And what about that road game that UCLA cancelled in the 80′s?

Michael Elkon has a post up today about Georgia’s 2008 schedule… and about the schedules that preceded it.

Since the prevailing theme this summer in discussing the 2008 Dawgs is going to be “they’re going to be very good, but the schedule is so tough,” I need to get something off my chest that I’ve been considering for a while: this schedule is penance. Georgia hasn’t played a road game outside of the South since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, so maybe they don’t deserve endless hosannas for finally doing what most of the rest of major college football programs do…

Maybe he’s running ahead of the crowd a little here, but I’m somewhat underwhelmed by his argument for several reasons.

  1. I haven’t heard much of the “woe is me” handwringing from Georgia partisans that Elkon claims to be reacting to. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked about it with has acknowledged the schedule as a challenge that would validate a two loss or less season, rather than as an excuse for failure. When I would expect significant whining from the Dawgnation to occur would be if a two loss Georgia team were kept out of the BCS title game so that two one loss schools with lesser schedules could meet. But that’s a “cross that bridge when we get there” consideration right now.
  2. “Repeating endlessly ‘we have to go to Columbia…’”? Dude, no. If you asked a Georgia fan to list the biggest roadblocks on the schedule, this might rank fifth. At best.
  3. The “Georgia hasn’t played a regular season game outside the South in decades” is an overrated criticism, unless you think that lengthy travel, in and of itself, is a great equalizer of talent.
  4. Elkon’s main point seems to be that Georgia fans have no grounds for complaint about the ’08 schedule because they never gave proper credit to the scheduling gods for those years when their program was the beneficiary of a trip through the lesser portion of the SEC West. This is pretty weak beer. First, it’s not like Georgia was able to pick and choose who its opponents were each year. Second, it’s not like anyone knows going in how an opponent’s season will play out. For example, he points to ’03 and the negative record of Georgia’s SEC West foes that year, but neglects to remember that many people were touting Auburn as a MNC candidate in preseason that year. But, OK, fine if he wants to go down that road – as long as, for one thing, he’ll acknowledge the advantage that Florida worked into its scheduling in many years with the open date prior to the WLOCP. It’s not like any school operates in a vacuum with this stuff.
  5. His last point has some validity, although I don’t think Georgia has avoided travel out of cowardice so much as out of greed. Dooley simply didn’t want to give up the revenue generated from a home game against a cupcake. The twelfth game has given Damon some scheduling flexibility and Elkon in the follow up comments commendably credits Damon with stepping up on that front.
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11 Comments

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11 responses to “And what about that road game that UCLA cancelled in the 80′s?

  1. Maybe I didn’t quite express myself properly. My main issue is that every discussion of the ’08 Dawgs mentions the schedule. Donnan started by discussing it this morning on 680. Barnhart mentioned it as soon as he started writing about ’08. One friend of mine has already proclaimed it the hardest schedule in history. “Woe is me” doesn’t seem to be the reaction. Rather, I am sensing preemptive excuse-making. If Georgia has a great season, then the fans are thrilled. If they don’t have a great season, then they blame the schedule. That’s all fine and good as long as we acknowledge that: (1) Georgia has benefited from the schedule rotation on a number of occasions this decade; and (2) Georgia doesn’t have a good record of scheduling out-of-conference opponents. In other words, 2008 needs to be seen as a balancing out of luck/soft scheduling from the recent past.

    I acknowledged in the comments to the post that the better criticism of Georgia’s OOC scheduling is not that they never leave the South, but rather than they never play name opponents. Arkansas has played Texas and USC this decade; when is the last time that Georgia played a program on that level? Florida plays Miami and Florida State this year; when is the last time that Georgia played programs on that level (assuming, for the sake of argument, that Miami and FSU are in temporary dips right now). Tennessee has played UCLA and Notre Dame this decade. Alabama has played Oklahoma. Auburn has played USC. LSU has played Virginia Tech. Where are Georgia’s comparable opponents? This gets me to my point (finally): Georgia finally playing an OOC opponent that outranks Georgia Tech and Clemson legitimately provokes a response of “finally!”

  2. Well, it’s one thing to say that the schedule is tough. Let’s face it – at this point in time, it looks formidable.

    It’s another to say that noting the degree of difficulty at this early juncture equates to advance excuse making. For one thing, who knows if Georgia’s opponents wind up the season as strong as they appear right now?

    I appreciate your historical argument. There is a counterbalance to consider, though, in that it might be interesting to see how the weaker parts of Georgia’s schedules over the same time period compare to some of those schools you mention. If they’re similar, I’d expect that Georgia’s overall strength of schedule rankings would be lower than those schools. But what if the SOS numbers are roughly equivalent?

  3. I won’t rehash my entire reply on Michael’s blog, but I think the neutral site match in Jacksonville bears mentioning again. Georgia and Florida are the only two BCS schools I can think of who have to accommodate both a neutral site game and a OOC in-state rival. And both schools get hammered for their scheduling.

  4. I’ve always said two things on this topic:
    1. Why should Dooley get penalized for being a good negotiator? In the 60s, 70s and 80s, Georgia was able to get UCLA, Texas A&M, Pitt (2x), UVA, UNC and BYU to come to Athens without a return trip. So we flexed our muscles. So what. Where’s the article condemning Michigan for not playing a meaningful game in the Southeast or Big 12 since 1922.

    2. From ’76 to ’86 or so, Clemson won more games and just as many national titles than Notre Dame while playing in much more hostile stadium. Where’s the credit for that series? Is it less tough because it was only 75 minutes away.

    As for the rest, I think Elkon gets paid by the word.

  5. Actually, UCLA was a home and home deal (hence the post header). The Bruins called off the return trip, much to my disappointment.

  6. dean

    Am I missing the point? It seems as though Georgia is being bashed for not playing an OOC game outside the southeast since the LBJ years. However in Micheal’s comments he mentions Florida playing Miami and Florida St. and LSU playing Virgina Tech. To my knowledge those games are/were played somewhere in the souteast. Also correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Auburn play USC in D.C.?
    So which is it? We don’t play “quality” OOC opponents or we don’t travel outside the southeast to play “quality” OOC opponents?

  7. So which is it? We don’t play “quality” OOC opponents or we don’t travel outside the southeast to play “quality” OOC opponents?

    If you read Michael’s comment above, I think his criticism of Georgia’s scheduling is more the former than the latter.

    But I think he’s also saying that if Georgia fans are going to crow about traveling to play ASU this year, they’re fair game for other fans to point out that it’s been a fairly long time in coming.

  8. Richt-Flair

    It all balanaces out. Alabama gets credit for scheduling UCLA earlier this decade, then they schedule softies like Duke another season. Auburn gets credit for playing USC, but then bashed in 04 when they have a lighter non-conference. Look at Ohio State’s tour de force against weak Ohio teams in 07. Since 02, we’ve played Clemson, Boise and Oklahoma State — that’s a good record of scheduling out of conference opponents, especially with the WLOCP and Tech to think about. Not playing a game outside the South is overrated. Haven’t you heard? The world revolves around SEC football anyway.

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  10. hambone44

    Why leave the southeast? Does Georgia get bonus points for an OOC game? Ga has most of the nations top football programs sharing state lines. No Ga. has not scheduled USC, but we did play LSU twice in ’03. The same year they won the NC. Lets don’t forget about playing Fla. on a regular basis, and I think I remember them winning a national championship in ’06. Maybe he’s right & Ga. should schedule some great OOC opponents like Youngstown St., Akron, Washingon, & lets don’t forget the powerhouse Kent St. Just like the “Luckeyes” did last year. That seemed to help them to the big dance. It sounds to me that Michael doesn’t even have a good argument.

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