Ranking the games: Our new series

semerson@macon.comJune 11, 2012 

You know the mantra: Every game is important. The most important game on the schedule is the next one. None is more vital than another.

Well, that’s no fun.

Over the next two weeks, we will look at Georgia’s 2012 schedule from this perspective: The most important games, ranked in descending order.

You may recall our recent series on Georgia’s most important players for success in the 2012 season. The criteria for ranking the games in importance follows basically the same criteria: Their role in shaping the ultimate success (or not) of the season, but with consideration given to rivalry, context of season, and caliber of opponent.

And the list begins with …

12. FLORIDA ATLANTIC

THE BASICS:

Last year’s record: 1-11 overall, 1-8 in Sun Belt

Returning offensive starters: 7

Returning defensive starters: 8

WHEN: Sept. 15 (Georgia’s third game)

HOW THINGS WILL LOOK THEN: Georgia will be coming off its big SEC opener at Missouri, and will either be feeling very good about itself, or in need of a pick-me-up. Florida Atlantic will also be playing the first of two straight games against SEC teams; the Owls play at Tuscaloosa seven days later.

LEVEL OF IMPORTANCE: Not much, unless the Bulldogs should somehow slip up and get upset. There just doesn’t seem much chance of that; Florida Atlantic struggled last year as the Howard Schnellenberger era ended. (Schnellenberger was Mark Richt’s college coach at Miami.) The new coach is Carl Pelini, who was the defensive coordinator for his brother Bo at Nebraska. For Georgia, this game will be sandwiched in between two SEC contests (Missouri and Vanderbilt), and will also mark the return of starting cornerback Sanders Commings.

MORE ABOUT FLORIDA ATLANTIC: QB Graham Wilbert struggled last year (7 TDs, 15 INTs) and the team lost its top offensive star, Alfred Morris, who ran for 1,186 yards and was a sixth-round pick by the Washington Redskins. The Owls do have talent returning on defense, including linebackers David Hinds (110 tackles and two sacks last year) and Randell Johnson (92 tackles, five tacks and 14.5 tackles-for-loss.)

WHO TO WATCH: Pelini. His brother is known for his fiery (some would say over-the-top) sideline demeanor. It’ll be interesting to see whether Carl Pelini adopts that as a head coach, but the betting is he’s more toned down. His official FAU bio calls him an “intellectual thinker,” and he played his college ball in the Ivy League (Columbia), and later got a degree in English literature from Youngstown State. He also has two masters degrees, one in journalism (Kansas State) and the other in education (from Ohio State). This is not a stupid man.

LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: Never.

THIS TIME: Georgia should roll, unless Pelini is working some magic right away, or Georgia is caught napping after a win over Missouri.

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