A look at the state of Georgia football’s rivalries, as future scheduling could force tough decisions

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What comes next for Georgia football rivalries as schedule changes loom

The SEC couldn’t come to a formal vote last week on the future of conference schedule. The two choices were either an eight-game format with one permanent opponent or a nine-game foe with three permanent opponents.

Related: SEC football schedule model on hold, leadership split between 8- and 9-game models

Even without the vote, change will be coming to Georgia’s future schedule. That much is for certain with the pending additions of Texas and Oklahoma for the 2025 season.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart laid out the cases for and against both models when speaking to Paul Finebaum last week.

“It’s hard because I really want to add the game, but I want to do it more for the fans,” Smart said. “I really feel like fans and the consumers that come to our games, they want the best games. They want the intraconference. They want to see SEC play SEC teams. So I want to give them what they want.

“I also want the best opportunity for our conference to get more teams in the playoff. Well, is the Playoff of the future four? Is the Playoff of the future eight? Is it six, 12? I don’t know that, but you want the most opportunities.”

Related: Kirby Smart makes his position clear on a potential 9-game SEC conference schedule

With either option, decisions will have to be made. Divisions certainly seem to be going out the window, meaning Georgia won’t play its SEC East foes on a regular basis anymore. That will impact some of the rivalries Georgia plays.

“We’re in a unique position because we have the continuous states that all touch. It makes it tough,” Smart said. “Our fanbase is so passionate, each part of the state likes this rivalry better. How do you keep them all happy? It’s really tough. Where a lot of SEC teams really have one or two rivalries, we really have four or five.”

So, why not take a look at how things stand with some of Georgia’s biggest rivals and what potential schedule changes might mean for them.

Georgia football-Tennessee

Whether or not this game is truly a rivalry is up for some debate. Historically, Georgia has actually played Clemson more often than it has the Volunteers. But since the advent of divisions back in 1992, these two sides have met on an annual basis.

And it has provided a number of thrilling and heartbreaking games for both sides of the rivalry.

Georgia has won its last five against Tennessee, including a 41-17 win over the Volunteers in Knoxville, Tenn. last fall. The last win for Tennessee between the two teams came back in 2016 when the Volunteers won on a Hail Mary.

Tennessee seems to be on the upswing since moving on from Jeremy Pruitt and bringing in Josh Heupel. Tennessee went 7-6 last season but would seem to have one of the more unique offenses in the sport.

But Georgia may not be seeing it on an annual basis anymore. If the league goes to a nine-game schedule, Georgia will almost certainly have Florida and Auburn as two of its annual opponents. The Volunteers would likely have Florida and Alabama as two of their permanent foes.

From there, Tennessee also has its game against Vanderbilt as a possible third annual opponent. While some would certainly prefer to see Tennessee be Georgia’s third opponent, one could also understand the many reasons why the Volunteers would want to keep Vanderbilt on the schedule.

There’s also the fact that another opponent is much more likely to draw Georgia as an annual opponent in South Carolina.

Georgia football-South Carolina

A scene from Mad Men probably best sums up the Georgia football-South Carolina rivalry.

Georgia and South Carolina have played much more frequently than the Volunteers. South Carolina, despite not joining the SEC until 1992, also sees Georgia as its biggest SEC rival.