Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Giving the 2009 win at Arkansas its due

Wednesday June 30, 2010

Even with an 8-5 record, there were several bright spots in the 2009 football season – the win in Atlanta chief among them.

One game that has never quite gotten its due is the win over Arkansas in Fayetteville. I know that it seemed dodgy. You had Cox playing out of his mind and standing toe-to-toe in a shootout. You had Richard Samuel hit the hole and have his one shining moment at tailback. It’s not that you wondered how Georgia got out of there with the win; you saw the offense score at will. It was just so unexpected and, as it turned out, oh so necessary. It’s not that Georgia beat an SEC contender, but the 2009 Dawgs lost games against lesser teams. In retrospect, the win seems even more improbable because Georgia had to overcome two huge factors that usually meant success for the 2009 Razorbacks:

  • The game was Arkansas’ only home loss of the season. The Razorbacks have won just a single road SEC game under Petrino – a close 25-22 win in 2008 against an Auburn team circling the drain. But they were much better at home last season and ended up routing South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Auburn in Fayetteville.
  • The game was Arkansas’ only loss in which Ryan Mallett completed over 50% of his passes. Mallett of course had a ridiculous day against Georgia with 21-of-39 passing (53.8%), 408 yards, and 5 touchdowns. As TSK notes, “Arkansas was 7-1 in games in which Mallett completed more than 50 percent of his passes.”

Arkansas’ trip to Athens in 2010 is going to be a popular upset pick – if Arkansas isn’t outright favored. The Hogs will be 2-0 after a pair of cupcakes. Mallett’s likely to be ultra-accurate and put up huge numbers in those wins. The Bulldog defense might or might not be better than the unit that gave up 41 a year ago, but they’ll still be in their first few games under a new system and going up against an extremely talented passer. Georgia will have been tested on the road at Columbia, and it will be Arkansas’ first road game of the year. A win over Georgia would certainly be a win that legitimizes the preseason hype poured on Arkansas this year, but will they have learned how to win big games on the road, and is their defense going to be any better against a Georgia offense that will be plenty loaded itself?

Post Bulldogs end 2009-2010 year in the wrong kind of company

Wednesday June 30, 2010

South Carolina won the College World Series last night, and the accomplishment gives them their first national title in any men’s sport. It has to be a big day in Gamecock land, and congratulations are due. Any observer of SEC baseball knows that this was no fluke – South Carolina has been a solid program for many years now and are often a legitimate contender in the SEC under one of the conference’s top coaches, Ray Tanner. That they’d go on a little tear and win it all at Omaha is not surprising, and it has to make it all the more enjoyable that they got to eliminate Clemson along the way. The story of Bayler Teal and his relationship with the team adds a much deeper meaning to the championship, and it makes it seem to us that there couldn’t have been any other outcome.

But South Carolina’s title serves to underscore an unpleasant point around these parts. Georgia is joined now only by Vanderbilt as the only SEC East programs without a national title in any of the “big 3” men’s sports since SEC expansion in 1992. Seven of the 12 SEC members have managed the feat, and Auburn would really like to remind you of their 2004 football season. A club whose other members include Vandy and the Mississippi schools is not the company Georgia wants to be keeping.

As Kyle noted the other day, track season wrapping up means the end of competition for Bulldog student-athletes for the 2009-2010 academic year. No one from Michael Adams to Damon Evans is pretending that it was a great year for Bulldog athletics, and even another second-place finish for the SEC All-Sports trophy does little to mask the disappointment.

The final standings for the NACDA Director’s Cup will be released on July 1st. Georgia is currently in 17th place with only baseball left to figure in to the final tally. It’s possible that both LSU and Texas could pass Georgia based on their participation in the baseball postseason. If that occurs, Georgia would drop below their 18th place finish last year for the worst performance as a program in well over a decade. We’ve been over this ground before, but it’s not an impressive trend for the athletic department under Damon Evans. But, hey – we’re still rolling in cash, right?

Post UGA…buffering…moving to…buffering…CBS for online media.

Monday June 21, 2010

This might be the best news I’ll get all summer: Georgiadogs.com is changing networks.

I don’t know of anyone who has had a generally pleasant experience with media from Georgiadogs.com. Between browser incompatibilities (this isn’t 1998), constant buffering, and poor quality, it’s been a chore just to watch the occasional ballgame or get any kind of value for the monthly subscription. I can get news elsewhere, but the site’s exclusive broadcasts of games made it something you had to deal with.

The move to the CBSSports.com network is outstanding news. I’ve seen the CBS product in action for other schools, and it blows away the experience I’ve had to this point with streaming media from UGA. CBS intends to continue improvement with “a new Flash-based audio/video player”, integrated stats (familiar to anyone who watched March Madness On Demand), and mobile offerings for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android platforms. It’s no surprise that CBS has “the online rights to 55 of the 73 schools from the big six conferences” – they know what they’re doing, and I’m relieved to see UGA address the woeful experience on their site.

Post Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back

Monday June 21, 2010

I’ve been playing in the mountains for the past week, but I was glad to come home and see the return of two old mainstays on my reading list:

  • Most everyone has noted Doug’s triumphant return over at Hey Jenny Slater. We win because Doug’s back writing, but it’s even better news that the circumstances that forced him into radio silence in the first place are in the past.
  • I’d also like to welcome back Kanu’s Dodgy at Best. His topics are too varied to pigeonhole his site as just another Dawg blog, but how many takes on Grantham’s 3-4 can you read? This is an especially good time for Kanu to get it going again – if you have an interest in the “other” football, there aren’t many better reads among our own than he and Elkon.

It was big of these guys to recognize the vacuum left by my absence and start cranking again after so long. I hope they’ll keep it up – I might not have to post again until September.

Post New ticket cutoff set at $1,550

Friday June 11, 2010

We noted last week that the minimum point total for new season tickets would be lower, but the exact number hadn’t been announced yet. Marc Weiszer lets us know today that the figure has been set at $1,550.

It’s worth repeating the points we made last week. First, Georgia still has more demand than they have season tickets. Some orders will be refunded. That’s an enviable position considering the economy and how many schools even in the football-crazy southeast are faring. Second, though the stories are mostly about the decline in demand from 2008’s insane $10,000+ minimum, 2008 is looking more and more like an outlying spike. The current minimum of 1,550 is more in line with the 2007 minimum of 1,991.

Post Expansion puzzlement – what’s Boise doing?

Friday June 11, 2010

ESPN is reporting that Boise State will join the Mountain West. A few weeks ago, that made sense. The MWC is positioning itself to lobby for an automatic BCS bid, and the addition of a program like Boise makes their case much stronger.

But with this week’s news that there will be at least two vacancies in the Big 12, already an AQ conference, was there an effort made on either side to get Boise (and possibly fellow MWC member TCU) into the Big 12? True that Boise and other MWC members don’t measure up in terms of basketball or other sports, but this is a football-driven expansion boom. I hope someone asks the question – otherwise this just seems like moving into a nicer apartment in the same complex.

Post Teresa Edwards finally a Hall of Famer

Friday June 11, 2010

Congratulations to the Georgia legend who is being welcomed into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday night – a long overdue honor for one of the greatest to play the game. Edwards made a name for herself at Georgia, but she excelled at the international level where she played in a record five Olympics and brought home four gold medals.

Edwards is the third person associated with the Lady Dogs program to be enshrined. She joins Katrina McClain and coach Andy Landers.

Post Expansion aftermath: Let a hundred eight-team divisions bloom

Friday June 11, 2010

With the movement of Colorado and Nebraska, we’ve begun the much-anticipated shuffling among the major conferences. With the process set in motion, the question now is how far conferences will go during this round of expansion. Is the 16-team Pac-10 going to happen? Are other conferences going to be as aggressive or settle with 12 or 14 members?

The race towards megaconferences might have one interesting side-effect: the rise of the divisions as their own unique entities underneath the umbrellas of the larger conferences.

In a 16-team conference, you’ll have two eight-team divisions. Yes, there are alternative structures (see Clay Travis’s 4×4 arrangement), but most conferences will choose the traditional model and tie everything together with a championship game.

Currently the Pac-10 is the only major conference that has a nine-game league schedule, and that is (was) in order to facilitate a round-robin schedule. The practice actually puts the league at a disadvantage relative to other conferences in terms of bowl eligibility. It will be interesting to see if the expanded Pac-10 continues the nine-game schedule or if it bows to pressure to be at parity with other leagues who can schedule eight conference games and use that other game for a nonconference opponent of varying quality.

The number of conference games is a big deal to coaches and a key point going forward with expansion. Mark Richt said recently, “As far as I’m concerned, you can add more teams, but I just don’t want to play any more league games.” Richt can’t be alone in that sentiment – unless the nine-game schedule is imposed on all conferences as the new norm, those signing up for an extra conference game are making things tougher for their teams.

But an eight-game slate in a 16-team conference all but cuts off one side from the other. You’ll have seven league games in your own division and then one against the other side. If that one game rotates, it ends any traditional rivalries against teams in the other division. Even with nine conference games, you’re still only playing two schools out of eight from the other division, so things aren’t all that much better in either scenario.

At that point, the larger megaconference is just an administrative abstraction between its divisions. It exists for revenue-sharing purposes and for the clout it brings negotiating for collective deals and postseason positions. I realize we’re not that far away under the current structure, but the solidarity of a single Big 10 or Pac-10 is gone now. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But for the conference championship games, we’re almost back to the days of eight-team conferences.

Divisions in our future of 16-team conferences will take on a much greater importance. They’ll be relatively more isolated and even develop identities of their own. The Pac-10 will have its Route 66 / Tom Joad schools and then the Pac-8 schools of the 1960s and 1970s. Nebraska’s division of the Big 10 will certainly have a different feel than one oriented around the Rust Belt. Give me Alabama and Auburn in the SEC East, and we’ll send LSU a postcard every now and then.

This idea about giving the new Pac-10 two automatic BCS berths is definitely full of itself, but it’s going to be the kind of thing you’ll hear more often as these 8-team divisions begin to take on lives of their own. The Senator asks, “What in the hell do they even need a conference for in the first place?” This is a perfect example of the conference-as-abstraction that allows two more or less distinct entities to pool together for TV deals and revenue sharing and still claim two separate places in the lucrative BCS.

I know that other Georgia fans and I are wondering if the SEC will dip their toe into the expansion market and push towards 14 or 16 teams. It’s not too early to start thinking about what we’d like our SEC East “conference” to look like.

Post Why is Texas A&M interested in the SEC?

Thursday June 10, 2010

I think Andy Staples has it right here: differentiation.

“The league would allow the Aggies to offer an interesting alternative to Lone Star State recruits enthralled by the SEC schools they grew up watching on television.”

Right now the Aggies are second-tier in a Big XII dominated by the Longhorns. If we’re being honest, they’ve even been passed by Texas Tech recently. If they join the others in the exodus to the Pac-10, they remain an afterthought along for the ride. But if they split off and join the SEC, they take a step from out of the shadow of the other Texas schools. Sure, they still wouldn’t be the marquee in-state destination for top prospects as long as Texas remains a title contender. But membership in the nation’s top football conference would be a selling point that would at least make the Aggies a unique option in their area. It’s over 330 miles to Baton Rouge and over 500 miles to any other SEC destination – that’s a lot of fertile recruiting territory to occupy for a prospective SEC member.

Post Softball Dawgs come back to beat Washington

Friday June 4, 2010

Georgia overcame a three-run deficit to beat defending national champion Washington 6-3 in their opening game of the 2010 Women’s College World Series Thursday night.

After Washington plated three runs in the bottom of the first, it looked as if this year’s WCWS opener would follow the same script as last year’s.  Erin Arevalo came in as a relief pitcher and settled things down on defense, but Georgia’s bats remained silent against All-American pitcher Danielle Lawrie.

The Bulldogs cracked the scoreboard in the fourth with a solo shot by Kristyn Sandberg, but they had to work out of a jam in the bottom half of the inning.  Arevalo shut the door, and the Huskies couldn’t add to their lead.  Georgia posted two more runs in the fifth thanks to a barrage of pesky singles and the speed of Taylor Schlopy on a force play at home.

It was fitting that Georgia’s hottest batter broke open the game in the sixth inning.  Megan Wiggins golfed a low pitch over the center field wall to provide the final margin. 

Freshman Allison Owen answered the bell in the final two innings.  With Arevalo struggling in the 6th, Owen entered the game and got out of a bases-loaded jam with a key strikeout.  Owen finished off the game by striking out the side in the seventh.

Georgia’s next opponent is another familiar foe.  Tennessee and Georgia split four games during the 2010 season, but Tennessee bounced the Dawgs from the SEC Tournament and is the most recent team to beat the Bulldogs.  Tennessee, like Georgia, is red-hot in the NCAA Tournament and has yet to lose a game.  They swept #2 seed Michigan on the road to get to the WCWS and destroyed Arizona 9-0 in their WCWS opener.

Georgia and Tennessee will play at 9:30 on Friday night (ESPN) with an important advantage at stake.  The winner will remain in the winner’s bracket, earn a day off on Saturday, and will only have to win one game on Sunday to advance to the championship series.  The loser will have to come back on Saturday and win that game and win twice on Sunday in order to advance. 

Post Georgia season ticket demand still exceeds supply

Friday June 4, 2010

Tim Tucker leads with what will be good news to would-be Georgia season ticket holders:  "The cost of getting into Sanford Stadium as a first-time season-ticket buyer is dropping." The picture Tucker paints might be seen as one of declining enthusiasm surrounding the program evident in "a rise in ticket cancellations and a decline in donations."

Fan frenzy certainly isn’t what it was heading into the 2008 season, but let’s be clear what’s going on here:  there will still be a cut-off score for new season tickets, and there will be some Hartman Fund donors who ordered first-time season tickets but will see their order refunded due to excess demand.

The current cut-off will be nowhere near the lofty 10,651of 2008 or even the score of 4,205 that was required a year ago.  But the fact that there will be a cut-off at all is still news.  The cut-off was as low as 1,991as recently as 2007 and non-existent prior to that. Even with a down economy and a disappointing 2009 season, demand hasn’t cooled off to the point that Georgia will have unsold season tickets.  

For perspective, here’s what other schools around the area are dealing with.  These are all major programs who are having to go beyond donors by selling season tickets or ticket packages to the general public.

  • Clemson’s IPTAY members bought 48,039 season tickets.  That’s about 1,000 more than last year but well short of selling out.  Clemson sold a record 58,134 season tickets in 2008.  The remaining season tickets are now on sale to the public.
  • South Carolina is dealing with a general decline in interest and will also likely come up short of selling out of season tickets.  "Attendance at some Gamecock Club meetings was light this spring, according to Spurrier…Spurrier said enrollment for his football camps is down and figures season-ticket sales are off as well."
  • Tennessee is selling groups of 3-game "mini-packs" to the public. They claim that these mini-packs are available "based on the number of tickets claimed by visiting teams," but the deals include the Florida game. Remaining individual seats will go on sale later in the summer.
  • Georgia Tech also hasn’t sold out of season tickets, but their numbers are slightly ahead of last year as of late April.
  • Auburn is currently selling season tickets to the public as of June 1st. They’re also offering a mini season ticket which excludes the Georgia and Clemson games.

Post Early start times for Georgia’s first two SEC games

Thursday June 3, 2010

It was announced this morning that Georgia’s September conference games against South Carolina and Arkansas would both start at noon E.T. with either ESPN or ESPN2 televising the games. David Hale mentioned yesterday that Damon Evans had spoken with SEC officials about campaigning for a few earlier kickoffs, and boy did he get his wish. I can only say that I’m glad to be skipping the South Carolina game this year – I’m sure it will be just lovely in Columbia for a noon game in early September.

We also learned that the Florida game will kick off at 3:30, but that’s no surprise given the perpetual relationship of that game with CBS. The Georgiadogs.com announcement also has more information about other SEC start times announced today.

Colorado announced that the Georgia game on October 2nd will start at 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time (4:30 eastern). The game will be nationally televised by Fox Sports Net. Colorado fans will find Bulldog partisans very receptive to the guests of honor for that game: the Buffaloes plan to honor the 20th anniversary of their 1990 consensus national champion team. We’ll be right there with them.

Are the two early kickoffs the result of Georgia losing some prime time stature? It’s possible, but it’s more likely that there are a few games a little more interesting nationally. CBS will be broadcasting the US Open tennis through Sept. 12, so they’re not an option that weekend. CBS will take Florida @ Tennessee matchup over the Arkansas @ Georgia game. Can’t argue with that. Prime time slots those weeks will go to a pair of interesting nonconference games: Oregon @ Tennessee, Penn State @ Alabama, and Clemson @ Auburn. Each of Georgia’s first two conference games should be compelling, but I don’t think they rate over those big name nonconference games. Most other weeks remain wide-open, and the networks will use their option to wait to see how the season goes before slotting those games. If Georgia comes out of September in good shape, they’ll be in line for several 3:30 or later starts.

Post Accepting imperfection

Thursday June 3, 2010

Count me among those who think that Armando Galarraga’s imperfect perfect game should stand as it is. I’m not an anti-replay Luddite and would welcome the expansion of replay and technology in sports. But I’m also a believer in leaving the game as settled on the field – imperfections and all – and recognizing (and even appreciating) that sports serves up crap sandwiches at the worst possible times. Just mention the Jasper Sanks play to a Georgia fan or bring up the 1972 Olympic basketball gold medal game to anyone old enough to remember. Working to improve and avoid blown calls is the objective, yes, but the calls still stand.

I expect over the next day or so we’ll get plenty of stories bringing up other huge blown calls. SEC football fans submit the 2009 season. Oklahoma has a tape of the 2006 Oregon game ready. Baseball historians will point to Don Denkinger’s call in the 1985 World Series. There’s an entire book devoted to the subject. This 28-out game will stand alongside the Fifth Down Game. They’re all infamous, but they’re also still on record.

Galarraga won’t have his name added to the short list of perfect game hurlers, but he’s now on a list of one. That won’t help or change that fact that he had a perfect game yanked from him, but his place in baseball immortality is set. So, for better or worse, is the place of umpire Joyce. It’s a good postscript to this story that the umpire and pitcher handled this about as well as one could expect. I can’t imagine had this ump been Joe West.

Post In Russ we trust

Wednesday June 2, 2010

We learned today that Georgia will be without a permanent mascot for its season opener on September 4th. Russ, the dawg who stood watch over Georgia’s season-ending wins against Georgia Tech and Texas A&M, will continue to fill in during the first few games of the season. Sonny Seiler told the Athens Banner-Herald that “we will use (Russ) for the first two or three games.” It’s true that Russ has yet to be tested against an SEC opponent, but he’ll get his shot in Columbia.

Since it’s unlikely that a new Uga would make his debut anywhere other than Sanford Stadium, the first opportunity to introduce a new mascot would be against Arkansas in the third game of the season. It’s not unprecedented that an Uga would make his debut for the SEC home opener; Uga V gave way to Uga VI before the 1999 South Carolina game, and that turned out just fine. The problem is that a new mascot might or might not be ready by the third game.

Seiler is waiting to see how a few young pups develop over the summer. It’s even possible that the next mascot will come from a litter that won’t be born for another few weeks. We know that selecting a mascot is a long, solemn, and thorough process, and a lot of thought will be put into the decision. As Seiler explains, it would be “at least two months” to determine whether or not any new pup has the stature and other characteristics needed by a dawg that can reign for the 8-10 years Seiler is hoping for.

If a replacement isn’t ready by the Arkansas game, Georgia’s next two games are on the road. Georgia wouldn’t return home until the October 9th game against Tennessee. By that point, Georgia could well be 5-0 with a seven-game winning streak under this interim mascot. Seiler admits that “it could be homecoming before (he) picks a permanent mascot.” Do you mess with that kind of a streak at the midpoint of the season?

I know that Russ is considered too old to become a permanent replacement, but giving him a Shockley-esque one year in the sweater isn’t too much to ask, is it?

Post VaTech baseball uniforms win the weekend

Tuesday June 1, 2010

From the news-to-me department…I happened to flip to the ACC baseball tournament over the weekend and caught Virginia Tech’s nod to the classic Houston Astros uniform. Just outstanding.

Va Tech baseball uniforms