For those of you who enjoy Georgia Bulldog-related collectibles, a new action figure coming from McFarlane Toys and Clarktoys.com in September is available for pre-order: Matthew Stafford in his Detroit Lions uniform.
Here’s the company’s spiel for Stafford: “The former Georgia Bulldog QB, drafted #1 overall in 2009 by the Detroit Lions, had been plagued by injuries in his first two NFL seasons, only playing 13 total games over the course of two years. In 2011, with the injuries behind him, Stafford put together the greatest quarterback performance in the history of the Detroit Lions. The 2011 season was the official ‘I have arrived’ party. Stafford threw for more than 5,000 yards (only the 4th QB in NFL history to do so), with 41 touchdowns, and led the Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. He currently holds the Lions franchise record for passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing attempts, and completion percentage for a single season.”
Unlike most of the McFarlane NFL line, the Stafford figure will only be available via Clarktoys.com and won’t be sold at retail.
Pre-orders of the $17.99 limited-edition figure, which will ship in July, can be made online. And for $27.99 you can get a combo of the Stafford figure with one of Lions receiver (and North Avenue Trade School alum) Calvin Johnson that ships in September. (Some of you Tech fans that spend so much time on the Blawg might at least want to jump on the latter.)
Now, let’s get to some Junkyard Mail. …
Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, With this new reality of playoffs in 2014, will we FINALLY see the end of McGarity’s Florida-esque scheduling of boring cupcakes? The committee that will be choosing the four playoff participants will give some weight to winning a conference and maybe margin of victory, but it seems, most importantly, to strength of schedule. I’m sure the S.O.S. component will be important because it’s the only way Notre Dame could ever gain access into the playoff if they actually become relevant again (hard to say that with a straight face, haha), but also because of the upcoming Big 10 and PAC 12 scheduled games. McGarity’s way of scheduling just won’t fly with the BCS finally dying. So will Georgia again embrace competitive scheduling? … McGarity’s way is cowardly, let’s just come out and say that. It’s cowardly and boring and beneath UGA. Better to be beaten by Oklahoma State than win another yawner versus Jacksonville State. Go Dawgs!
You make a valid point, but I don’t think the mere prospect of a strength-of-schedule component in the selection of teams for the playoff is going to be enough to prompt immediate changes at UGA or any of the other SEC schools that tend to go with two or three cupcake games each season. (Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, of course, each have BCS-level nonconference rivals on their schedule every year.) As McGarity told the Chattanooga Times-Free Press on the subject of adding a ninth conference game in the SEC, “We are locked into nonconference games with very high liquidated damages for both parties in some games through 2016. … I fully expect to play every one of our nonconference opponents on the Saturdays we have fully executed contracts with.” UGA has a dozen contracts for nonconference games, with the buyouts ranging from $1.2 million to $450,000. It also should be noted that, in addition to playing Georgia Tech every year, UGA “periodically” (McGarity’s word) likes to schedule a second major nonconference opponent, and the Bulldogs have Clemson coming on the schedule for their twice-a-decade appearances in 2013 and 2014. Georgia was supposed to play Ohio State in 2020-2021, but the Buckeyes canceled that deal because of Big 10 teams adding a PAC 12 opponent each year. As you made reference to, McGarity brought the cupcake-heavy philosophy from the University of Florida, where it helped secure a couple of BCS titles. Still, there’s no getting around how weak and downright unattractive this year’s UGA nonconference schedule is. The Oklahoman recently ranked the nonference schedules of the 68 schools in the six major conferences and UGA, playing Buffalo, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern and Tech this year, came in 47th, falling far short of Michigan, which topped the list by scheduling Alabama, Notre Dame and Air Force. Of course, most of the schedules looked more like Georgia’s than Michigan’s, as cupcakes have become the preferred dish in college athletic offices. And the Oklahoman ranked the conferences in terms of schedules, and the SEC lagged behind the Big 12, PAC 12, ACC and Big 10, but ahead of the Big East. Whether the playoff selection committee (assuming that’s what we end up with) giving weight to strength of schedule will be enough to reverse the cupcake trend remains to be seen. A bigger factor might be ticket sales. UGA is still offering single season tickets and multiple single-game tickets to the Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt games. If the number of unsold seats starts to grow for the weaker opponents coming to Athens, Georgia might indeed rethink its scheduling philosophy.
In another schedule-related question, Josh Floyd writes: Are you as tired as I am of the demeaning of UGA football accomplishments last year due to the reasoning of weak scheduling, and this year that any titles should have an asterisk because of the “weak” schedule? I’m so appalled at the lack of truthfulness by the media, and other SEC head ball, er, coaches, that don’t seem to realize it’s on a rotation. There is no bias or conspiracy to give UGA an “easy” schedule. I’m with Coach Mark Richt: Tell me the rules, and who we’re playing, and let’s go do the best we can.
You’re right, it’s been ridiculous how many supposedly knowledgeable folks who should know better (including at ESPN) have been implying that Georgia pulled a fast one or got away with something in the conference schedules for 2011 and 2012. It was just the Dogs’ turn in the rotation for the easier cross-division schedule. (In 2008, for example, Georgia played both Alabama and LSU from the SEC West.) If the SEC honchos at conference headquarters in Birmingham give special consideration to any program, it’s certainly not UGA’s!
Commenting on a couple of issues recently discussed here, Harry Charbonneau writes: Bill, The University of Georgia substance abuse policy is superb. Drug use is antithetical to athletics and all Georgia fans should be proud of our tough and uncompromising policy on drugs. I agree entirely with Greg McGarity’s and Coach Richt’s stance on this issue. I am proud to be an alumnus of a university that leads the way in setting these standards. [Also] the black jerseys should definitely be revived and used this year. The black jerseys with red helmets and silver pants is a great look. I think they should be used in several home games and would like to have the players select the games. I agree Auburn at home would be an excellent time for black and I suspect the players might agree. I greatly enjoy your blog.
Thanks, Harry. I can’t disagree with you on the drug policy, though it would be nice if the standards were higher throughout the conference or nationwide, so the Dogs weren’t put at a competitive disadvantage. As for the black jerseys, I agree it’s a terrific look, but I believe once per season would be sufficient.
Switching sports, James Gates writes: Bill, I am a regular reader of your Blawg — keep up the great work! One of my best friends from college, Brent Paten, and I are UGA alumni and supporters of the basketball program. While attending the UGA-Bama basketball game a few years ago (Mark Fox’s and Anthony Grant’s first seasons, respectively) we were discussing what simple things we could we do to help our program reach its potential. Brent suggested that we should swap court directions so that we force our opponent to shoot at the student section goal in the second half. … Brent noted that it is rather idiotic we do not do this. Let’s be honest: Stegeman Coliseum is not packed for every game. However, our fans (particularly the students) show up for the really big games. The weeknight and Saturday SEC contests are well attended and supported by the student body. It would be not only a savvy move but also an easy fix to involve them more in the game. Forcing the visitor to shoot into our student section in the second half would provide a true home court advantage. The section is elevated and the band is adjacent to the students. If you think I am overemphasizing this element of the college game please review footage of our games at the O’Connell Center or Rupp Arena and then look at our games in Stegeman. Observe our opponent’s focus as they shoot critical second half free throws totally undisturbed into Stegeman’s crowd of older folks seated in folding chairs. (Of course, these programs have combined to win 3 of the past 7 national championships in basketball so they might not know what they are doing). It’s not just free throws either. Our students get loud and more importantly can disrupt the opponent’s ability to operate its half-court offense. I would appreciate you mentioning this in your Blawg to see what others might think. GO DAWGS!
It does seem like a simple change that might help the second-half atmosphere at the Steg. Georgia roundball fans, what do you think?
We’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week, so if you have something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg