Archive for May, 2013

10 ‘good’ games ought to be SEC football’s goal

SEC Football logoAmid the continuing discussion of a strength-of-schedule factor in selecting the four teams for the new College Football Playoff, the move toward a nine-game SEC schedule appears to have widened into a call for the conference’s teams to upgrade their nonconference opponents as well.

Already, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has made a move in basketball, getting the schools to agree to send their nonconference schedules to the league office for evaluation and possible tweaking in an effort to get more conference teams into the NCAA tournament.

According to the Sporting News, Slive has similar concerns about the proliferation of “cupcake” games on SEC teams’ nonconference football schedules.

“I made it very clear,” Slive said. “I don’t want us playing four games that mean less.”

So whether the SEC goes to eight or nine conference games, the commissioner wants members playing more teams from major, BCS-level conferences and fewer opponents that do nothing more than guarantee a home …

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Is anyone really surprised to hear a UGA football player has been suspended?

Josh Harvey-Clemons has let his team down. (Associated Press)

Josh Harvey-Clemons has let his team down. (Associated Press)

If, as a Georgia fan, you’d been asked after spring drills to pick a single player (besides Aaron Murray) you’d absolutely not want to lose for the season opener at Clemson, it probably would have been Josh Harvey-Clemons.

The sophomore, signed as a five-star prospect and pegged as a rising star in Todd Grantham’s rebuilding defense, was slotted to start at safety and at the hybrid linebacker-safety “star” position in the nickel defense — which is where he primarily would have played against Clemson’s explosive, uptempo offense. Grantham basically had guaranteed this spring that Harvey-Clemons would be a starter this fall, no matter what. “He’ll be one of the 11,” the defensive coordinator had flatly stated.

Well, not against Clemson.

Almost predictably (as Steve Spurrier would note), the Bulldogs once again will find themselves opening the season with at least one key player, Harvey-Clemons, suspended for violating …

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UGA’s McGarity concerned with how football schedule impacts Athens

Greg McGarity is concerned about how the loss of a home game impacts his hometown. (University of Georgia)

Greg McGarity is concerned about how the loss of a home game impacts his hometown. (University of Georgia)

Some interesting tidbits came out of the UGA athletic board’s spring meeting this week, including athletic director Greg McGarity shooting down the likelihood of a matchup between Georgia and Florida State in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta.

McGarity confirmed discussions have taken place but said: “I think that is a long, long shot.”

The problem, he said, is that playing a neutral site game like that means UGA doesn’t have seven home games. And while the payment from the Chick-fil-A game would make up “from a budget standpoint” what the athletic department would lose in revenue, McGarity said, it wouldn’t make up for the loss of revenue to the city of Athens.

We’re very sensitive to our role in the community,” he said, “and if it’s not the best thing for the community, (and) there’s no question it is not,” then he’s hesitant about going forth.

McGarity …

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Which of the Dawgs’ 2013 games are you most looking forward to?

Will Todd Gurley be a difference-maker against Clemson? (Associated Press)

Will Todd Gurley be a difference-maker against Clemson? (Associated Press)

Recently, Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated was asked which nonconference game of 2013 he was most looking forward to, and he ranked Georgia vs. Clemson at the top of his list, ahead of Oklahoma-Notre Dame, Notre Dame-Michigan, LSU-TCU (the Aug. 31 Cowboys Classic) and Florida-Miami.

Said Mandel of the Aug. 31 pairing of the Bulldogs and Tigers: “This sporadically re-continued regional rivalry takes on national importance this season, as it’s likely to pit two preseason Top 10 teams and two potential first-round quarterbacks, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. It should also feature a healthy heaping of Tigers receiver Sammy Watkins and strangely overlooked Dawgs running back Todd Gurley. (As a freshman, Gurley ran for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, including 122 yards and two scores in the SEC title game against Alabama.) The winner will gain serious legitimacy going forward, especially …

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Fan talk: Georgia-FSU, Muschamp’s sniveling over Gator turnovers, SEC on TV and more!

fsu helmetLet’s get straight to some Junkyard Mail. …

Buddy Johnson writes: Bill, I was happy to hear this week that Georgia and Florida State are in talks to play a neutral site game in 2016, probably the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome. I’d love to see the Dogs and Noles play again somewhere other than in a bowl game, and I’m sure Coach Mark Richt would be excited by the prospect. Do you think this might get derailed by all the talk about the SEC going to a nine-game conference schedule? I know UGA leaders have said that would mean the end of big-name nonconference opponents like Clemson.

Even if the conference decides to make the nine-game scheduling move, which is far from a fait accompli, SEC observers doubt the conference would be able to institute the change before 2017. But even if it did happen a year earlier, UGA probably still would be willing to sacrifice a cupcake win and a home game for the obvious benefits that come from a high-profile neutral site game like …

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Jacksonville ‘jinx’ isn’t Georgia’s problem these days

Mark Richt pretty much has Georgia's traditional rivalries in hand. (AJC file)

Mark Richt pretty much has Georgia's traditional rivalries in hand. (AJC file)

For UGA fans, it’s sweet to have the Gators fretting about Jacksonville and the Florida coach being the one answering questions about the other team’s winning streak.

Asked by reporters this week about Georgia’s two consecutive wins in the series before a Gator Club appearance in Jacksonville, Will Muschamp puffed up his chest and boomed, “Well, it’s not going to be a long winning streak, I can assure you. We feel very comfortable.”

Maybe so. But despite the lazier media types still falling back on the old trope about Florida “owning” the series against Georgia, the days when Steve Spurrier’s version of the Gators did indeed routinely dominate the Bulldogs are increasingly lost in the mists of time. Over the past six games, the Georgia-Florida series is tied 3-3. And, of course, the Dogs have won the past two. That makes Mark Richt 4-8 overall against Florida.

The current even nature of the series …

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UGA students could see more football seats taken away from them

UGA students need to show up for football games this season, or their ticket allotment could be cut again. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

UGA students need to show up for football games this season, or their ticket allotment could be cut again. (Curtis Compton / AJC)

The success of UGA football’s Young Alumni Program, which took frequently unused seats away from the student body’s ticket allotment and made them available to recent graduates, ought to send a loud and clear message to the undergrads:

Show up for games, or there might be even fewer student tickets sold in the future.

The young alums program, instituted for the coming football season, offered those who graduated from the University of Georgia within the past five years (May 1, 2008-May 31, 2013) the opportunity to request renewable season tickets for football without having to make the usual required donation.

The 2,000 tickets in question, previously part of the 16,000 allotted to students, are those in the northeast upper level of Sanford Stadium, where UGA averaged about 6,000 empty seats last year. That was especially embarrassing to the …

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Adding a ninth SEC game would have pluses and minuses for UGA fans

sec-logo-Despite all the chatter since the announcement of the SEC Network last week about the SEC increasing from eight conference games to a nine-game conference schedule in football, the change apparently won’t happen before 2016.

Tony Barnhart reports CBSSports.com has been told the scheduling formats for 2014 and 2015 will be presented later this month at the conference’s spring meetings in Destin, Fla., and both seasons call for sticking with the eight-game model.

Still, the nine-game schedule is starting to look inevitable.

Last week at the announcement of the SEC’s new partnership with ESPN, Commissioner Mike Slive took note of the the upcoming College Football Playoff and the strength of scheduling factor that its selection committee will take into account. “Obviously the playoff impacts how we think about scheduling,” Slive said. “Strength of scheduling will be a significant component in the committee’s analysis. As far as I am concerned, I am open-minded about how we should …

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Fan talk: Does Bulldog Nation need to dial back the hype?

There are a lot of stressed-out kids in Athens right now, as UGA is in the midst of final exams, so here’s wishing the best of luck to my daughter and all the other Bulldogs!

Meanwhile, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Georgia-Clemson logosChris Pugh writes: Bill, I’m concerned that we Georgia fans and the media are setting ourselves up for a disappointment. I hear a lot of people yelling, “National champs this year, we’re gonna go all the way” and how this defense is gonna be better then last year’s. Look, I love my Dawgs but the last 2 years’ schedules have been pretty dang easy. And this year is no joke, we could easily lose four games, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we lose to Clemson with a young defense playing Clemson’s high-powered offense. What’s your thought on this?

This is the time of year when fan (and media) optimism runs high, but you’re right that Mark Richt’s Bulldogs face a much more daunting schedule this season. And the rebuilding defense remains a big question …

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Who likely will be the Dawgs’ 2013 breakout players?

Tray Matthews, here seen with Mark Richt on signing day, looks to have locked up a starting spot on defense. (Associated Press)

Tray Matthews, here seen with Mark Richt on signing day, looks to have locked up a starting spot on defense. (Associated Press)

ESPN’s SEC Blog is conducting a poll on who was the biggest star of the spring in the SEC, and as this is written Georgia’s Tray Matthews is leading the vote.

It’s no wonder. As ESPN’s Chris Low puts it, Matthews “is only a true freshman who enrolled early” but he “played well enough this spring (and handed out enough bone-crunching licks) that he enters preseason camp as one of the starters at safety.”

Starting a true freshman at safety might be worrisome in a lot of cases, but Mark Richt noted recently that Matthews arrived in Athens “ready to play” and focused on winning a starting position, and “It may be tough to knock him out of the box.”

The hard-hitting Matthews was definitely the talk of spring practice among Georgia’s coaches and players and seems the natural answer when I’m asked, as I have been several times recently, who I see as one of …

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