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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Cost of a Big Game

I wrote earlier today about Georgia's tough scheduling philosophy during the past few years. Since 2005, the Bulldogs have played (or will play this year) seven out-of-region opponents as part of Damon Evans' plan to market the team outside of the Southeast.

The thought process was that big games against non-regional opponents would create national attention. But until the Bulldogs head to Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday, I'm just not sure how true that has been. Let's take a closer look at how I'd rank the overall significance of the seven games through this season:

7. Arizona State, Sept. 26, 2009. I think I've heard more discussion of Tennessee Tech than of this matchup. Despite the name, I think most Georgia fans are essentially looking at this as a cake walk for the Dawgs.

(NEXT UP: LSU at home.)

6. Colorado, Sept. 23, 2006. There were really only two things to remember about this game: 1.) Joe Cox came in and led the Dawgs back from a 13-0 second-half deficit, and 2.) Colorado brought its mascot, Ralphi, the 1,300-pound Buffalo, with them to Athens. Colorado finished the season 2-10, which actually made Georgia's 8-4 campaign look pretty darned good.

(NEXT UP: Win over Ole Miss in Oxford, 14-9)

5. Central Michigan, Sept. 6, 2008. This was hardly a marquee matchup, but it did bring Dan LeFevour, who was garnering some early niche support for a Heisman, to town. This game was actually closer than most people remember in the first half -- probably a sign of things to come for Georgia -- but it featured two of the most memorable plays of the year for the Bulldogs: Demarcus Dobbs interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half and Knowshon Moreno's leap. The latter didn't even make "SportsCenter," which in the end, probably turned into the most talked-about portion of this game. Final score, Georgia 56, Central Michigan 17.

(NEXT UP: Win over South Carolina in Columbia, 14-7)

4. Arizona State, Sept. 20, 2008. At the beginning of the season, this game looked like it was going to be a crucial step for the Bulldogs. Instead, the Sun Devils' offensive line was so bad it made Georgia's defensive ends actually seem impressive. Yes, as many as 30,000 Georgia fans traveled to Tempe for the game, but that probably helped gain respect for the Bulldogs far more than their 27-10 win over a lousy ASU team did.

(NEXT UP: Loss to Alabama in Athens, 41-30)

3. Oklahoma State, Sept. 1, 2007. In retrospect, it's hard to say what this game really meant. On one hand, the 35-14 beat down of the Cowboys put Georgia on the map following a disappointing 2006 season. On the other hand, a home loss to South Carolina came a week later, essentially ending Georgia's hopes for an SEC title. The Bulldogs spent the rest of the season trying to make up for the Gamecocks' defeat, and it's easy to wonder if things might have been different had Georgia opened against a less challenging opponent.

(NEXT UP: Loss to South Carolina in Athens, 16-12)

2. Boise State, Sept. 3, 2005. It might be hard to remember now, but there were a lot of people who thought the upstart Broncos would come to Athens and teach the Dawgs a thing or two about the impressiveness of the mid-majors. Instead, Georgia delivered a 48-13 beatdown that officially ushered in the D.J. Shockley era.

(NEXT UP: Win over South Carolina in Athens, 17-15)

1.) Oklahoma State, Sept. 5, 2009. No question about it, this is the biggest opponent to date, and it appears to be a tough test for Georgia. The Cowboys are a top-10 team from a power conference opening up a remodeled stadium before a lively crowd. But wouldn't you have said essentially the same thing about Arizona State before last year's game? I think the Cowboys will be decent this year, but they're still -- at best -- the third biggest name in the Big XII (and you could make an argument that they're actually closer to the fifth or sixth) that still has a lot of questions about the validity of their advanced billing.

(NEXT UP: South Carolina at home)

Now, you may disagree a bit with my rankings, but I think at the very least this should illustrate that the reward of a marquee matchup has hardly been worth the toll preparing for and playing a high-level team has put on the Bulldogs.

That, of course, is not to say that the plan has been a failure -- but rather that it simply hasn't been a success yet. There are some big games on the horizon, too. (*All schedules tentative, courtesy of Sic 'Em Dawgs.)

In 2010, Georgia plays at Colorado on Oct. 2.

In 2011, the Bulldogs open at home against Louisville on Sept. 3 and host New Mexico State on Nov. 5.

In 2012, Georgia goes to Louisville on Sept. 15 -- one week before traveling to Alabama.

In 2013, Georgia opens the season at Clemson on Aug. 31 with the Tigers returning the favor in 2014 in Athens.

So... what do you think? Are the tough opponents worthwhile -- particularly with an already arduous SEC slate and an annual date against Georgia Tech on the docket? Does the fact that Georgia is 5-0 with a number of blow-out wins in these games so far validate Evans' philosophy? Or does the fact that Georgia is just 3-2 the week after these games (with all three wins being decided by fewer than seven points) mean that the toll these games takes is more than they're worth?


Anonymous said...

As a fan for years, the complaint used to be that we had too many cake opponents before finally playing Tennessee in week 4 (when they were good). Now people complain that our schedule is too difficult? Trust me, I look forward to the games far more now than I did when we were playing crap or lose.

Justin Hall said...

I agree. I'd rather have challenging out of conference opponents than cupcakes any day of the week. I wouldn't mind an occasional headliner with some more prestigious schools than we have been scheduling.

Lucas said...

I'm looking forward to the Georgia/Oregon series in 2015/2016.

The game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene is going to be alot of fun, esp for the Dawg Faithful. I was there for the Oregon/Arizona State game in 07 (GameDay) and it lives up to it's billing as the loudest stadium in the country.

I don't think the Duck fans are ready for Sanford Stadium though. Yea they've played at the "Big House", but for me, Michigan is overrated.

BigMuddyDawg said...

The 3-2 record for "week after" games is distressing. I suppose the crux of the argument is whether being seen in various markets unfamiliar with Georgia football throughout the season garners more attention (read: potential for recruiting) than playing for a National Championship.

wqueenjr said...

You can't look at the "week after" games without looking at the final results, though.

If traveling to ASU was such a factor in our loss to Alabama, why was it such a "tale of two halves?" We got destroyed in the first half, but played very well in the second half.

And I don't think smacking OSU around in Athens was much of a factor in losing to SC the next week. And technically, it was wetting ourselves against Tennessee later in the season that essentially ended our hopes of a trip to the Dome (thank God Cutcliffe is at Duke now).

Did we overdo it a little on the OOC scheduling this year? Probably, but time will tell. Should we go back to playing the same kind of crap schedule that Florida plays? Heck no.

(And as an aside: Like it or not, Florida has national clout that the Dawgs don't because of their recent success, both in the 90s and now. If we played the same schedule they did last year and went 11-1, we all know that USC would have played Oklahoma instead.)

Anonymous said...

The Tennessee Viles have been doing this for years in order to recruit nationally, but I doubt Evans would have followed suit had he known the SEC would get this recent coast-to-coast TV deal. We will get more than enough "national exposure" now without having to travel to places like Colorado and Oregon.

The road lizards down in Florida dropped Miami from their schedule and still haven't played an out of conference team since Syracuse in 1991. This approach seems to be working out pretty well for them as of late.

If I had my way, I would just schedule two cream puffs per year, then add Clemson permanently and be done with it. As a child of the 80's I really miss that rivalry. Plus, the campuses are only about 100 miles apart.


Anonymous said...

Edit to the above comment: UF hasn't played an OOC team outside the STATE OF FLORIDA since 1991.

Sorry. My bad.

Anonymous said...

Agree we should add clemson as a permanent OOC game.