You can’t stop the schedule. You can only hope to contain it.

Two more preseason predictions up today about Georgia’s chances in ’08:  College Football News likes the Dawgs to go 10-2, while Sunday Morning Quarterback sees Georgia finishing fifth best in the nation.

In both cases, they find much to admire, but in the end, it comes down to you-know-what.

From CFN -

One Bold Prediction
Not only will Georgia not win the national title and not only will it not win the SEC, it’ll have to battle to win the East. While the team will be among the three best in America, things won’t go as expected because of three things: schedule, schedule, schedule. It’s asking way too much for anyone to get through unscathed at South Carolina, at LSU and at Auburn while hosting Alabama and Tennessee. Of course, there’s the Florida showdown to deal with, too..

And from SMQ -

… I emphasize “survival” because my main argument against UGA in the penthouse is the unusually brutal nature of the road it faces: as we saw Friday, only one of the mythical champions of the BCS era (Miami in 2001) has faced more than four teams that wound up in the final AP poll in their championship season, and Georgia likely faces six teams projected for the poll going into the season (Arizona State, Alabama, Tenessee, LSU, Florida, and Auburn). That doesn’t even include games at South Carolina and Kentucky, and the finale against Georgia Tech, maybe the most mysterious team in the country going into the year. After the first week of September, other than Vanderbilt (knock on wood) and a couple of actual bye weeks, Georgia has no breaks; LSU, Florida and Auburn in a four-week span, all away from home, is particularly brutal, almost unfairly so, and I think almost precludes a run to the top barring the same kind of highly unlikely assistance LSU benefitted from last year. Consider, for comparison, that division mate Florida, even while getting Miami and Florida State outside of the league, only plays three teams in the preseason rankings, draws Ole Miss and Arkansas from the West instead of Auburn and Alabama, and gets LSU and South Carolina at home. Even if the Dawgs beat the Gators in the Cocktail Party and drag home another big win or two — and there are enough of them that two or three high profile victories should probably be taken for granted — that’s too many mines in the field, too long to be “on,” to stagger out on top in December.

OK, so there’s that.

Aside from the schedule focus, there are some interesting points made at both sites.  I find myself in pretty fair agreement with Fiutak’s overall records for the SEC teams – although I think he’s slightly optimistic about Auburn’s chances and he’s got LSU and South Carolina losing to each other (if only that could happen in the Florida-Tennessee game).  And while I don’t agree with SMQ’s assessment that Florida will finish #1 when the dust settles, he’s spot on with this:

… in fact, if there were any offensive issues last year, it was that the Gators couldn’t get their hands on the ball enough:

You cannot score if you do not have the ball, and in each of its losses, Florida suffered from at least a four-and-a-half to five-minute deficit in possession due mainly to the epic drives allowed by the defense.

It’s just that, again, looking back, those three SEC losses weren’t flukes.  They came against teams that had a clue about how to play good defense from a scoring perspective – those were your top three in scoring defense in the SEC last season.  On the plus side for Florida, Auburn drops off the schedule this year.  On the down side, I have to think that most SEC coaches aren’t idiots and are likely to absorb some of the lessons that this data reinforces.

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UPDATE: Fiutak’s rejiggered a few of his projections.  He’s now got Auburn at 9-3 and LSU losing to South Carolina.  Ole Miss picked up a mystery win in there somewhere, which would make every school in the West bowl eligible.

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10 Comments

Filed under College Football, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, The Blogosphere

10 responses to “You can’t stop the schedule. You can only hope to contain it.

  1. Zach

    I question how College Football News can have Georgia beating Auburn but also have Auburn beating Georgia as well? Do we have to play them twice this year? Wow, the rivalry is only getting stronger.

  2. Good catch, Zach. If Fiutak corrects that to show an Auburn loss and reduces the Tigers’ record to 9-3, that’s about right in my book.

  3. 10-2 sounds about right. With the strength of schedule, that should be enough for another BCS at-large.

    But- Florida losing to Tennessee (I think the Gators just scored another TD) and…Arkansas? We realize what various players aren’t suiting up for the Hawgs anymore, right?

  4. dean

    I’ve said all along the Auburn game worries me most on the schedule. Not to make light of UT, LSU or UF but we’ve embarrassed AU 2 years in a row and with out looking it up I couldn’t tell ya the last time we beat AU 3 straight. On top of that they’re at the end of the roughest stretch of our schedule. Therefore making fatigue and injuries a major factor . In addition AU plays a couple of (what appear to be) breathers in Ole Miss and UT-Martin leading up to the dawgs.
    I don’t want to sound all “doom and gloom” here but it’s just a game that if I had to pick one for us to struggle in it would be that one. I guess the good news would be it’s in Auburn giving the visitors record in this series.

  5. The thing with Auburn is that they’ve never stopped Matt Stafford. Yeah, that’s only twice, but he lit up the Auburn secondary (and ran in for a score of his own) in ’06 right after a series of games when he was flat out brutal.

    I’m not really sure why, or what it means, but there it is.

  6. Xon

    Yeah, I hope that’s right, DN. Maybe Stafford is to Auburn as Erik Ainge was to Georgia? Were that it were so!

  7. Atlchris

    The sched-ool… Who woulda thunk it?

  8. dean

    DNN,
    Very good point. Another potential positive on your point is they’re breaking in a new D-nator. That may not be an issue (or at least it shouldn’t) by week 12 but you never know.

  9. RedCrake

    I still fail to see the value in assuming that strength of schedule can be determined at the beginning of the season.

    If a team has Notre Dame scheduled at the beginning of last year, it improved their SOS. At the end, it hurt them….except that they probably destroyed Jimmy Clausen and beat the Irish. Same with Michigan, though they improved as the season went on, they looked very beatable after those first two games.

    On Georgia’s schedule, everyone keeps pointing to LSU and Auburn (not to mention ASU) as potential roadblocks. But we don’t know how they are going to do THIS YEAR! LSU has numerous star players to replace and an unproven quarterback. Auburn has a new QB and a new OC and I’m not willing to accept a Peach Bowl win over Clemson as the gospel that Tony Franklin is going to have them ready for the big time this year. ASU has a decimated O-Line. This isn’t to say that these games might not be difficult, rather we don’t know how they will be.

    Yet the media is completely unwilling to acknowledge that UCLA might be improved before the Tennessee game, that Miami and FSU might give UF more of a run than in previous years, or that Penn State could rally around JoePa and knock of Oh.St.

    Are these things likely? No. But stranger things have happened and will happen again during the college football season. I seem to remember everyone insisting that WVU would be in the MNC game before they played Pitt. Those same people, I’m looking at you Desmond Howard, insisted that UGA wouldn’t be able to get pressure on Colt Brennan.

    As it stands (based on returning starters and a team’s performance last year, mind you), Georgia has a rough slate. But predicting a 10-2 season (or a 0-12 or 12-0 season for that matter) at this stage is ridiculous. Until we see the actual strength of the teams at the various points at which we play them during the season, it is a pointless exercise. Though I would never wish harm on anyone, Tebow could have a fractured tibia by the time we play Florida (godwilling).

    It may be fun to predict and get angry with sportswriters on a slow news day, but lets not pretend pre-season predictions (ours or theirs) mean anything other than an opportunity to “stay” at the top. It beats the heck out of not being ranked.

    To make a long story short (too late), that’s why we play the games.

  10. joe

    Did he take into account the points their defense scored? I know in our game their offense only scored 24. That would be an adjustment in how many points they scored a minute.