Schedule analysis: Georgia

We take a closer look today at the Georgia Bulldogs' 2012 schedule:

Nonconference opponents (with 2011 records)

Sept. 1: Buffalo (3-9)

Sept. 15: Florida Atlantic (1-11)

Nov. 17: Georgia Southern (11-3)

Nov. 24: Georgia Tech (8-5)

SEC home games

Sept. 22: Vanderbilt

Sept. 29: Tennessee

Oct. 27: vs. Florida, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Nov. 3: Ole Miss

SEC road games

Sept. 8: at Missouri

Oct. 6: at South Carolina

Oct. 20: at Kentucky

Nov. 10: at Auburn

Gut-check time: The South Carolina game on Oct. 6 has as much or more riding on it for Georgia as any season in recent memory, and it's always a pivotal contest. Until last season, the loser of this game had never advanced to the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs were able to change that by winning 10 in a row after their loss to the Gamecocks the second week of the season. Georgia has lost two in a row in the series, and the Bulldogs would prefer to control their own destiny in the East race heading into the latter part of October as opposed to needing help. Winning in Columbia, S.C., is never easy, but the road to a second straight trip to the SEC championship game for the Bulldogs will almost certainly go through the Palmetto State. What's more, Georgia has never lost three in a row to South Carolina since the teams first started playing back in 1894 (64 meetings).

Trap game: With the reported suspensions on defense for Georgia, the SEC opener at Missouri the second week of the season will be one tough assignment, especially with all the hoopla surrounding Missouri's first-ever SEC game.

Snoozer: There's the opener against Buffalo and then Florida Atlantic's visit two weeks later. Between them, they were 4-20 last season.

Telltale stretch: From Oct. 6 through Nov. 10, the Bulldogs only play one game at home. Four of the five games in that stretch are away from Sanford Stadium, and it starts with the trip to South Carolina. Then comes a bye week followed by an away game at Kentucky and the annual clash with Florida in Jacksonville. After Ole Miss' visit the first weekend of November, Georgia goes back on the road the following week to face Auburn.

Final analysis: Georgia is one of only two Eastern Division teams that avoids all three of the Western Division heavyweights. The other one is Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs don't have to face Alabama, Arkansas or LSU during the 2012 regular season, whereas South Carolina -- which figures to be Georgia's stiffest competition in the East -- has to play at LSU and gets Arkansas at home. That's a huge advantage for Georgia any way you slice it. The Bulldogs also have a much cushier nonconference schedule than last season. In effect, they're trading Boise State for Buffalo. Unless the Bulldogs have a rash of injuries, this is a schedule tailor-made for 10 wins.