The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs are set to take on the No. 11 Oregon Ducks on Saturday Sept. 3 in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game.
Former UGA defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is pitted against the defending national champions for the season opener.
Oregon is coming off of a 10-4 season in which it lost the Pac-12 Championship Game to Utah 38-10 and the Valero Alamo Bowl 47-32.
The Bulldogs look to defend their title in the first game back from brining the big one home to Athens. UGA is currently a -17.5 point favorite.
Here’s five reasons why the Ducks could keep this one close.
Front seven experience
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One of Oregon’s biggest strengths is their front-seven.
Now this group may not be what SEC fans are used to seeing with bluechip recruits at every position, but the Ducks have some talented, experienced players in their linebacker and defensive line groups.
Inside linebacker Noah Sewell will be all over the field on Saturday. The preseason All-American won Pac-12 freshmen defensive player of the year in 2020 and racked up 114 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in 2021.
Sewell works beside Justin Flowe, who is a former five-star recruit that was the No. 1 rated high school linebacker in the 2020 class.
On the defensive front, the Ducks have preseason first team All-Pac 12 Brandon Dorlus leading a group that returns four starters and added two productive Nebraska transfers in in Casey Rodgers and Jordan Riley.
Offensive line stability
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The offensive line is another Oregon group that returns experience and talent. They return four starters that combine for 80 career-starts, including two first team All-Pac 12 selections in Alex Forsyth and T.J. Bass.
Football always starts up front. If Oregon wants to get anything going on offense, they will have to find a groove versus a stout Georgia front seven.
Joshua Jones – Online Athens
These two opposing coach staffs have more familiarity than you may realize.
We know Dan Lanning is making his first head coaching appearance versus his former team, but Georgia receiver coach Bryan McClendon took the same position with Oregon for several weeks before deciding to return home to Athens.
Ducks offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham held the same position with Auburn in 2019. His quarterback at that time? None other than Oregon transfer Bo Nix, who has been named the starter for Saturday.
This game will be even more interesting schematically because of these connections. Expect to see some out-of-character play calls from both sides.
Georgia may not be the same beast
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Let’s be honest here, DawgNation. Losing a record 15 players, including eight on defense, to the NFL draft won’t come without some growing pains.
Georgia has some areas on defense with depth concerns. Three of the top inside linebackers are gone along with three of the top defensive lineman. And finding a corner to work opposite of preseason All-American Kelee Ringo is a question.
This is where recruiting wins. The Bulldogs have recruited in the top-three each of Kirby Smart’s first six seasons.
Oregon can keep things close if they take advantage of the Dawgs inexperience here.
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If you listen to Smart take the podium, you’ll hear plenty about coaching players not to be complacent.
The absolute highest level of complacency has to come with a national championship, or at least the threat.
The Bulldogs may come out and not miss a beat, but there is a possibility that a bit of complacency creeps into the picture in the first game after winning a title.