The Dan Lanning era couldn’t begin with a more intriguing duel. The first game for the new Oregon head coach will be against his former team, the Georgia Bulldogs, about 70 miles from where he has spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator.
The storylines write themselves. Lanning has a chance to dethrone the team he helped win a national championship just eight months earlier. The debates between the SEC and Pac-12 are sure to ignite regardless of the outcome of the game.
The ramifications for the college football playoffs appear to be at stake, though the matchup is in early September. Former Oregon wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, who now holds the same position at UGA, will also train against his former team.
Dan Lanning and Kirby Smart
Georgia Bulldogs running backs coach Dell McGee (left), defense coordinator Dan Lanning (center) and head coach Kirby Smart against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2022 CFP College Football National Championship game.
ESPN ranked the Georgia-Oregon matchup (September 3, 12:30 p.m. PST on ABC) at number two on its list of “September Games We Can’t Wait,” right behind blockbuster Notre Dame-Ohio State, which will take place the same evening (4:30pm PST on ABC).
“The defending champions open their season in Atlanta (probably the closest you can get to a home game on neutral ground) against a Pac-12 favorite in Oregon. The Ducks will be somewhat familiar with the Bulldogs head coach Dan Lanning, who just left Georgia after leading an all-time great defense that produced five NFL first-round draft picks.”
The list also includes Alabama-Texas (September 10), Florida State-LSU (September 4), and Utah-Florida (September 3).
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Both Georgia and Oregon experienced a lot of turnover this offseason, both in the roster and in the coaching staff. Kirby Smart’s team must replace 15 NFL draft picks, including eight from Lanning’s defense. The Bulldogs also need to replace their two leading rushers and their two standout wide receivers.
While Oregon only had one draft pick last month Kayvon Thibodeauxthe Ducks will still have many gaps to fill on the list, with the only positional groups returning most or all of their starters being the offensive line, linebackers, and the inside defensive line.
Oregon head coach Dan Lanning looks on during the Oregon Spring Game.
McGee speeds past JJ Greenfield during the Oregon Spring Game.
Lanning enters his first game as head coach with an already proven reputation as an all-star recruiter. Along with his cast of veteran recruiters, he helped rebuild Class 2022 after Mario Cristobal’s departure and has already added some elite talent in 2023. The Ducks finished No. 16 in the nation’s class in 2022 and sit at No. 21 in 2023, both according to 247 Sports.
Smart has continued success down the recruiting trail despite a few managerial changes. The Dawgs finished in the nation’s No. 3 class in 2022 and ranked sixth in 2023.
You can see the roster in ESPN’s offseason primer here.
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