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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One Last Post About the Schedule

I think we've reached the saturation point on the discussion of the scheduling, but Mark Richt addressed the issue Tuesday, and I figured it would be worth posting his thoughts as a fitting conclusion to the conversation.

First, Richt talked about what the tough opener against Oklahoma State has meant to the teams in terms of preparation.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever gone into the first game of the year and I didn’t feel the excitement and the energy with the team, but I think there is a little greater sense of urgency," Richt said. "I think our coaches were more interested in starting the game plan for Oklahoma State a little bit sooner. They were wanting to get into breaking into scout team a little quicker to begin to plan. When you play a team that good it gets everybody’s juices flowing pretty good.”

It was an interesting comment from Richt to say the least, particularly since he spent most of the past few weeks saying the exact opposite. As a reporter, I figure I'll be lied to. I just ask that it's the same lie each time.

Anyway, from talking to players, that idea has been shared universally. The Oklahoma State game was a good opener because it has kept the Bulldogs focused throughout the offseason.

I have two qualms with this:

1.) Shouldn't a team be able to stay focused regardless of who that opening opponent is? Yes, maybe a really good team from another conference can provide more excitement, but I would hope it doesn't change the focus significantly.

2.) It really sort of piggybacks what I noted yesterday -- there is more thought, preparation and energy that goes into a "big game" and when those games are over, the situation is ripe for a let down.

As a few readers have pointed out, however, a good team doesn't allow that to happen. So the bottom line, I suppose, is that if Georgia wants to be a national championship team, this really shouldn't be an issue regardless. I can buy that.

That's the cost of the big game, but how about the benefits? Richt was asked about that, too, particularly in terms of a recruiting advantage that playing these games gets you.

“There is going to be a lot more attention on this game than there would have been if we were playing someone who’s not ranked as high," Richt said. "There will be national attention because people always want to compare leagues, and most people that I’ve heard said that the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 might be the two best as of recent times, so they’re wanting to see which league is better. That will be a big question across the country. People may watch it just for that reason. More people will see and hear about Georgia because we are playing this game, and that’s good for us."

I'm not going to argue this point because I think it's a valid one. Georgia-Oklahoma State is a marquee game on a weekend in which there aren't many marquee games. My complaint about the scheduling thus far has been that these opponents have not usually ended up getting the type of attention that Georgia probably hoped they would when the games were scheduled.

A number of readers pointed out that they wanted to see big-time opponents or travel to places they wouldn't normally go. I agree -- but why not go all the way with it if you're going to ramp up the schedule? How about a home-and-home every three years with a truly marquee opponent, the way Ohio State has done in recent seasons with Texas and USC? Or why not at least make the trip a marquee event, as has been discussed with a possible matchup against Army in New York? I'll take either of those options over a trip to Stillwater any time.

Of course, there's another thing that has to happen before Georgia gets that recruiting bump from playing in such a big game on Saturday -- a win.

"It’s certainly better for you if you win these kinds of games as far as the perception of the voters and the perception of the recruits," Richt said.

But there's this caveat, he said: "This game, win or lose, should prepare us for what we are about to face when we get into league play," Richt said. "It’ll be good preparation for that.”

It's a sentiment mirrored by Bryan Evans, too.

"If we go out and win this game and compete with the No. 9 team in the country, we should have no doubt that we can compete with South Carolina or any other team," Evans said. "It’s just going to help us as a stepping stone.”

I like the theory, but I'm curious about this:

If they win, does it give them confidence or overconfidence for the following week?

And if they lose, what happens to that high morale Evans is talking about?

It's a question that really won't be answered until South Carolina arrives next Saturday.

ADDENDUM: After mentioning Richt "lying" to me, I realized that I was probably very unclear about what I meant.

I didn't mean that Richt's previous statements about the schedule were lies.

What I meant was: For all of preseason, he'd been saying the team had not changed its approach because of the big opening week opponent. Then Tuesday, he said they had and had begun preparing sooner. It was the exact opposite of what he'd been saying.

I was really unclear about what I thought Richt was being disingenuous about, and I apologize for that. I was tagging him a liar to defend my cause (and in truth, I really don't care that much about the schedule to begin with, but I thought it was an interesting discussion). I was annoyed because Richt really did seem to have done a 180 on his comments about preparation.

Sorry for the confusion.


Anonymous said...

Ohio State has to play those games out of conference because their conference is so weak. Don't think for a second that Georgia needs to play USC or Texas to have validation. A game against OkSU is perfect for us. OkSU is getting the national attention and hype, and the national stage is set for Georgia to make an impact early. I really hope you're not suggesting we need to ramp up our schedule even more, that's pretty ignorant to compare us to what OSU is doing. They have maybe one or two big games on their schedule outside of USC... that's quite opposite of us.

Anonymous said...

To anonymouse9:47,

If you've read Hale's other posts on this topic, you would know that he's not suggesting they ramp up anything. Matter of fact, it's quite the opposite. And I think I lean more in Hale's direction on this topic.

TR said...

I agree with Anon. It would be almost as of a big deal if OSU scheduled a home/home with Florida. Or LSU. Or Alabama. It would be a significant upgrade if OSU played Auburn, or TN, or Tech. In a given year, we will play five of those teams. OSU deserves credit for scheduling some truly top teams, but at least one of these SEC opponents (and sometimes more than one) will be as good as USC or TX almost every year.

Gen. Stoopnagle said...

David, I think the "why not go all the way" attitude is probably there, but isn't reciprocated by those teams which would represent that sort of scheduling. I don't know why, but when we hear rumors of home-and-homes with these type of teams they never pan out. Is it because Georgia isn't viewed as a marquee opponent in Columbus or Ann Arbor? Or is it because those teams simply don't want to play down here in September (because of their archaic conference scheduling they can't fit a non-con game in Oct or Nov)? Who knows?

You are right about the biggest problem with these games: we've won them all, but the other team hasn't held up its end of the bargain. 2003 Clemson finished 9-4 but was largely forgotten nationally; 2005 Boise State finished 9-4, but again a far cry from its BCS bowl team of '06; 2006 Colorado was an awful 2-10; 2007 Oklahoma State with the "Greatest Offense in the World" finished 7-6; and we needn't discuss the '08 Sun Devils. These teams just aren't doing us any favors other than going into our win column.

You've made this point, so I'm just agreeing with you.

Will this year's games be different? Well, they look awfully more difficult to win, that's for sure.

And we haven't even considered Georgia Tech's resurgence.

Anonymous said...

The idea I gather is that schedule matters more than the BCS rankings. Look at UGA last year. Until ALA we had slipped from 1 to 3 by winning. Was it not the schedule that put us in that position? I would tend to think so.
Conversely, this year we are 13. If we beat the number 9 team then are we not supposed to rise significantly in the polls considering the big whiff we have been getting from the media. I tend to think that if we keep scheduling these bigger and better opponents then we will get what we want; national attention and respect whether the WWL wants to give it to us or not.

MikeInValdosta said...

As you have stated numerous times, Evans and Richt don't exactly see eye to eye on scheduling.

Evan's bigger problem is finding quality opponents willing to play home and home that also have availability.

gene said...

Lots of good points made here and I agree with most of them. But I keep seeing a larger problem, one we can't ever seem to stay one step ahead of, one we all know and love. That's right, the WWL and her evil minions. I think we can safely say the WWL can effect poll voters opinions faster than a hungry succubus on a vestal virgin. History has shown us we are not well loved in those precincts(and maybe after last year some of that is deserved for now) by our old friends Mark, Kirk and granny Clampett. History has also shown us that once we get close, or in the conversation, this axis of evil, this Devil's Trimuvirate if you will, keep changing the thinking about just who deserves the shot. Is it the 11-2 conference winner or is it the 11-2 head/head winner, or is that another reason we can rule UGA(or some other SEC) school out of the pic and glory, glory to one more for the notre damaged? Or the nationally(?) beloved suckeyes. Right now UF is getting a huge pat on the back for their weak sister sched and we are sitting around talking about how bad we want to play marquee games to make our team better. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Anyone? Anyone?

David Hale said...

Great point, Gene. And it's not just public opinion that is swayed by the market's behemoth, ESPN. When coaches spend the vast majority of their time watching their own team, where do you think they're going to find highlights of the other games before voting in the coaches' poll? My guess is most are tuning in to the late night SportsCenter.

I don't blame ESPN. They have a profit motive and they do what is best for the network. But when their motives are intertwined with the system that crowns the champion, then we have a problem.