OK, so I’m not going to pretend I can get excited — or even moderately interested — in the Dogs playing Charleston Southern.
Still, I’m fully on board with Greg McGarity’s new Florida-esque scheduling philosophy of making Tech the only BCS-level nonconference opponent regularly appearing on Georgia’s football schedule and trying to have seven home games in Athens most seasons.
I didn’t come to that view easily. I used to be one of those fans who complained about yawn-inducing home games against schools with directional names. I longed to see Georgia give up a diet of cupcakes and upgrade its nonconference schedule to include regular-season games against the likes of Texas or Michigan or that school that doesn’t like to be called Southern Cal.
Damon Evans cured me of that.
In a bid to build a national “brand” for Georgia, Evans scheduled home-and-home series with Colorado, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Oregon and even Louisville.
The trips proved popular with fans. A large, vocal contingent in red and black actually took away the home advantage when the Dogs played at Arizona State, and I know a lot of fans, including my son, are looking forward to the trip to Boulder this week.
But the wear and tear of long-distance travel wasn’t a hit with Mark Richt, who noted this week: “It sounds like a good idea and it’s kind of romantic I guess. It seems like everybody would enjoy doing that. I’m sure a lot of fans enjoy taking some of those trips, but it is tough on your team, your players and coaches.”
Indeed, the week after that 2008 trip to Arizona State the Dogs came out flatfooted in what was being billed as the game of the decade and quickly fell behind 31-0 to the Crimson Tide.
Then there was last year’s brutal schedule that saw Georgia playing three BCS nonconference foes, including the opener at Okie State. Meanwhile, Florida was facing the likes of Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International, and Bama was feasting on Florida International, North Texas and Tennessee Chattanooga on its way to the BCS title.
True, the Tide also played Virginia Tech, but they don’t have a regular BCS nonconference rival on their schedule like the Dogs do.
So one of the first things McGarity did was get out of the Oregon deal. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s too late to do anything about Louisville, a matchup that doesn’t excite anyone anymore, if it ever did.
One of the arguments in favor of scheduling these regular season games outside the Southeast was to boost recruiting. But as Richt said this week, “Playing that kind of game does draw attention. It does get you on the other side of the country, but do we really recruit over there? We really don’t.”
As for Evans’ idea of building the brand, which is more likely to do that, playing a team on the West Coast or winning the SEC and contending for the BCS national championship? As McGarity put it, “I think winning and running your program the right way is what promotes your brand.”
Plus, McGarity indicated he’s still open to playing a Southeastern nonconference rival like Clemson every few years and even possibly a once-every-decade high profile game against someone like Texas or Michigan.
Actually, I’d like to see Georgia go one step further in that regard and put the rivalry with Clemson on some sort of permanent rotating basis, with the two teams playing home-and-home, taking two or three years off, and then doing it again.
I especially like the idea of seven home games a year, too.
Bottom line, though, is that no matter how boring those games against the Charleston Southerns are, they’re a necessary building block nowadays in putting your program in the best position to compete at the highest level. As McGariy says, if the Dogs can win out in their SEC schedule and beat Tech, they’ll likely be in the national championship conversation. Any year.
Of course, mastering that SEC schedule looms as something of an obstacle for Georgia right now. But that’s another discussion entirely. …
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