This thought occurred to me this week, and I've tested it out on a few fellow Bulldog fans.
Might Georgia's highest quality home opponent be its first?
(That's Appalachian State, for those who haven't yet memorized the 2017 schedule.)
When I ask that question, the response has been unanimous. Every single person's eyes get wide in an "I-think-that's-ridiculous-but-I'm-still-thinking-through-it" kind of look, then their face slackens. The response?
"Dang, you might be right."
The remainder of the home schedule is lackluster — and that's putting it lightly.
For the sake of argument, let's do a little comparison to yester-year.
Of those teams, and the aforementioned Mountaineers, which one would've been the toughest in 2016?
Go ahead and throw Samford out, which finished 7-5 in the FCS Southern Conference, and, incidentally, lost to Mississippi State 56-41.
Both the "other" Bulldogs and Missouri finished 5-7, though State did go to — and win — a bowl game by virtue of there not being enough teams to fill the half-million slots available. The Tigers did not, although they did close with a feel-good win over Arkansas.
Neither one strikes a lot of fear into me, especially now that Todd Grantham is roaming the sidelines coaching Mississippi State's defense.
That brings us to the two other contenders. (I'm saving App State for last, if you couldn't tell.)
The Wildcats, which Georgia beat by a last-second field goal, finished 7-5 in the regular season, only to lose to Georgia Tech in the Taxslayer Bowl. Meh, I'm not sold.
Then comes the Gamecocks, which the Dogs beat 28-14 on a Sunday in Columbia thanks to Hurricane Matthew. They were dreadful early on, but found a groove later in the season. (We'll gloss over that Clemson game.) South Carolina surprisingly finished 6-6, only to watch a furious rally fall short to South Florida in the bowl game.
Of those five, it's pretty much down to Kentucky and South Carolina in my eyes. And I'll give the tie breaker to the 'Cats, which beat the Gamecocks 17-10.
But what about the Mountaineers of Boone, North Carolina?
App State finished 10-3, including a probably-should-have-won overtime loss to Tennessee to open the season in Knoxville.
Would the Mountaineers best Kentucky on a neutral field? Maybe.
Those same Volunteers beat the Wildcats by two touchdowns, 49-36, on the same field where they only scored one touchdown in regulation on App State.
I know, I know. Comparitive scoring is hardly the best metric. Georgia beat Missouri, which beat Arkansas, which beat Florida, and yet the Gators won yet another edition of the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Back to my point.
I'd certainly give the Mountaineers a puncher's chance against Kentucky, and I'd certainly give them a puncher's chance against anyone else Georgia will play in Sanford Stadium this year.
One more point.
This, folks, is why I did not donate to the Hartman Fund this year, and will instead buy my tickets on the secondary market. I refuse to shell out that kind of money to watch Georgia play Samford.