As promised, Phil Steele posted his five top reasons why Georgia won’t finish the year undefeated. To be fair, he’s pretty gracious about the Dawgs in his opener:
Last year I had Georgia rated higher in my preseason rankings (#11) than any other major publication. In fact two of the 18 sources documented by Stassen.com left them unranked in the preseason as they had just 8 returning starters. I had them tied for first in the SEC East while they were the consensus pick for third in the division behind Florida (preseason favorite) and Tennessee. This year Georgia has 17 returning starters and is a stronger team than the team that finished #2 in the country last year! I can understand why the coaches voted the Bulldogs the #1 team in the country in the preseason.
But once again, it’s that dreaded schedule thingy that gets the Dawgs in the end. His five reasons are five specific games. Of course, Steele being Steele, there’s some quirky numbers to back his gut feelings up. Let’s take a look at the five.
- REASON #1 September 13th AT SOUTH CAROLINA – Basically his argument here boils down to South Carolina won in Athens last year + 17 returning starters = very tough game. But SC (can I type that?) doesn’t have a proven QB coming in and unlike last year can’t gear its early season preparations towards Georgia as much as it did in 2007. And “Georgia will have to play its A+ game to survive”? The Dawgs played C+/B- last year and came within a play of pulling out an ugly win. All in all, this strikes me as pretty weak reasoning.
- REASON #2 September 20th AT ARIZONA STATE – Steele pulls out an interesting stat for this game: in the last 20 years, Georgia played 5 back-to-back road games vs ranked teams and won just one of those second road trips. How much of that is reflected in the Richt era? Unfortunately I could find the data for that only back to 2002. In the last six seasons, it occurred once, in 2005. And guess what? Georgia beat #5 LSU in the SECCG a week after beating #20 Georgia Tech in Atlanta. So I’m not sure how much weight to give this trend. The one thing Steele points out that I do give credence to is that ASU plays a lightweight schedule leading into this matchup.
- REASON #3 October 25th AT LSU – Yeah, this one’s gonna be a bitch. And he’s right when he points out that whichever QB LSU plays will have gotten some experience in some tough games by the time Georgia arrives.
- REASON #4 November 1st vs Florida in Jacksonville – Now Tebow wasn’t merely less than 100%; he was “far less” than 100% in last year’s game. Sigh. Good point, though, that neither team gains an advantage this year with a bye week before this game.
- REASON #5 November 15th AT Auburn – Again, here’s an interesting piece of information: In the last 5 years Auburn has taken on the #2, #6, #8, #5, #8 and #7 teams at home in SEC action. That is 6 Top 8 SEC teams at home. A record of 3-3 in those games would be impressive as only twice was Auburn ranked higher than their foe. Auburn is a PERFECT 6-0 vs those matchups!!! That’s impressive. But Georgia, as Dawg fans know about this series, has held its own on the road with the Tigers. Steele is right to point out that Georgia will be at the end of a grueling set of games on the road, while Auburn will be coming off a game against Tennessee-Martin, but doesn’t note that Auburn’s opponent in 2006 immediately prior to the Georgia game was equally cupcakey Arkansas State. And the “Tony Franklin’s Troy offense racked up 488 yards of offense against Georgia last year” line really doesn’t impress me, unless Martinez is planning to let his third stringers play most of the second half on the Plains this year.
Wrapping things up, Steele is once again kind to Georgia. It’s nothing personal, guys.
I do not think ANY team in the country could go through a schedule like this unbeaten and doubt that any squad in the last few years could go through this tough of a schedule with the additional circumstances making it even more advantageous for Georgia’s opponents.
Let me say that as of right now, I don’t see the Dawgs going through the year – particularly the stretch from LSU through Auburn – unscathed. So I can’t say that he’s gone out on a limb with this.
By the way, it’s not like Steele sees Georgia’s season turning into a complete disaster. He projects the Dawgs to play in a BCS game again.