The Dan Lanning era couldn't begin with a more intriguing matchup. The first game for Oregon's new head coach will be against his former team, the Georgia Bulldogs, roughly 70 miles from where he spent the past four seasons as their defensive coordinator.
The storylines write themselves. Lanning has a chance to dethrone the team that he helped in win a national championship just eight months prior. SEC vs. Pac-12 debates surely will be set ablaze no matter the outcome of the game.
College Football Playoff implications are seemingly on the line despite the matchup happening in early September. Former Oregon Wide Receivers Coach Bryan McClendon, now holding the same position at UGA, will coach against his former team as well.
Dan Lanning & Kirby Smart
Georgia Bulldogs running backs coach Dell McGee (left), defensive 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 (Sept. 3, 12:30 p.m. PST on ABC) matchup second on its list of "September games we can't wait to see," just behind the Notre Dame-Ohio State blockbuster that will take place on the same night (4:30 p.m. PST on ABC).
"The defending national champions open up their season in Atlanta (probably the closest you can get to a neutral-site home game) against a Pac-12 favorite in Oregon. The Ducks will have some familiarity with the Bulldogs with Dan Lanning as their head coach, who just left Georgia after leading an all-time great defense that produced five first-round NFL draft picks."
The list also includes Alabama-Texas (Sept. 10), Florida State-LSU (Sept. 4), and Utah-Florida (Sept. 3).
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Both Georgia and Oregon endured a hefty amount of turnover this offseason, both on the roster and in the coaching staff. Kirby Smart's team will have to replace 15 NFL draft picks, including eight from Lanning's defense. The Bulldogs also must replace their two leading rushers and their two standout wide receivers.
While Oregon only had one draft pick last month in Kayvon Thibodeaux, the Ducks will still have plenty of gaps to fill on the roster, with the only position groups that return most or all of its starters being the offensive line, linebackers, and interior defensive line.
Oregon head coach Dan Lanning looks on during the Oregon Spring Game.
McGee races past JJ Greenfield during the Oregon Spring Game.
Lanning enters his first game as a head coach with an already-proven reputation as an all-star recruiter. He, along with his ensemble cast of experienced recruiters, helped rebuild the 2022 class after Mario Cristobal's departure and has already added some elite talent in 2023. The Ducks finished with the No. 16 class in the country in 2022 and sit at No. 21 in 2023, both according to 247 Sports.
Smart has continued the success on the recruiting trail despite some coaching changes. The Dawgs finished with the No. 3 class in the nation in 2022 and rank sixth in 2023.
You can see the list in ESPN's offseason primer here.
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