A flurry of anonymous-source stories Tuesday appeared to have the Dogs surprisingly headed to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, though the conference has told the bowls not to announce any pairings until Sunday, and Chick-fil-A Bowl honcho Gary Stokan said no decision has been made to invite Tennessee and that Georgia is still in the picture for the Atlanta bowl.
The word leaking out of Butts-Mehrer in Athens is that at this point athletic association folks expect the Dogs to wind up in either Atlanta or Shreveport. Feast or famine, in other words.
All of this is because the Outback Bowl reportedly has gone maverick again and picked Auburn instead of Tennessee, which had been expected to land there. Apparently the Tampa bowl, which usually picks from the SEC East, wants a team that hasn’t been there in a while and UT played in the Outback in 2007 and 2008.
The trickle-down effect has Tennessee likely to oust Georgia from what seemed like a lock in the Chick-fil-A after the season-closing win over Tech. Both Georgia and Tennessee would guarantee a quick sellout of the Chick-fil-A, but the Big Orange fans will fill a lot more hotel rooms and the Vols have more “buzz” this season.
But why would the Dogs fall all the way from the Chick-fil-A to the Independence? Why not Nashville, which would seem like the most logical bowl for Georgia if not the Chick-fil-A? Apparently the Music City Bowl there would rather have frequent visitor Kentucky for the third time in four seasons than take a chance on the Bulldogs faithful not flocking to a lower-tier bowl. You have to wonder how thrilled Wildcats fans will be about another trip to the country music capital, and whether it’s wise for the Music City to pass up a team with a lot more national marquee value and TV appeal than Kentucky has.
So, anyway, the Dogs may wind up in Shreveport after all. It’s not the SEC’s bottom bowl — that’s in Birmingham — but it’s become a postseason destination that draws little enthusiasm from anyone in the conference. Maybe it’s because of all those “Weedeater Bowl” jokes during the years when Poulan was the sponsor, or perhaps Shreveport just isn’t perceived as a very exciting destination by fans. That’s something their tourist bureau folks might need to work on.
Whatever the reason, if the Dogs wind up in the Independence Bowl, chances are UGA will have to eat a bunch of unsold tickets.
But I like what T Kyle King of Dawg Sports said about it: Playing in Shreveport can be a learning experience for the Dogs. Hopefully, he writes, “Mark Richt can use the fact that his team got an even crappier bowl game than it deserved (which is saying something) as motivation: ‘You don’t want to go to the Independence Bowl? Well, tough, ’cause the Independence Bowl is what 7-5 gets you. If you don’t want to come back here, wrap up when you tackle! If you don’t want to come back here, stop somebody on third and long! … The next time you go into the locker room with a two-touchdown lead on Kentucky at home, I’m going to ask you, ‘Are you going to stay focused are or you going to go back to the Independence Bowl?’”
BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ
Meanwhile, it’s always fun stirring up the hive, and that’s certainly what happened with my Tuesday post about Paul Johnson dissing UGA on the radio.
A couple of additional points I’d like to make: First, most of us don’t need Tech fans pointing out that Johnson’s suggestion about punching Dog fans in the face was tongue-in-cheek. That’s pretty much a given.
But his “What’s the last thing they won? 1980?” dismissal of the UGA program was the sort of disrespectful comment that coaches might make in the locker room behind closed doors, but it’s not the way a respectable coach talks about an opponent for public consumption.
You want to know how a top-rank coach talks about his school’s rival? Look at Mark Richt’s post-game comments on Tech: “I’ve always had a respect, a very healthy respect, for Georgia Tech and their football program, and we will continue to have that respect because they are an outstanding team and they do a great job over there.”
Comparing those comments with Johnson’s illustrates the difference between class and crass.