Smile, Georgia fans: it’s another Mandel Mailbag!

Montana alert:

Georgia this season plays at Arizona State, marking the first time since 1967 that the Bulldogs have played a regular season game outside of the Southeast. Since 1992, the SEC as a whole has played less than half as many out-of-region games than any BCS conference besides the Big East.

So my question is, what incentive do teams really have to go out there and play legitimately tough non-conference games every year? Any respectable BCS school will demand a home-and-home series, and if the odds of actually winning that game are so terrible, why not be like Georgia or Florida or LSU, and never schedule a game outside of the southeastern U.S.?
– Ryan, Columbus, Ohio

First of all, that Georgia nugget, which has been circulating frequently in recent months, is truly astounding, and has surely contributed to the notion I asserted last summer about that program’s lack of national cachet. Fortunately, current AD Damon Evans realizes this and has taken numerous, progressive steps to enhance the Bulldogs’ image, including scheduling home-and-homes like this one…

Once again, distance traveled is somehow made to equate with degree of difficulty. Would Georgia’s 2003 schedule have been tougher if the Dawgs had traveled to play Stanford instead of Clemson?

The thing of it is that Mandel himself goes on to give an example that undercuts this argument.

… Florida may not be leaving its region but, in addition to its annual date with Florida State, is renewing its series with Miami.

That’s national power Florida to you, bub. That’s the same Florida program which hasn’t traveled outside the South to play a regular season football game since 1991 (that will become the longest gap for any SEC school after Georgia plays in Tempe). So exactly why does travel outside the region matter?

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6 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

6 responses to “Smile, Georgia fans: it’s another Mandel Mailbag!

  1. When the bullies live in your neighborhood, you don’t have to drive nowhere to prove how tough you are.

    I think I read that in a fortune cookie.

  2. hoodawg

    It’s always been a smokescreen. In the Southeast, the SEC and ACC intermesh with each other geographically. No other region of the country has two BCS conferences interwoven in this way. Some states have overlap – Iowa, Pennsylvania — but no other geographic region has more than one state with two BCS schools from different conferences.

    The Southeast, by comparison, has FOUR states — Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky — with schools from two major conferences. And in each case, they are real football teams — Clemson/South Carolina, Florida/Miami/FSU/USF, Georgia/Georgia Tech (OK, I know, a stretch), Kentucky/Louisville (Kentucky maybe not most years). In each case (except for UF/UM and USF/anyone), these teams play bitter rivalry games against each other every year, and it doesn’t count as a conference game. That’s beyond comprehension for most of the rest of the country.

    Then you consider that there are other teams on the border of the SEC, like Texas, Missouri, and the Oklahoma, Virginia, and North Carolina schools, which folks may consider in the Southeast but which are entirely legit competitors. SEC teams play these guys fairly routinely.

    But congrats to Wisconsin for getting on that plane to play UNLV. Way to go. You’re just better than us. And then, of course, there’s this “national power.” Those four away games crossing a total of three state lines were an unreasonable competitive burden, and we apologize.

  3. Xon

    Yes, hoodawg, that was very well said. And I have a PhD (almost), but admittedly I didn’t have to travel outside the Southeast to get it, either. :-)

    We’re all pumped as Dawg fans to get to see some exciting “inter-regional” matchups these last few years, and the return trips to Boulder and Stillwater are going to be fun as is the trip to Tempe this year. There is nothing wrong with this, now that we’ve gone to a 12 game schedule.

    But these ubiquitous articles spout these cliches over and over without any substantive analysis to back them up. It’s like when people talk about Georiga’s “unreasonable” fan base (just saw this in this year’s Athlon, in fact). It’s a “meme,” or whatever…it has a life of its own and nobody who is saying it today (hardly) has any idea if it can even be backed up with anything.

    W/ re: to scheduling, I’m just echoing what’s already been said but it is worth saying again. These analysts who fault southeastern teams (esp. SEC teams) for not travelling far, far away over the years give the game away with their own choice of words. They always say “out of conference” this and “out of conference” that. We never travel to play “out of conference” games. As though all ooc games are created equal, so you can just add up the miles on google map and that will tell you has a “harder” schedule. It’s absurd. If they changed that one term from “out of conference” to “challenging” or something similar, then their whole argument would fall apart.

    Georgia and Florida don’t travel far away to play out of conference games (before the 12 game scheds were implemented), but what does that matter when you look at their typical ooc schedules? On the old 11 game schedule, UGA and UF would each have 3 OOC games: one was against an in-state rival and no pushover (even in UGA’s case; rivalry games are always important, use all of your resources, and are often competitive beyond what the raw numbers might project), and two cupcakes. Most teams do the same thing, they play 2 cupcakes and 1 quality team. But, because the other regions of the country are not as dense with quality programs, they have to travel to play the 1 quality team. Big deal. Get out a map and shake your fist at it if it makes you feel better.

    Thanks, just needed to vent.

  4. hoodawg

    Cheers, Xon. The national program mentioned in my post above (the link won’t work for me) is Michigan, by the way.

    Also ignored is whether Georgia has a problem getting national powers outside the South to travel here — since we shouldn’t be expected to take an away-only series. After seeing the results of the Boise and Ok State games, ya think Damon Evans’ sell job just got a little harder?

    And, let’s be clear…strength of opponent aside, which is likely more hospitable to the opponent — a never-full regular season Rose Bowl visit against UCLA, where all the Georgia fans in Southern California can likely find a place among the 100,000+ seats, or a hot September night at Clemson, where the lucky ticket-holding 7,000 Georgia fans are stuck in the rafters of a sold-out Death Valley?

  5. C

    They just don’t get it. It’s no coincidence that Florida & UGA have the longest streaks in the SEC without playing out of the Southeast. We are the only ones who can understand our world. It is a strange plight that we and the dirty Gators share together. We both have in-state rivals that are mandatory out-of-conference games every year AND we both play another rival in a game that is NEVER at home. For the next 3 years, we will have only 6 home games, almost unheard of for a BCS team in the era of 12 games, but we have no choice if we’re going to play quality home-home OOC games.

    If we scheduled those games in an 11-game schedule, we’d have only 5 home games every other year, which would basically mean we’d have to get rid of the men’s & women’s golf teams because we couldn’t afford them. We are losing A LOT of money to schedule these games. I’m all for it during the 12-game season, but it just makes me mad when people talk about something that they know nothing about.

    Tell Ohio St. that they have to play Michigan at Ford Field in Detroit every year and they have to play Notre Dame in a home-home series all the time and see if they’re ready to schedule out of conference then.

    Don’t give the Buckeyes too much credit this year: OOC games are USC, Youngstown St., Ohio & Troy. Doesn’t even compare with ASU, Tech, Central Michigan, and Southern.

  6. Coastal Dawg

    Well said, C.

    The Cocktail party and Tech being OOC put a big hitch in our plans.

    We sell out Sanford Stadium and people pay big bucks for the opportunity to buy season tickets let alone the tix themselves. How long do you think alums will pony up those kinds of dollars for only 6 games?

    Bowl Games are for travelling around the country and meeting exotic people. I am fine staying close to home where the games are competitive and the bourbon flows freely at the tailgate.