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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Cost of a Big Game

I wrote earlier today about Georgia's tough scheduling philosophy during the past few years. Since 2005, the Bulldogs have played (or will play this year) seven out-of-region opponents as part of Damon Evans' plan to market the team outside of the Southeast.

The thought process was that big games against non-regional opponents would create national attention. But until the Bulldogs head to Stillwater, Okla. on Saturday, I'm just not sure how true that has been. Let's take a closer look at how I'd rank the overall significance of the seven games through this season:

7. Arizona State, Sept. 26, 2009. I think I've heard more discussion of Tennessee Tech than of this matchup. Despite the name, I think most Georgia fans are essentially looking at this as a cake walk for the Dawgs.

(NEXT UP: LSU at home.)

6. Colorado, Sept. 23, 2006. There were really only two things to remember about this game: 1.) Joe Cox came in and led the Dawgs back from a 13-0 second-half deficit, and 2.) Colorado brought its mascot, Ralphi, the 1,300-pound Buffalo, with them to Athens. Colorado finished the season 2-10, which actually made Georgia's 8-4 campaign look pretty darned good.

(NEXT UP: Win over Ole Miss in Oxford, 14-9)

5. Central Michigan, Sept. 6, 2008. This was hardly a marquee matchup, but it did bring Dan LeFevour, who was garnering some early niche support for a Heisman, to town. This game was actually closer than most people remember in the first half -- probably a sign of things to come for Georgia -- but it featured two of the most memorable plays of the year for the Bulldogs: Demarcus Dobbs interception return for a touchdown at the end of the first half and Knowshon Moreno's leap. The latter didn't even make "SportsCenter," which in the end, probably turned into the most talked-about portion of this game. Final score, Georgia 56, Central Michigan 17.

(NEXT UP: Win over South Carolina in Columbia, 14-7)

4. Arizona State, Sept. 20, 2008. At the beginning of the season, this game looked like it was going to be a crucial step for the Bulldogs. Instead, the Sun Devils' offensive line was so bad it made Georgia's defensive ends actually seem impressive. Yes, as many as 30,000 Georgia fans traveled to Tempe for the game, but that probably helped gain respect for the Bulldogs far more than their 27-10 win over a lousy ASU team did.

(NEXT UP: Loss to Alabama in Athens, 41-30)

3. Oklahoma State, Sept. 1, 2007. In retrospect, it's hard to say what this game really meant. On one hand, the 35-14 beat down of the Cowboys put Georgia on the map following a disappointing 2006 season. On the other hand, a home loss to South Carolina came a week later, essentially ending Georgia's hopes for an SEC title. The Bulldogs spent the rest of the season trying to make up for the Gamecocks' defeat, and it's easy to wonder if things might have been different had Georgia opened against a less challenging opponent.

(NEXT UP: Loss to South Carolina in Athens, 16-12)

2. Boise State, Sept. 3, 2005. It might be hard to remember now, but there were a lot of people who thought the upstart Broncos would come to Athens and teach the Dawgs a thing or two about the impressiveness of the mid-majors. Instead, Georgia delivered a 48-13 beatdown that officially ushered in the D.J. Shockley era.

(NEXT UP: Win over South Carolina in Athens, 17-15)

1.) Oklahoma State, Sept. 5, 2009. No question about it, this is the biggest opponent to date, and it appears to be a tough test for Georgia. The Cowboys are a top-10 team from a power conference opening up a remodeled stadium before a lively crowd. But wouldn't you have said essentially the same thing about Arizona State before last year's game? I think the Cowboys will be decent this year, but they're still -- at best -- the third biggest name in the Big XII (and you could make an argument that they're actually closer to the fifth or sixth) that still has a lot of questions about the validity of their advanced billing.

(NEXT UP: South Carolina at home)

Now, you may disagree a bit with my rankings, but I think at the very least this should illustrate that the reward of a marquee matchup has hardly been worth the toll preparing for and playing a high-level team has put on the Bulldogs.

That, of course, is not to say that the plan has been a failure -- but rather that it simply hasn't been a success yet. There are some big games on the horizon, too. (*All schedules tentative, courtesy of Sic 'Em Dawgs.)

In 2010, Georgia plays at Colorado on Oct. 2.

In 2011, the Bulldogs open at home against Louisville on Sept. 3 and host New Mexico State on Nov. 5.

In 2012, Georgia goes to Louisville on Sept. 15 -- one week before traveling to Alabama.

In 2013, Georgia opens the season at Clemson on Aug. 31 with the Tigers returning the favor in 2014 in Athens.

So... what do you think? Are the tough opponents worthwhile -- particularly with an already arduous SEC slate and an annual date against Georgia Tech on the docket? Does the fact that Georgia is 5-0 with a number of blow-out wins in these games so far validate Evans' philosophy? Or does the fact that Georgia is just 3-2 the week after these games (with all three wins being decided by fewer than seven points) mean that the toll these games takes is more than they're worth?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

2 corrections - Knowshon had 20 carries and a few catches against SC in that 07 game. Plenty of touches, i think you are wrong with your comment.

Shockley beat SC at home 17-15 (the Mike Vick-esque leap into the endzone).

Just keeping you on your toes. ;)

Anonymous said...

Knowshon didnt have 20 carries, or touches, in 07. Everyone, including Richt, probably wishes he'd gotten more.

Git yer facts straight 4 you tell someone else to git their facts straight anon 4:02

Richt-Flair

David Hale said...

excellent point, anon. my bad... thanks for the heads up.

Gen. Stoopnagle said...

For these games to garner national attention, they have to be seen nationally. For that reason, I have no problem with ranking the '09 Oklahoma State game as number one. It's getting as much pre-season attention as Alabama-Va Tech from the pundits. Of course, it helps that it's on ABC. I haven't seen a regional map for this w/e, but our game is going to be covering the south, Texas and most of Big 12 country as well as the east coast.

Compare that to the '08 Arizona State game. ASU did us no favors by losing the week before at home to UNLV. That killed the game right there.

The '05 Boise game was so memorable that in '06 Herbie had forgotten all about - saying during a BSU broadcast that "the big boys need to schedule Boise." Thankfully, Fowler called him on it on the air. But still... we didn't gain a lot from it.

I don't know that the strategy works if we don't also beat the marquee teams in our league. Losing to Bama at home can't be made up for by going to Arizona, Louisville or Oregon. It just can't.

And we're not going to get anywhere perception wise with this scheduling until we start winning a fair share in Jacksonville. Period. I, and likely all of your readers, know that OOC scheduling mean little until we start beating Florida.

jferg said...

I like it in that it seems to give us a better season by setting the tempo through the summer workouts.
I would, however, recommend a Thursday or Friday night game for these tough opening away opponents to give our guys a little extra rest.

i'd also recommend making South Carolina the doormat that they are and beating them every year...but what do i know?

Anonymous said...

http://www.georgiadogs.com/fls/8800/stats/football/2007/fb0107.htm

oops, i was thinking of Okie St.

ArchDawg said...

jferg, Georgia will not be playing games on any day besides Saturday anytime soon--if ever. Damon's made that point before.

Scott said...

When did UGA do enough to beat Florida before the 12 game schedule? I like watching UGA play nonconference BCS games. I have been bored watching UGA play patsies just to suck against UF anyway. At least we get a good game to watch even if we don't make it to the MNC. And you have to admit most of the BCS matchups are crummy. At least this way UGA gets to choose the opponent. I just wish the ASUs of the world would not crap on themselves the week before we play them. I'd rather be garanteed of watching an interesting matchup during the season than to hope for one at the end of the season. What say you?