Some UGA fans appear to think Mark Richt’s latest incarnation, following the Iceman/Nice Guy of the early days and “Evil” Richt of the end zone stomp, is Mr. Whiner. First there were his recent comments about the annual game in Jacksonville (he’s right that it’s not a neutral site, but complaining about the weather there favoring the Gators was a bit of a stretch), and now he’s griping about his Dogs’ nonconference schedule this coming season.
“I’m not that thrilled about it,” Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald concerning facing what College Football News called “the toughest nonconference slate of any SEC team by far,” with games against Oklahoma State, Arizona State and Georgia Tech in 2009.
As the ABH points out, of the 65 teams in the six Bowl Championship Series conferences, only two besides Georgia will play three nonconference games this season against teams from BCS conferences. And neither one of them has as tough a schedule as Georgia’s: Syracuse will go up against Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State while Georgia Tech faces Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Georgia.
“One would be plenty,” Richt said. “The plan was never to have Oklahoma State and Arizona State and Georgia Tech [in the same season]. That was never the plan.” Richt said the plan was supposed to be playing one other BCS team plus Tech in a season … and he’s not in love with even that idea.
The upgrading of the nonconference schedule was “for the fans and to get out of the Southeast region” for recruiting purposes, he said. But Richt believes traveling 1,900 miles each way to Arizona last season impacted the Dawgs adversely the next week when Alabama jumped out to a big halftime lead in Athens.
Again, with the whining: “That’s a tough trip,” Richt said. “It’s a tough trip to go all the way over there and then come back, fly back through the night and then just get ready to keep grinding, because it is a grind. You need rest. Not only your players, but your coaches need rest, too.”
Richt’s boss, athletics director Damon Evans, doesn’t sound convinced by the head coach’s arguments about the detrimental effect of traveling out west. Said Evans: “That’s his opinion and I’ll listen to his opinion, and I’m sure he has some valid points. … I do know this: That there are teams around the country that do it week in and week out. Sometimes you’ve got to get up and go. … This year we’ll probably be playing a night game at Arkansas. We’ll probably get in later from Arkansas than we will from Oklahoma State.”
Examining Richt’s stance on this, he has a point and he doesn’t. Yes, playing three BCS nonconference teams in one season on top of an SEC schedule is excessive. It’s certainly not the norm. Tennessee has the reputation for scheduling big-name nonconference opponents, but generally only one per year (California, UCLA in recent years), with the rest less than imposing. This year, they face Western Kentucky, UCLA, Ohio and Memphis. LSU’s nonconference schedule is Washington, Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane and Louisiana Tech. Alabama does open with Virginia Tech, but its other nonconference games are against Florida International, North Texas and Chattanooga.
Ole Miss has Memphis, Southeast Louisiana, Alabama-Birmingham and Northern Arizona.
And then there’s Florida’s embarrassingly light nonconference schedule, which has Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International and not-what-it-used-to-be Florida State.
Evans gives Florida a pass on that schedule. “Certain schools have built up reputations because of what they’ve accomplished,” he told the ABH. “Florida gets a lot of credit. They’ve won two national championships. Let’s not forget that. You’ve got to work your way up and Florida has done that.”
Well, yes. But during their 2006 national championship season, the Gators’ nonconference oppoents were Southern Mississippi, UCF, Western Carolina and FSU. Last year’s nonconference schedule was slightly more respectable, with Miami and Hawaii joining FSU and the Citadel.
So Richt does face a tougher schedule this year than the rest of the conference. But Evans says three nonconference BCS opponents in one season is not going to be the rule. More often, Georgia will play one BCS nonconference game besides Tech in a season. And that’s something fans, tired of all those yawner home games against schools with directional names, have wanted. There’s also the advantage of a tough schedule impressing the folks who vote in the human polls and bolstering the Dogs in the computer polls.
As for the trip to Arizona being a factor in last year’s showing against the Tide, Georgia didn’t look tired in the first half of the Bama game; they looked unprepared. As the game went on, the Dogs actually played better. Maybe it was the players getting too caught up in the whole “Blackout” thing or just the coaches not getting them ready or a combination, but tired from the previous week’s travel? I don’t buy it.
So what do you think? Is Richt justified in complaining about the schedule? Or does he need to quit with the whining and concentrate on winning?