With Bulldog Nation excited by the visit in September to South Bend, kicking off a home-and-home deal with Notre Dame, Georgia fans now are wondering whether the Dawgs have any other marquee matchups in the works.
That’s the subject of the first letter in the latest installment of Junkyard Mail. …
Bill, I read with great interest the DawgNation story about how the Georgia-Notre Dame series came to be, and was intrigued by Greg McGarity not commenting on any other similar series in the works, but saying Georgia is “always” looking at them. If you could put a bug in McGarity’s ear about an upcoming big-name nonconference opponent, who would it be?
— Nancy Reynolds
UGA has had mixed luck scheduling games against “heritage” programs in recent years, as deals with Oregon and Ohio State were canceled, and negotiations with Penn State didn’t come to fruition. The Dawgs do have a home-and-home series with UCLA scheduled for 2025-2026 and will play Virginia in the 2020 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
If I were to put that bug in McGarity’s ear, the first big-name opponent I’d like to see added to the Dawgs’ schedule would be a return of the Clemson Tigers.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said last August that, “If it were up to me, we would play Georgia every year. It just makes sense.”
I doubt the Tigers ever will return to Georgia’s schedule on a yearly basis, because both schools also have annual nonconference games against in-state Power 5 rivals, and it would limit scheduling flexibility. But, as I’ve said here numerous times here, I’d like to see Georgia-Clemson, once the Bulldogs’ hottest rivalry, show up on the schedule more frequently than once a decade. The two schools are just a couple of hours apart and have a great history, including the most recent win by UGA in Athens in 2014.
In the past, McGarity has said he’d like to schedule games for the Dawgs in “iconic” stadiums, and when I’ve asked Blawg readers in the past about what big-name opponents they’d like to see on Georgia’s schedule, Michigan has been by far the most popular choice. However, McGarity said a couple of years ago that a pairing with the Wolverines wasn’t likely because they are “tied up” with other scheduling.
Back in 2013, it was reported that Georgia and Florida State were having informal, preliminary talks about playing each other, possibly in a neutral site game, but nothing ever happened with that.
Some fans would like to see the Dawgs matched up with Miami, now that Mark Richt is there, but other fans view such a game as a way for Richt to recruit in Georgia, and would just as soon not facilitate that.
Other than Clemson, the school I’d most like to see Georgia schedule is Texas. Such a game probably would help UGA in recruiting.
Georgia and Texas have played only four times in football, and the most recent time — the Dawgs’ 10-9 win in the Jan. 2, 1984, Cotton Bowl Classic — is one of those games that still resonates with both fan bases. In 2005, The Dallas Morning News ran a lengthy piece on the life-altering play made by Texas’ Craig Curry, whose muffed punt led to Georgia’s winning score. In 1999, Curry’s drop topped the Austin American-Statesman’s list of 25 most heart-wrenching moments in a century of Texas sports.
You have to figure Texas fans would be just excited about a rematch with Georgia. So, there’s two bugs in year ear, Greg: Clemson and Texas!
Bill, since the news that Brice Ramsey is returning to Georgia this season, my friends and I have been debating about whether Kirby Smart should use him as the primary backup for Jacob Eason and give Jake Fromm a redshirt year. I’m in favor of it, as I recall that a redshirt year seemed to help considerably with the development of Aaron Murray, but most of my Bulldog buddies would prefer to get Fromm some real-game action as early as possible. What say you?
— Jack Evans
Senator Blutarsky at Get the Picture ran a fan poll on this subject recently, and 75 percent of those voting favored redshirting Fromm, while 22.5 percent wanted to have Fromm as Eason’s backup, with Ramsey as the third option. I agree that a redshirt year can be valuable. However, considering how impatient most QBs are about playing time these days, with a transfer seemingly in the back of the mind of most backups, I think I go with your buddies on this one, Jack. But, only if the coaching staff is willing to give Fromm meaningful snaps this season, and I don’t just mean playing him in the second half against Samford. I’m not advocating a two-quarterback system, but I do think some sort of scripted rotation that gets Fromm at least a couple of series per game would pay big dividends should something happen to Eason. As for Ramsey, from what we’ve seen of him so far, I don’t see him as Eason’s primary backup.
Hey Bill, there’s been some media talk about Auburn moving to the East and Missouri to the West in order for the conference to be more geographically sound. While I don’t think it will happen anytime soon, I think it’s a good idea, even though it might affect some rivalries on the western side of the conference. Do you think it will ever happen? If so, which opponent would you like to see the Dawgs play every year from the West since Auburn would be in the East?
— Joseph in Kennesaw
I know Auburn is hot to move to the SEC East, but I believe the almost total lack of interest on the part of SEC officials in discussing the issue at the recent spring meetings indicates such a move is not even on the back burner for the conference. If the idea were to gain traction in the future, I wouldn’t be opposed, as it would guarantee the future of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. And, if it happened, I think Missouri probably would be the best choice for Georgia’s permanent SEC West opponent.
But, moving Auburn to the East would create other problems, primarily involving the Iron Bowl. Some folks think moving Alabama to the East as well as Auburn (sending Vanderbilt to the West along with Mizzou) would be a good idea (also guaranteeing the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry). However, I think that potentially would create a very unbalanced SEC, in which LSU almost had an automatic ticket to the championship game from the West most seasons.
I think USA Today’s Dan Wolken may have the best idea: The SEC should abandon divisions in football, like it does in most sports, and just have the top two teams at the end of the regular season play in the SEC Championship, which is now possible after the NCAA changed its rules in 2016. Under Wolken’s plan, each team would have two permanent rivals, which for Georgia likely would be Auburn and Florida, and the other six conference games would rotate. Sounds like a winning plan to me.
Hey Bill, an ad popped up on my Facebook feed selling single [seat] season ticket packages for the 2017 season. Are there usually single season ticket packages available for non-Hartman fund donors, or does this indicate that quite a few folks did not renew this year, perhaps because of the atrocious home nonconference schedule over the next two years?
— Andrew O’Connell
As you noted, those season tickets that were still available for $300 after all the qualifying Hartman Fund donors got theirs, are nonadjacent singles, as pairs are no longer available. I checked with Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, who said that single season tickets (no pairs) also were offered last year to non-Hartman Fund donors.
But, you’re right about the terrible home schedule this year, Andrew, and, unless the recent cycle of underachievement in football comes to an end soon, or the home schedule is upgraded, you must figure that demand for season tickets is likely to soften in the future.
With all the talk about Eason, [Nick] Chubb, [Sony] Michel, and the surprising performance by our young receiving corps at G-Day, I haven’t heard much about Isaac Nauta. We barely scratched the surface last year with both his utilization and potential. I propose an over/under of 60 receptions for Nauta this season, and the math is quite simple: Over 60 and we play in ATL, under 60 and we’re on the outside looking in once again. This is by no means unattainable, and he can get there by catching between 2-3 more passes per game. This is one stat I’ll be watching closely during the first half of the season. See any flaws in my reasoning?
— Eric Ward, Stuttgart, Germany
I think Nauta is a big-time talent who’s going to play at the next level, and I’d like to see the ball thrown to him a lot more this year. Like you, I was disappointed with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s utilization of the tight ends as receivers last season.
Bill, what do you think about the baseball coaching situation? I’ve always thought that it was only fair to give a new coach five years at the absolute minimum, but unless there is drastic improvement, I wouldn’t say a sixth should be forthcoming. I’m biased in that I was in favor of David Perno staying on even though the program had hit some rough times, but I’m pretty sure we didn’t need to change coaches in order to have four more losing seasons. And what do you think the the odds are that the team suddenly starts winning next year?
— Tony Piska
Scott Stricklin’s job apparently was saved by the somewhat strong finish his young team had this season, but I’m skeptical that much is going to be different next year. So far, Georgia definitely has been a flat-out disappointment under Stricklin, especially considering what a hotbed of baseball talent this state is. I know that one problem is that the best talent tends to go in the MLB draft rather than enroll in college, and Georgia is also likely to lose at least a couple of the players it currently has to the pros. But, that’s an issue every college baseball program faces, so I don’t think you can continually excuse the Diamond Dogs’ troubles because they’re “young.” If Georgia doesn’t at least finish high in the SEC Tournament next season, I’d be shocked if there wasn’t a change of head coaches.
On another subject, I heard from a lot of fans who enjoyed my Blawg last week about Athens kids selling programs or Cokes to get into Georgia football games, and many of you shared your own childhood stories. Here’s one that I particularly enjoyed:
One day in the late 70s, I got invited with a few other Savannah kids to a game along with the Seiler family [which owns the Uga mascots]. … I was 8 or 9 at the time, and they made the mistake of handing me my ticket before we left for the stadium. After playing around as kids do, I was horrified to find that I’d lost my ticket, and no one could find it. One of the adults offered to give me his ticket and watch instead from the railroad tracks, but [Sonny] Seiler came up with the idea of letting me hold Uga’s leash as we walked into the stadium. I remember sweating like a shoplifter as we walked past the guards, but no one stopped us, and I got to walk Uga into Sanford Stadium! I remember that now, every Saturday in the fall when the Dawgs take the field.
— Brad Bedingfield
Thanks for sharing, Brad!
One of the main issues with Sanford Stadium is the narrowness of the concourses. While I realize the challenge there is to rectify this on the south side lower level because of the Sky Suites sub-structure, is there any way this could be remedied, otherwise? … Reed Plaza was a step forward, but there seems to be no plan to unify the exterior except the baby step piecemeal approach.
— Don Edmunds
The lack of space for a Reed Plaza-style space on the south side of the stadium is a design problem that I’m not sure even an engineer could solve, Don. But, I do think one way to cut down on congestion in those narrow concourses would be to remove all concession stands from them, so that people lining up to buy food and drink don’t block those trying to move down the concourse.
Bill, although I greatly prefer college football to soccer (like most probably reading this column), I have to admit after attending a game in person that the Atlanta United crowd is extremely loud and dedicated. Throughout the game they remain involved with a variety of cheers and chants, especially the A-T-L “Viking Clap.” I couldn’t help but think that a U-G-A version would be VERY cool in Sanford Stadium. Do you think the Redcoat Band and crowd could pull it off this fall in Athens?
— Steve in Roswell
I don’t see why not. Seems like a natural for the student section, and, if they got it going, the rest of the stadium would catch on pretty quickly. I think it would make a nice variation on the “U-G-A” chant that periodically breaks out spontaneously, and would be a good alternative to the “Georgia … Bulldogs!” chant between the two sides of the stadium. Let’s hope someone with the Redcoats decides to give this a try.
(If there’s something you want to discuss, or you have a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with me on Facebook or via Twitter. And don’t forget to check out past entries of the Junkyard Blawg.)