Georgia will play at Arkansas in 2014, avoiding yet again another regular season football meeting with Alabama for at least another year.
The Bulldogs also get an open date between the season opener against Clemson and the Southeastern Conference opener at South Carolina on Sept. 13. The other open date comes before the annual tilt with Florida set for Nov. 1 in Jacksonville.
“We have a very difficult opener next year, we have a week off before we start conference play so I think that’s positive,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Wednesday after the 2014 SEC schedule was finally released. “Then heading down the home stretch, if you can have the week before Florida (off), it sort of breaks the year up for you.”
The Bulldogs will visit Fayetteville on Oct. 18 as the rotating cross-division opponent, It’s Georgia’s first game at Arkansas since the 2009 season.
Georgia and two-time defending national champion Alabama, which met for the SEC championship last December, haven’t played in the regular season since 2008.
“That’s out of our hands,” McGarity said.
SEC East rival Florida plays at Alabama as its rotating crossover game and home against LSU. Other rotating crossover games in 2014: Kentucky-LSU, Missouri-Texas A&M, Tennessee-Ole Miss, Vanderbilt-Mississippi State and Auburn-South Carolina.
The Bulldogs will play seven home games, including four of its first five at Sanford Stadium and its last three also between the hedges.
It will also have back-to-back road game at Missouri and Arkansas in October during a four-game stretch away from home from Oct. 11 to Nov. 8, which includes the Florida game, which will continue to be in its spot in the traditional weekend on the schedule in future years.
To get all the pieces to fit in the SEC’s 2014 schedule, there needed to be some juggling to some nonconference games.
Georgia and South Carolina essentially swapped opponents with help from the league office.
Troy came onto Georgia’s schedule for a Sept. 20 game in Athens and Troy’s game at South Carolina on Nov. 22 was scrapped. Georgia beat Troy 44-34 in 2007 in Athens in the only other meeting between the schools.
South Alabama, which was scheduled to play Georgia on Nov. 8, will now play at South Carolina on Nov. 22 and isn’t scheduled with Georgia for a future game.
Such changes could help make more attractive matchups for TV throughout the schedule.
“They did everything,” McGarity said of the conference. “We didn’t really do anything other than agree to that change. They did the heavy lifting, they did the contract negotiations, everything for that piece of it.”
The cost to Georgia is “budget neutral,” McGarity said.
“It was basically a wash,” he said.
Georgia is 2-0 under Mark Richt in trips to Arkansas, winning 20-14 in 2004 and 52-41 in 2009. The Razorbacks beat Georgia 31-24 in 2010 in their last meeting, but trail the series 9-4.
Arkansas hired Bret Bielema from Wisconsin, where he won led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowl trips. He took over a program that went 4-8 in 2012 after trips to the Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl under Bobby Petrino the previous two years.
South Carolina and Texas A&M will open the season on Thursday, Aug. 28 on the first game on the new SEC Network. The Gamecocks will then play East Carolina on Sept. 6 before facing Georgia.
The 2014 schedule was finally released after talk leading up to the SEC spring meetings in Destin in late May that the conference slate was near finalized.
The 2014 schedule is a stand-alone schedule, which McGarity said means it won’t have an impact on the 2015 schedule. Auburn continues to be Georgia’s permanent SEC West opponent.
“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen to the other rotator in the West,” he said.
Each team is playing eight conference games, using the 6-1-1 format of six games against division opponents, one permanent cross-division opponent and one rotating cross-division foe.
The SEC in a release Wednesday said “the conference football schedule format is currently under review. The 2014 schedule is based on a 12-year rotation of conference opponents, which includes six divisional contests for each team, along with games against one permanent non-divisional opponent and one rotating non-divisional opponent.”
The 2015 schedule also is expected to be a 6-1-1 format. McGarity doesn’t sense the sentiment among conference schools is to move to nine conference games.
“The SEC Presidents and Chancellors have committed to a review of football scheduling to be completed in time for preparation of the 2016 schedule,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “The objective of this review is to develop a scheduling format for the 2016 season and beyond, which will be in the best interests of the conference.”
2014 Georgia football schedule
Aug. 30 vs. Clemson
Sept. 6 Open
Sept. 13 at South Carolina
Sept. 20 vs. Troy
Sept. 27 vs. Tennessee
Oct. 4 vs. Vanderbilt
Oct. 11 at Missouri
Oct. 18 at Arkansas
Oct. 25 Open
Nov. 1 vs. Florida in Jacksonville
Nov. 8 at Kentucky
Nov. 15 vs. Auburn
Nov. 22 vs. Charleston Southern
Nov. 29 vs. Georgia Tech