Yeah, yeah, yeah… we’ve all heard about Georgia’s schedule until we’re sick of it. Here’s something to remember though: who in the hell really knows how it’s gonna turn out? Things change in college football at the drop of a hat. Just ask Michigan. Players get hurt or just don’t pan out. Teams like Auburn in 2003 don’t have the mojo that the experts attributed to them before the first ball was snapped; teams like Auburn in 2004 find that lost mojo.
Certainly the task looks daunting from our preseason perspective. But what are the odds that the schedule doesn’t wind up being as formidable as it looks from our preseason vantage point? In other words, what’s the likelihood that any of Georgia’s opponents wind up as disappointments in ’08? Because you know if the schedule doesn’t pan out, what is presently seen as a strength will be thrown back in Georgia’s face as a weakness.
Let’s look at each and assign a valuation to the possibility that a school doesn’t pan out as a contributor to a tough strength of schedule rating for Georgia when the season concludes. We’ll call that the suckification factor. A team with a high suckification factor is a team that is currently perceived as being an opponent of at least some quality but winds up the season being acknowledged as a major disappointment. So the schools on Georgia’s schedule are being judged both on their preseason merit (oxymoron alert!) as well as the degree of probability that they won’t live up to their promise.
Here you go.
- Georgia Southern. Let’s face it; you can’t lose what you never had. Suckification factor: non-existent.
- Central Michigan. To the extent that there’s some cachet to beating the MAC champion, I guess there’s a downside if these guys don’t live up to preseason expectations. Suckification factor: slight.
- South Carolina. Last year’s loss still gets rubbed in the Dawgs’ faces by those who argue that Georgia was overrated last season. That being said, the ‘Cocks aren’t getting the love right now that they were receiving then, including the OBC’s. Suckification factor: marginal, but can’t be ignored.
- Arizona State. There’s a decent amount of Internet chatter that says these guys are overrated. But ASU is getting decent love in the polls right now. If things don’t pan out well for the Sun Devils, this is one of the schools that could really hurt people’s perception of Georgia’s schedule. Rudee! Rudee! Suckification factor: significant.
- Alabama. The Tide is on the fringe of the preseason top 25. Realistically, ‘Bama is still a year away from a talent standpoint. But it’s Nick Saban, bitches. An early run of success and the press will push this team up fast. If his team comes out strong, but fades down the stretch, that doesn’t help. Suckification factor: decent.
- Tennessee. Eighteenth in the polls to start seems about right to me. As much as the Vol faithful like to argue otherwise, this team has a lot of questions surrounding it going into the season. I don’t think they’ll all be answered favorably. How many losses will that translate into? Four or less, UT will still finish in the top fifteen. If it’s more than four, these guys won’t finished ranked. Suckification factor: modest at best.
- Vanderbilt. Boy, that Bobby Johnson is one heckuva coach, isn’t he? Lack of experience translates into lowered expectations. Unless the Commodores go winless, there isn’t much they can do to the Dawgs’ SOS. Suckification factor: minimal.
- LSU. These guys are being underestimated because of the QB situation. The reality is that LSU is loaded, and the schedule looks easier than last year’s. If you’re of the opinion that losing Perrilloux trumps that, think back to some of the Tigahs’ recent starters at that position. Outside of Miles doing something really crazy, there’s very little downside here. Suckification factor: minimal.
- Florida. Hey, it’s onwards and upwards for Meyer’s charges. They can’t be any worse than they were last year – just ask anyone. Ranked in the top five, there’s some room to fall if they lose more than two games. But the voters won’t let Florida fall too much. Four losses would still leave Florida ranked around fifteenth. And if the Gators lose in J’ville again, it will be due to someone having suffered a key injury. Suckification factor: some, but not as much as we’d like.
- Kentucky. Having lost a ton on offense, this team is generally expected to regress this season. Again, it’s unlikely the ‘Cats can hurt the perception of Georgia’s schedule unless the wheels come completely off the wagon. Suckification factor: slight.
- Auburn. This team starts out the year hovering around the bottom of the top ten. It’s gotten some darkhorse national contender buzz. A lot of pundits think Auburn will wind up playing in the SECCG. Maybe so, but it’s also a team breaking in two new coordinators and a quarterback. And the offensive scheme is wildly different from what was being run last season, which raises some legitimate questions about whether the personnel is suited to run it well this season. Suckification factor: significant.
- Georgia Tech. It’s somewhat hard to get a handle on this team right now, but most people appear willing to give Paul Johnson some slack. In terms of Tech’s chances to win some games, it doesn’t hurt that the perception of the ACC is down these days. That being said, because of depth and personnel factors, this team could implode before season’s end. If Tech only wins three games instead of the six or so expected, that could hurt. Suckification factor: not insignificant.
UPDATE: Barnhart posts some more schedule-related thoughts here. You can keep trying to push Dan LeFevour, but that’s one horrid defense. If Georgia doesn’t beat Central Michigan by at least four TDs, something’s wrong. (BTW, I’m glad to see that Barnhart’s blog will continue through the ’08 season, even if his journalism career at the AJ-C “changes”, as he puts it, in late September.)