Let’s start with two facts. 1) Seven SEC teams landed in better bowl games than Georgia: Alabama (BCS), Florida (Sugar), LSU (Capital One), Mississippi (Cotton), Tennessee (Chick-fil-A), Auburn (Outback), Kentucky (Music City); 2) Only 6,800 of the Bulldogs’ 12,000-ticket allotment to the Independence Bowl was sold, which of course leads to the obvious question: How did they find 6,800 people to go to Shreveport?
So it’s safe to assume that most of you are not thrilled with the fact that the final memory of the 2009 season will be the Dec. 28, 5 p.m. time slot tonight on ESPN 2. (Programming note: The Independence Bowl follows the Premier League soccer game between Wolverhampton and Manchester City.)
But I’m here to tell you that tonight’s game does mean something for Georgia’s season. Besides, it’s worth watching if for no other reason than more updates from the minds of Urban Meyer.
This is what a win over Texas A&M tonight accomplishes. It leaves Georgia at 8-5, which aesthetically is a more pleasing than 7-6. It also means the Bulldogs will have gone 4-1 in their final five games after the Florida loss, including the win over Georgia Tech. (The lone defeat came to Kentucky, a development so stunning that even Rich Brooks is going to retire.) A win keeps recruits who are on the fence about Georgia at least still on that fence, or maybe even pushes them over it. A loss possibly tips them in the wrong direction.
The biggest problem with tonight’s game is it doesn’t give Georgia fans a true preview of next season. Next season’s quarterback won’t be playing, which stems from coach Mark Richt’s decision not to take the redshirt off of freshmen Aaron Murray or Zach Mettenberger. In a sense, next season’s defense also won’t be playing because Richt hasn’t hired a defensive coordinator yet (nor at least two other assistants).
But what you can take from tonight’s game is seeing what underclassmen are making plays tonight. Who looks like they are treating the game as a bonus and not a booby prize?
We can also find out something about Richt. This will be the first game he has coached since he fired Willie Martinez. Given the pressures and time constraints stemming from the job search, as well as recruiting, I want to see where the man’s level of energy and enthusiasm is at coaching a football game.
It’s not the game you wanted. It’s not the day or time slot you wanted. But it’s not a game devoid of meaning.