The AJC’s Bill King takes a look ahead to 2012 and offers this conclusion:
“There’s no denying that a schedule that didn’t include the toughest teams from the SEC West probably was the biggest factor in Georgia’s 2011 turnaround. “
There is a bit of truth to the “Georgia is better because of a lighter schedule” angle, but it’s not because the teams on the schedule changed.
The 2010 schedule also “didn’t include the toughest teams from the SEC West,” with the exception of Arkansas. The 2011 schedule traded the Hogs for Ole Miss, and that certainly was a step down in class. The rest of the conference slate was identical. If there was a difference, it was that several of those teams weren’t what they were in 2010. Auburn is the obvious example. Mississippi State might not have been as strong as they were in 2010, but they were still good enough to win a bowl, and I’d say that their drop-off had as much to do with expectations than anything else. Of course Florida was down in 2011, but they were also vulnerable in 2010 until Georgia helped them find an offense. Georgia can control many things, but the quality of their conference – and especially their divisional – opponents isn’t one of them.
Georgia’s nonconference slate was much tougher in 2011 thanks to the replacement of Colorado with Boise State. Two of Georgia’s four nonconference games were away from home against bowl-bound teams.
The 2010 schedule gave Georgia just about the same opportunities that the 2011 schedule did. The difference was that the 2011 Dawgs were improved enough to take advantage of those games against weaker or average opponents.