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April 23, 2008

2008 Georgia Schedule: A Long, Rough Road

So far, the 2008 offseason has followed the familiar sine wave of buzz, consensus, backlash, and backlash to the backlash. The buzz surrounding the 2008 Dawgs started about the time Knowshon Moreno strolled into the end zone for his second Sugar Bowl touchdown. At that point, I am certain some of our fans bought full sets of custom made shirts, tableware, and Jack Davis prints honoring the 2008 national champions, the Georgia Bulldogs. The consensus crested when seemingly every publication selected Georgia as the 2008 preseason top pick. But just as the consensus was reached, however, detractors appeared. Most of the backlash centered around one thing: the schedule. Recently, the backlash to the backlash has sprouted and gained momentum.

If you just thumb through the schedule, it looks daunting enough, with two BCS nonconfence games and a grueling four week road stretch that sees the Dawgs go to LSU, play the Gators in Jacksonville, and end up at Jordan-Hare. T. Kyle King has already gone on record as saying this is Georgia's year to win its third national championship, despite the schedule. Senator Blutarsky presents the schedule as an opportunity. Orson Swindle has stated that one cannot eliminate Georgia from the title discussions based solely on schedule difficulty. Orson's theory is that at least two teams that appear formidable in preseason will collapse.

While I share Kyle's general optimism, I think the Dawgs will need a good measure of luck to get to Pasadena (oops ... Miami). How much luck? Another ridiculous season where no one wants to take the title race by the short hairs. A season where the upset of the decade happens every weekend. A season of destiny. A season where every close play goes your way and when you need a miracle, you seem to get it. A season where even when you lose, you still somehow come out ahead. A season, oh, like LSU enjoyed last year.

Here's why. Take a look at the schedules of the past two SEC national champs when compared with the 2008 Georgia schedule:


UF '06 LSU '07 UGA '08
Beginning Ranking # 7 # 2 ?
Home Games 7 7 6
Away Games 5 5 6
vs. Ranked Opp.s at Game Time 4 6 ?
vs. Ranked Opp.s by Preseason Poll 5 4 5
vs. Ranked Opp.s by Final Poll 4 3 ?
Defending Conference Champions 2 (FSU, UGA) 2 (MTSU, UF) 2 (CM, LSU)
Defending National Champions 0 1 (UF) 1 (LSU)
Bowl Teams from Prior Year 8 (3-6) 8 (4-4) 9 (5-4)
FCS Teams 1 0 1
This analysis only contemplates regular seasons, not SEC Championships or bowls.

All of those numbers are scary and none are necessarily determinative, but to me, it looks like our 2008 schedule looks slightly more like LSU's schedule last year than UF in 2006. UF played the same SEC West opponents in '06 as the Dawgs will play this coming year, but got LSU at home instead of in Tiger Stadium. The Gators also played their traditional big nonconference game in Tallahassee, only 150 miles from Gainesville. FSU was the Gators only real nonconference opponent that year. And, they played only four ranked teams during the year. My guess is that we will play five at the least.

Last year, it appeared that God saw the LSU play early, decided they were going to win the national championship, but felt it necessary to toy with Tiger fans by decreeing one miracle finish after another, culminating with Pitt's victory over West Virginia, giving LSU a slot to play Ohio State in New Orleans. LSU had a big nonconference game with Virginia Tech in addition to their normal SEC schedule, during which they faced the defending national champions. The Tigers also played the Sun Belt champion and 7 other bowl teams. UGA is playing the defending national champs, the most difficult SEC schedule possible, and has a big nonconference game in Tempe, a long way from sweet tea and stately oaks. The Dawgs also face the MAC champions and 8 other bowl teams from last year.

There are, however, key differences in last year's LSU schedule and the 2008 Georgia slate. LSU played every key game last year in Baton Rouge. The only road game of significance was at Alabama, a team that lost the Independence Bowl a year before. In the coming season, Georgia is playing its most significant games away from Sanford Stadium: at South Carolina, at Arizona State, at LSU, in Jacksonville with the Gators, at Kentucky, and at Auburn.

The good news is that Coach Richt has a spectacular true road record. The bad news is that he has not won in Tiger Stadium and his record in Jacksonville is 2-5. Those two games are back-to-back. With that many tough road games, you'd think Richt's road run will be tested mightily. Also, LSU's schedule allowed them to build momentum late in the year, despite the team's bumps and bruises. Virginia Tech, Florida, and Auburn all came in the beginning or middle of the year. After the Bama game, the Tigers could coast against Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss. Georgia has no such luxury. The end of the schedule is the brutal part. A loss early is going to be tougher to overcome because the Dawgs will have a nasty October 25 to November 15. This isn't to say it can't happen. This year showed what can happen when the Dawgs catch fire.

As you also may recall, LSU got extremely lucky last year because no one else seemed to want to go to the BCS Bowl. The Tigers were the only team in history to play for the championship with two losses. Anyone taking odds on that happening again this year? I'd bet the winner of the Ohio State/USC game will get one of the championship game spots, even if they drop one along the way somewhere. If Oklahoma gets through with only one loss, it will be close to impossible to send a two-loss SEC team over a one-loss Oklahoma team. Thus, two losses should eliminate a team from title contention.

My bottom line on the schedule is this: It's tough, but not impossible. We probably won't make it through undefeated, just as LSU didn't. We will need some luck to get to the BCS Bowl. If we can get to Atlanta and win, the schedule should give us a strong argument for the BCS Bowl. Two losses, however, probably ends the dream.

It's bad timing that we could have the best team we've had in a long time right as our schedule goes from its normal difficulty to absurd. Get your heart medicine out and keep the defibrillator handy. If we can replicate the past two national champs, we can expect tight games and exciting finishes. If we can make the clutch plays like LSU did last year and UF the year before, the Rose Bowl (oops ... Dolphins Stadium) awaits.

Quinton

16 comments:

FisheriesDawg said...

I'd say we definitely need a good measure of luck to get to Pasadena next year considering that the MNC game is in Miami and the SEC champ will automatically go to the Sugar Bowl.

I'll go on record right now and say that Tennessee is the only SEC team that will play in Pasadena in 2008/2009.

Benjamin said...

I hope we don't make it Pasadena next year...the championship is in Miami.

Anonymous said...

If you were around in 1980 you will remember the tremendous amount of luck involved that season. At Tennessee, after the comeback with Herschel, UT was inside the 5 with time running down and fumbled. Against Clemson, we really didn't do much offensively...but Scott Woerner basically won that game with long punt/interception return. Perhaps not luck...but certainly good fortune. The South Carolina game was in doubt, but George Rodgers fumbled deep in our end late in the game. (I still can't believe Herschel didn't win the Heisman as a freshman...) Lindsay Scott, Lindsay Scott! And the Sugar Bowl...they fumble a kickoff, we get 7 points, Herschel dislocates a shoulder, etc. Just a little bit of luck involved that year.

82 said...

Why isn't anyone talking about us playing 6 teams with first year starting qb's? Theres not mention of it in any of these schedule discussions. Considering how treacherous the SEC is -especially on the road- a true schedule analysis absent this is incomplete.

RC said...

Why am I not that concerned about a trip to LSU? I'm not saying we're going to go in there and stomp them. I've been there and I know it's a tough place to play. I'm just not that concerned about it, though. I think we'll win that one comfortably if not convincingly.

Quinton McDawg said...

82-
I can think of two of those first-year QBs who have started SEC games in Crompton and Perrilloux. Auburn will have a first year QB, but he played some big minutes last year (albeit at quarterrunningback). If Tommy Beecher starts for the Cocks, he may be the only real first year QB of the significant games we play. Frankly, I think we beat SC even if they had Steve Taneyhill at QB.

I understand your point, but it's not like we are playing six guys who haven't seen game time speed and situations.

Paul Westerdawg said...

For me the schedule isn't about any one single game. It's the collection of games week after week after brutal week.

I can look at any of the games individually and say "We should be favored." But the physical toll the schedule will take on the team is where the problem lies.

This off season conditioning program and the effort to develop a strong core of leaders is EVERYTHING for the 2008 season.

Well....that and an enormous amount of luck. Like Quinton said....we're going to need a MASSIVE dose of luck to take this thing.

Anonymous said...

All I can say, is New York Giants. They proved that dominating on the road is possible, and plausible.
The physical toll will be there, but we are deep at many of our key positions... so you have to imagine that frequent substitutions will occur to keep players fresh and healthy. Hopefully, we can utilize the bye-week prior to Tennessee effectively, then try and beat the two Tennessee teams as best we can without jeopardizing our best player's health.

82 said...

Quinton, I see your point and I understand you aren't really interested in discussing games or trends that you don't think will play a roll in the outcome of the season, but at second thought don’t you think all of the games are significant? Especially when talking about running the table in the SEC and overall? I can understand that you think it might not matter that half our games are against extremely inexperienced leaders but don't you think it's at least worth a mention to the readers? I guess I just don’t agree that Tech, Auburn, and KY are insignificant games? I mean Stafford did loose the last time he was in Lexington.

I realize that some of the guys have seen game speed but all 6 have yet to experience it over the span on an entire game much less an entire season, and lead a team accordingly. (Ok so Crompton started 1 game 2 years ago and lost 31-14 and Perrilloux started 1 game last year. The other 4 hardly have game experience much less starts. Burns completed a grand total of 10 passes last year, 8 against MissSt. Where I come from that’s not exactly 'big minutes'.) I think its safe to say there are no David Greene's out there and that will certainly play into our favor in 6 games, yes that’s half the season.

Also another note is that 2 of the starters we face this year are about to undergo surgery on their throwing arm and hand.

I just wanted to point it out as I believe the experience of the opposing starting QB's (especially in the SEC) provides a bigger dynamic than luck for the outcome of a season, and I've seen about 3 articles about our season based on luck. The good news is as PWD says, this isn't about 1 game here or there, we are facing a huge drop-off in experience for half the games, half. That will play a role as we prepare and maneuver through the entire year.

Quinton McDawg said...

82-
I certainly agree that ever game is important. No doubt about it. When I look at the schedule, however, five games really jump out to me: Arizona State, Tennessee, LSU, Florida, and Auburn. I don't mean to minimize the others, but those are the most significant games we'll play this year because everyone is going to be watching them. The other games are important, but if we can't win at Kentucky or at South Carolina next year, any championship discussion is moot. I doubt Florida loses to those teams.

As for specific QBs, Perrilloux started and won the SEC championship game last year. (I believe he had another start somewhere in the season against a creampuff.) Crompton started at Arkansas in 2006 and played all but about one series against LSU in Knoxville, too, a game he almost won. Burns was used as a change of pace last year primarily to run the ball. None of these guys are David Greene, but they've all shown they can be effective SEC quarterbacks.

Your point is certainly a valid one and deserves proper consideration, but I'm not sure I can classify all those guys as inexperienced novices.

Another point to consider is that we will be facing eight new offensive or defensive coordinators that I can think of off hand (Spurrier, Jr., Ellis Johnson, Clawson, LSU's two D co-coordinators, both at Auburn, both at Tech).

82 said...

I disagree, while 2 of them did start 1 game each zero of those guys have had the experience in leading a team and that is most important. None have ever obtained qb1 status. I think each of them will struggle through the duration of the year in its entirety. Thats a good point about the coordinators as that will equally effect our preparation. Didn't we face some of them before though like Troy? At least we've prepared for those schemes before.

Paul Westerdawg said...

82 - I respect what you're saying. But if the team is good, the team is good.

Year 1 Starters:

2007 - OU's QB (Big 12 Title)
2007 - tOSU's QB (Big 10 title)

2005 - DJ Shockley (SECC)
2005 - Jamarcus Russell (SECW)
2004 - Ainge (SECE)
2002 - Matt Mauck - Led LSU to 5-1 record before breaking leg.
2002 - Wasn't Matt Jones a first year starter (SECW)
2000 -
1999 - Mike Vick (title game)
1998 - Tee Martin (SECC /MNC)
1998 - Chris Weinke

Those are just some off the top of my head. It's not the end of the world if your team is good enough.

I'd rather have a rookie QB than a rookie OL.

82 said...

I think you guys are missing my point, I just wanted a little more analysis on the schedule than we need to be lucky. Just thought playing half our schedule against inexperienced qb's was worth a mention, its not like its ever happened before, not real sure why y'all are fighting that concept. Its funny you mention Tee Martin because I ran into him yesterday.

Anonymous said...

82 congrats for being such a baller and runnin into Tee! get your own blog and write your own analysis about the young qbs. the guys here are doing a great job.

82 said...

I would but that kind of analysis doesn't seem to be very popular. At the end of the day I just want to mention an odd fact that I've not seen brought up. You guys can blow it off, I'm ok with that. I just wanted to mention it, not prove it as a deciding characteristic for the outcome of the season. I mean lets be honest, its pretty slow going these days on the series of tubes. Apparently it seems playing against 12 senior qb's and 12 rookies seems to be no different, but mention how lucky any arbitrary team was in arbitrary year and that’s worth 3 articles on. ???

Oh, and anonymous, while its not a site of this caliber or detail [these guys do a standup job, and they know I think that] you can check out some actual opinions of mine among others at footballhuddle.net if you are indeed interested, if not no big deal, but you did ask.

Oh, and Tee says hi!

Paul Westerdawg said...

82,

It's a long offseason. I doubt this is the last article on 2008 that we're going to write. lol.

PWD

 
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