ATHENS, Ga. — Steve Spurrier shouldn’t have many complaints about Georgia’s 2013 football schedule.
In the spring, the South Carolina coach pitched an idea to count only division records to determine teams to represent the Southeastern Conference in the conference title game after Georgia – not South Carolina – reached the championship game in 2011 despite the Gamecocks going unbeaten against SEC East teams but losing to Arkansas and Auburn.
Georgia’s conference schedule has been considered soft last season and this year since the Bulldogs avoided Alabama, Louisiana State University and Arkansas from the SEC West.
It won’t be in 2013, when LSU visits Georgia on Sept. 28, three weeks after Spurrier’s team plays in Sanford Stadium back in the regular SEC opening spot.
The Georgia-South Carolina game was played in October this year to make way for new SEC member Missouri to play host to Georgia in its first conference game. Now it returns as the conference opener like it was from 1992 to 2011.
It will be the second game of the season for Georgia, which opens at Clemson. It will be the season-opener for South Carolina.
Georgia again doesn’t have Alabama on the slate, but will return to that state to play at Auburn for the second year in a row, a quirk that was needed in “order to maintain a balanced schedule for the 2014 season and beyond,” according to the league.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said in a statement the “2013 schedule will obviously be very challenging. Our number one priority throughout this process was to protect our longstanding rivalry game against Auburn, and in order to keep this series intact, it necessitated a return to Auburn in 2013. We will start working on the 2014 rotating SEC schedule this spring, and we can confirm that Auburn will be returning to Athens in 2014.”
The 2013 schedule, released by the league on Thursday, is a “bridge” schedule, meaning it’s not based on any other previous or future scheduling formats, according to the SEC.
“As we began working on the 2013 football schedule, it became apparent that the conference would need another year of the ‘bridge’ schedule to make everything work,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said.
“I appreciate the SEC transition team and our athletics directors, who came together to put this schedule in place. We look forward to starting with our new scheduling rotation in 2014.”
SEC athletic directors will convene in the spring to begin formulating schedules for the 2014 season and beyond.
Georgia-Auburn will be played at the same site in consecutive years for the first time since the series moved from Columbus after the 1958 season.
There are two other games in the SEC in 2013 that will have repeat hosts from the 2012 schedule: Ole Miss at Alabama and Texas A&M at Ole Miss.
“There were so many variables in dealing with conference games, and the three repeat venue games, while not desired, provided the only solution to the complex scheduling issues,” Slive said.
Two games that were played as new “permanent” rivals this spring aren’t even scheduled in 2013: South Carolina-Texas A&M and Missouri-Arkansas. They could return in 2014.
Alabama won the BCS title last season against LSU. Arkansas was a preseason No. 10 team this year, but has been one the nation’s biggest disappointments at 3-4 overall.
South Carolina doesn’t have Alabama or LSU on its 2013 schedule. It plays at Arkansas and at home against Mississippi State.
The LSU game in Athens will mark the return of former Georgia quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who starred at Oconee County High School. His mother, Tammy, still works in the Bulldogs football office.
That matchup became the eighth SEC game on Georgia’s 2013 schedule to along with Auburn and the six other SEC East opponents.
Three of the Bulldogs’ first four opponents – Clemson, South Carolina and LSU – are currently ranked in the AP top 15.
There are two open dates in 2013 in a 14-week scheduling window.
One of those for Georgia will come before the Nov. 2 game against Florida, the other on Sept. 14 after the game against South Carolina. The Gators are also off the week before the game in Jacksonville.