Vols will play three of their last four games at home and pick up Mississippi State from the West, giving Tennessee a pretty nice 2012 schedule.
Here are some additional notes:
The SEC said the 2012 schedule isn’t based on previous or future scheduling formats. Athletic directors will meet in the spring to begin formulating scheduling principles for the 2013 season and beyond.
LSU gets eight home games, with four coming in the last six games.
Alabama continues its trend of playing highly rated nonconference foes, as the Tide will open with Michigan in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Florida hosts Missouri on Nov. 3 and will end the season with three straight nonconference games, including playing at Florida State on Nov. 24.