10/27/18 - Jacksonville - Georgia coach Kirby Smart is congratulated by Florida coach Dan Mullen after the victory. The University of Georgia Bulldogs beat the Florida Gators 36-17 in a NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 27th, 2018, at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

No. 10 Georgia Bulldogs face November gauntlet

The book on Georgia is that it’s schedule set up well for a return to the SEC Championship game. But as the Bulldogs approach the last third of it, November is setting up to be a very challenging month.

That starts on Nov. 2 when No. 10 Georgia faces No. 7 Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs could have another top-10 matchup against Auburn, currently ranked ninth, on Nov. 16 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Missouri, which led the SEC East and was ranked No. 22 before Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt, visits Sanford Stadium on Nov. 9. Texas A&M, which received six votes in the latest AP poll, also comes to Athens on Nov. 23.

That gives Georgia the potential to play four Top 25 opponents in the final month of the season.

“We embrace that; we’ve known that for a long time,” coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday night after the Bulldogs’ practice. “All offseason we’ve worked for it to be a three-part season. There’s Part 1. Part 2 in the middle, and then Part 3 was going to be the meat and potatoes. We’ve known that. We’re building up this week to work on it.”

Smart said the Bulldogs actually spent Tuesday not only working on the Gators, who they play next, but also on some of their other November opponents who “do some different stuff” schematically.

It certainly could be argued that Georgia has the toughest finish of those involved in the SEC East race. The Gators currently hold the division lead because they’ve played five conference games, but Florida (4-1), Georgia (3-1) and Missouri (2-1) each has one loss at this point.

The remaining slate of games for those teams looks like this:

  • Georgia -- Saturday, off; Nov. 2, vs. No. 7 Florida in Jacksonville; Nov. 9, home vs. Missouri; Nov. 16, at No. 9 Auburn; Nov. 23, home vs. Texas A&M; Nov. 30, at Georgia Tech.
  • Florida -- Saturday, off; Nov. 2, vs. No. 10 Georgia in Jacksonville; Nov. 9 at home vs. Vanderbilt; Nov. 16, at Missouri; Nov. 30, at home vs. Florida State.
  • Missouri -- Saturday, at Kentucky; Nov. 2, off; Nov. 9,  at Georgia; Nov. 16, home vs. Florida; Nov. 23, home vs. Tennessee; Nov. 30, vs. Arkansas in Little Rock, Ark.

Smart dismissed the notion that the Bulldogs’ path may be more challenging than anybody else’s.

“There’s a lot of good teams on that schedule,” he said. “But everybody in the SEC basically has the same schedule other than their crossovers.”

Georgia’s annual matchup with Florida usually falls on the last Saturday of October, but the calendar put it into November this year. But traditionally, the Bulldogs always have a tough finish to its seasons. The final month usually includes games against rivals Auburn and Georgia Tech.

The Bulldogs have lost once in November the past four seasons, going 15-1 in that span. The sole defeat was 40-17 at No. 10 Auburn in 2017. The Bulldogs avenged that loss three weeks later with a 28-7 win in the SEC Championship game.

The last time Georgia played Florida in November came in 2014. The No. 9 Bulldogs lost to the unranked Gators 38-20 that day in Jacksonville.

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