Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Thought on Georgia's Schedule

Since the prevailing theme this summer in discussing the 2008 Dawgs is going to be "they're going to be very good, but the schedule is so tough," I need to get something off my chest that I've been considering for a while: this schedule is penance. Georgia hasn't played a road game outside of the South since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, so maybe they don't deserve endless hosannas for finally doing what most of the rest of major college football programs do (with the exception of Florida, but they have a better excuse than Georgia because playing Florida State every year is not the same thing as playing Georgia Tech).

Georgia has also benefited from the SEC schedule rotation in the past several years. In 2006, Georgia would have been in real danger of not making a bowl at the end of the year if not for the fact that they played both of the Mississippi schools (combined record: 7-17). In 2005, Georgia won the SEC title, but they won the East by one game over Florida. Do you think that Florida having to play LSU, Alabama, and Mississippi State (combined record: 24-12) as opposed to Georgia playing Auburn, Arkansas, and Mississippi State (combined record: 16-18) might have been a factor in Georgia finishing one game ahead? Or how about in 2003, when Georgia pipped Florida for the East after playing LSU, Alabama, and Auburn (combined record: 25-15) while Florida played Ole Miss, LSU, and Arkansas (combined record: 32-8)?

My point is simply this: Georgia has benefited from the SEC schedule rotation several times in recent years. I can't quite remember Georgia fans (myself included) acknowledging that fact. So this year, when the schedule rotation is against the Dawgs, I don't think that Georgia fans are in a great position to complain. And let's be honest: repeating endlessly "we have to go to Columbia, Tempe, Baton Rouge, and Jacksonville" is complaining. Similarly, with a legitimate out-of-conference trip finally on the schedule, the natural retort to "we're going to Tempe! We're so bold!" is "what took you so long?"

15 comments:

Joe said...

While it is certainly apparent that UGA has benefited from a favorable SEC West rotation in recent years, I don't agree that UGA (or any other SEC school) should be expected to travel outside the south and schedule quality non-conference road games. The quality of competition in the SEC means that even with the weakest slate of SEC West games, Georgia (or whoever) is still going to face a tougher schedule than most of the nation.

Regardless, given that playing 12 regular season games is a fairly new development, you can expect to see more of these games in the future just based on the fact that there is a need and demand for them that has not been present in the past. In addition, this road game in Tempe became a lot tougher when Dennis Erickson took over as coach, which was not the case when the schedule was made…ASU was a middle-of-the-road BCS opponent at that point, not unlike Oklahoma State.

LD said...

The "since 1965" argument is flawed. Georgia played road OOC games against regional rivals. You specifically neglect to mention all the games Georgia played against Clemson over that time. In comparing Georgia to Florida, you say that playing FSU is not the same as playing Tech. In some ways, that's true, but Georgia was also playing Clemson for much of that time. Indeed, Florida State has won two MNCs and 12 conference titles since 1965. Clemson and Georgia Tech combined: 2 MNCs, 12 conference titles.

I think you missed another thing about the Arizona State game. It's not just that Georgia's traveling outside the South. It's that they're playing a pretty damn good team. Georgia could've traveled to Wyoming or New Mexico State or Indiana or Northwestern or someplace with a weak program. It's not just "we're going to Tempe/what took you so long", it's "we're going to Tempe to play a top ten team"

As for the SEC rotation, well, Georgia can't exactly control that, so why should it apologize or need to perform penance for it? An easier west rotated opponents helped Tennessee in 2004 (UT won by head to head tiebreaker, but played Alabama and Mississippi - 10-13 combined - rather than LSU and Arkansas - 14-9 combined; avoiding LSU might've made the difference). There have been plenty of examples over in the West of teams that won the title as a result of an easier east rotated team (perfect example: Miss State in 1998, when they avoided Tennessee, Georgia and Florida en route to the West title). It happens, but we can't blame the teams for having good or bad luck with the rotated teams. It'd be a different story if Georgia's annual West opponent were significantly weaker than Florida or Tennessee's, but that's not the case. Auburn's just about equal to LSU in wins over the last decade, and both are a good bit ahead of Alabama.

The biggest problem I have with this post is the framing. No, Georgia fans shouldn't complain about having a tough schedule. But that also doesn't mean they don't deserve credit for playing what should be a tough schedule. "We have to play a tough schedule" could be viewed as chest-puffing, not bitching. And considering how frequent writers and people outside the program have complained about Georgia's scheduling (and the frequent citation of the misleading 1965 date), Georgia is probably entitled to some chest-puffing.

peacedog said...

Agreed with LD's last paragraph. You're right that UGA fans who complain are silly; it's part of the provincialism that comes with sports-fandom. That aspect should be dealt with. Dealing with it does not include with holding credit for UGA due to UGA having "negative karma points" or somesuch nonsense.

joe is wrong, IMO, about UGA and whether it should travel or not. One aspect of being considered a national power is getting out and playing other teams in exotic locations (and, hopefully, beating them). UGA should emulate Texas and Ohio State and USC when those schools are at their best.

Georgia fans should be chided for acting like the schedule is ZOMG TOUGHEST EVAR!!1111. But UGA should get credit for Damon Evan's opening up of the OOC scheduling as well.

Michael said...

Joe,

I somewhat agree with you, but if SEC teams never play quality OOC teams, then we lose some of the ability to claim superiority. If Arkansas can play Texas, Alabama can play Oklahoma, and Tennessee can play UCLA/Cal, then why can't Georgia play someone better than Georgia Tech?

LD, Georgia has played Clemson a whopping two times since 1991. Try another crutch.

Georgia is finally playing a good OOC opponent (we can disagree on how good Tech is, but I doubt that you'll disagree that Georgia has major, inherent advantages over Tech, starting with the fact that UGA never has to play a real road game against them). Maybe the bit about leaving the South isn't the real issue, or at least it wouldn't be the real issue if UGA had played Texas or Florida State over the years. The real issue is that this is the first time in a while that Georgia is playing a name OOC opponent, save for precisely two games against Clemson (and, arguably, the game against Boise State).

On the SEC rotation, I agree that Georgia can't control that. What I am saying is that Georgia fans can't preemptively make excuses or complain about the schedule this year without admitting that they benefited from the rotation previously.

Peace, I agree with you that Damon Evans deserves a lot of credit. He's repudiating a lot of the excuses that Vince Dooley made for typically playing Georgia Tech and two minnows outside of the league. Georgia also deserves credit for using the 12th game to bolster their schedule as opposed to simply padding their revenue.

LD said...

Gotta call you on this one, Michael.

You used the 1965 date. I was playing by your rules. Now it seems you'd like to change the dates.

Georgia has played Clemson 27 times during that span. 13 times in Death Valley. Including the year they won the national title and 8 of their conference title years.

It's no crutch. Georgia deserves credit for the solid out of conference matchups they played over the span of time you determined as important.

The valid response (unlike what you gave) would have been to cite Florida's 25 OOC games against Miami. Of course, that would've forced you to assume that Miami's pre 1980s teams (15 of those matchups) were more than the mid-major bottom feeder Miami actually used to be before Schnellenberger.

LD said...

Also: Georgia's played Clemson 4 times since 1991. 1994, 1995, 2002 and 2003. Clemson was a bowl team in 3 of those 4.

And if Arkansas gets credit for traveling outside the region to Texas, that's a silly standard for what traveling is.

If nothing else, Michael, this will be another exhibit for the case against you listed as a "Georgia" voter in the blogpoll.

Michael said...

I said in my last post that the "haven't left the Confederacy since 1965" argument isn't as good as the "haven't played many quality non-conference opponents" argument. Since 1992 (a reasonable starting point since that's when the SEC went to two divisions), Georgia has played Georgia Tech every year (a team that Georgia fans routinely deride for having limited talent and no fans), Clemson four times, and...?

As for the Arkansas point, I told you in my last post that the better way to approach the question is the quality of opponents played. Arkansas has played Texas and USC twice each in this decade. They play Texas two more times in '08 and '09. They play in the SEC, just like Georgia does.

You're right that I'm not a Georgia homer. I'm just already sensing a never-ending drumbeat of "woe is us" this summer. To your credit, you have a legitimate point when you criticize the "1965" drumbeat that comes up in response.

Hobnail_Boot said...

You're a Michigan fan, not a Georgia fan.

Now this conversation has its proper framework.

LD said...

There are a few other OOC games against decent opponents:

Oklahoma State
Colorado
Boise State (you said)
Texas Tech (twice)

And a few mid major type teams that were at least decent or pretty good when the games were scheduled:
Southern Miss (twice)
Marshall
Central Florida
Houston

I agree with you about the quality of opponent, not location of opponent issue. I conflated the two.

Anyway, it's all a question of framing.

If the issue is a Georgia fan whining that an undefeated season and national title won't be gift-wrapped because the schedule is actually somewhat challenging, then, yes, the correct response should be "buck up and quit whining".

If the issue is a Georgia fan crowing about the schedule being tough and pre-emptively saying that "if we run the table against this slate, nobody can shut us out of the title game", I don't have a problem with that at all.

Over the years, Georgia's taken a lot of hits for it's scheduling. Some of that has been valid, but some of it hasn't. I think the "travel outside the south" argument is one of those soundbites that doesn't tell the whole story.

If Georgia fans want to brag about the tough schedule this year, the response shouldn't be "it's about time", it should be "yes, and that is a good thing too; more teams should schedule like that". Because that's what we want, right?

Michael said...

LD, I agree with pretty much everything in your post. I still think that Georgia fans pointing to the schedule rotation this year need to acknowledge that the schedule rotation has helped the Dawgs several times this decade.

Hobnail, I never denied that my primary allegience lies with Michigan, but I don't see rooting for UM and UGA as mutually exclusive, do you?

jacksrbettor said...

While the Bulldog nation can't claim to have scheduled the toughest ooc games over the years, I have a couple of points to ponder.

Is it documented anywhere that one of the national powerhouses outside of the SEC made an attempt to schedule UGA and was refused? It is afterall, a two way street.

Is it a known fact that UGA hasn't contacted an athletic director of one of these institutions and a deal couldn't be worked out?

OOC games notwithstanding, wouldn't the overall SOS mean more. Since Sagarin came out with a semi-reasonable formula for computing SOS, UGA has consistently ranked in the top 20.

Tommy said...

I don't accept what appears to be an underlying assumption in this post, namely that miles traveled correlates to ballsy scheduling. Plenty of ADs would kill to be able to regularly schedule two of the top teams in another BCS conference (Clemson and Tech) and still only have to shell out for a combined 160 miles travel expenses. Regardless, if Tech counts as an intriguing intersectional matchup when Notre Dame plays them, why doesn't Georgia get the same credit when we play them? Because we didn't have to fly there?

As to what took us so long to hit the road to places like Tempe, Boulder and Stillwater, the issue starts with Jacksonville. The only other BCS team I can think of who plays a neutral site game and has to accommodate and out-of-conference in-state rival is Florida, who, not coincidentally, is similarly drubbed for its scheduling provincialism.

People laud Tennessee for scheduling Cal, Notre Dame and the like, but they forget what a luxury the Vols have in Vandy, an in-state rival that also happens not only to be in the same conference, but the same division of said conference.

CHG said...

It's not an intersectional matchup because Athens and Atlanta are in the same section of the country.

Hobnail_Boot said...

Of course not. However I feel that the points you've laid out have been the same as criticisms I've seen written on blogs written by non-UGA fans. To me the important distinction isn't that you're a UM fan as much as it is you're not a UGA-first fan.

Things like SEC schedule rotation are out of Georgia's control. I also feel that you give FSU a lot more credit than they deserve (as has been discussed by others in the comments).

I really don't know any other UGA fans who have whined about the '08 schedule, but I don't know many who haven't said that realistically we could be a powerhouse and lose 2 or 3 games. It is a brutal schedule.

Zebulon said...

honestly, you ought to know better than to point out something so innocuous to a group as thin-skinned as uga fans.