App State... If we lose this, we've got bigger problems than we think. It likely means we've had no cohesion along the offensive line, Eason has stagnated or regressed, and our defense flat out didn't show up... The reality is App State nearly took down Tennessee were it not for a *very* fortunate fumble recovery. They are going to sneak up and bite someone, but if it's us, literally the season after they showed that they've got the goods, I've got some concerns with Kirby and Co's ability to keep our team grounded and motivated.
Notre Dame... Yes it's on the road early in the season. Yes it's Notre Dame. Yes, it's probably their biggest game not against a team from California. [I'd argue it could be bigger than both because it's early... they have a bye before facing USC at home (top pre-season ranked opponent) and Stanford will be a big deal but it's at the end of the season... a lot can happen between now and then]. And no, I don't care. This team went 4-8 last season... Their wins were Nevada, Syracuse, Miami (FL), and Army. Let that sink in and then add in that they'll have a first year starting quarterback (albeit a Junior)
Smart should have this team 2-0 coming out of this game... If we drop the Notre Dame game in a very competitive game, probably no need to panic, but a loss to App State or a decided loss to ND and this will set a poor tone for the rest of the season as well as the recruiting trail... neither of which can we really afford.
Samford - No reason to drop this game. This should be an opportunity for the team to work out kinks before getting into the meat of the schedule. If we see another Nicholls type performance where starters are in the game late, again... red flags.
Miss St/Tennessee/Vandy/Mizzou - These games I kind of bucket together, though could easily argue that they could be bucketed differently (first 2 second 2 for example). Miss St probably has the best offensive unit we'll see out of the 4... unclear yet what their defense will look like under their newly acquired but familiar to dawgs Def. Coordinator, Todd Grantham. At home, assuming the previous 3 weeks have gone according to plan, I see this as a very winnable game for UGA. This isn't the terrible Miss St. team of years past, but it's not a juggernaut and it's our SEC opener...
Tennessee lost a ton to the draft and neither of the last two matchups were unwinnable for us. On the road can see this one being tough, but we should be favored in this matchup and look to avenge the last 2... Also, our athletic trainers need to spend a ton of time the week before working on stretching and agility exercises to prepare for the minefield that is Kneeland.
Vandy loss last year was inexcusable... take care of business. Mizzou plays us a lot tighter than we'd like... Drew Lock has shown flashes of brilliance and we did not have a great answer for their offensive scheme last year. Falling a little later in the schedule and at home, would look for this game to be a little less interesting.
If you have to drop one of those 4, probably would prefer it to Miss State, but most likely would be Tennessee if I had to guess. Losing more than one of those games would be very problematic.
Florida - F--- em... Smart has to know this is *the* game... yes losing to Vandy and Tech last year was embarrassing. But they were both winnable games with some coaching mistakes... those can be corrected and learned from. It feels like it's been a while since we really went into the UF game and looked particularly competitive. And even longer since it felt like we were really in control. Gators lost a lot to the draft and call me crazy but I don't see Zaire as a particularly compelling starting QB. In limited play at Notre Dame, he was not terribly effective, and he couldn't seize the job for a somewhat lackluster team, why is the expectation that he'll be significantly better at Florida? Make him beat you in the air seems like a simple concept, but clearly we struggled with it 2 seasons in a row with possibly Florida's worst starting QB in history, so at this point who the heck knows... The game should be winnable, but it's not one I'll count in the win column until I see it...
USC - Will be better than last year and better than most people expect. At home, I expect we should take care of business but would not be surprised in the least to see this game a lot tighter than we would prefer. 2018 and they might actually be pretty scary on the road.
Auburn - Who the heck knows. Generally speaking, Auburn is good when people think they'll be bad. And bad when people think they'll be good. The expectations are sky high this year... Right now, I have a tendency to believe that Stidham is going to be good for them... I'd count this in the loss column today but would not be surprised in the least to see them flounder.
UK/Ga Tech - Neither of these games should be concerning on the surface... both of them were tight last season, obviously with the loss to the nerds. If Smart drops either of these to wrap up the season, it will be either an unsightly blemish on a good to great season, or it will be the starter switch to hot seat conversations...
The only 2 games I would chalk up as highly probable losses are UF and Auburn... both of which we should have more than a punchers chance at winning, say 60/40 or so... After that, your next 2 games are probably Tennessee and Notre Dame which I would put us somewhere in the 60-70% likely to win category.
From an expectation standpoint, with our schedule and returning players, I would call less than 10 regular season wins disappointing, unless there is a win over Florida... at that point, maybe losses to some 3 team combination of ND, Tenn, Miss St, and Auburn would be acceptable, particularly if they're very competitive.
Not going to get into the bowl game projection (or possible SECCG) because it's so dependent on how the season goes.
UGA is poised to really create a talent gap right now between itself and the rest of the East, but it's going to take a shift in perception of UGA's *on the field* product to help make it a reality... Florida has had a hard time acquiring talent under McElwain... That game has possibly the single biggest impact on not only this season but the trajectory for both programs over the next several IMO...