Let’s dip into the Junkyard Mail and see what’s on the minds of UGA fans this spring.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach tabbed Georgia’s Oct. 19 game as the one that would define the 2024 season for the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs will play Texas that day. I beg to differ. When’s the last time we beat Bama in a regular season game? Hellooo? Crickets. When’s the last time we beat Bama in their stadium? Crickets. When’s the last time we beat Bama in Atlanta? Crickets. When’s the last time we beat Bama in the SEC Championship Game? CRICKETS! The most important game for UGA will not be played in Austin. It will be played in that town in the state to our left.

— Daryl Matthews

You make an excellent point, Daryl. Georgia’s recent forays against Alabama in any location other than Indianapolis have been frustrating.

But I think the reason some of us, including Schlabach, are focusing more on the road trip to Austin this year, rather than the trip to Tuscaloosa, is because of the departure of Nick Saban and a fair amount of talent from the Bama program.

That’s not to say that the Tuscaloosa game won’t be a major challenge for Kirby Smart’s 2024 team. Even a slightly diminished Crimson Tide still promises to be a tough game for the Dawgs.

But this coming season, the Longhorns of Texas appear even more formidable, at least on paper.

And the trip to a bolstered Ole Miss probably won’t be a cake walk, either. (Lane Kiffin’s program currently is No. 1 in this season’s transfer portal rankings; Georgia comes in at No. 14.)

The game against old rival Clemson in Atlanta also should be enough of a challenge to inject a note of urgency into those August preseason practices.

Bottom line: As I’ve noted before, contrary to the general view of last year, the Dawgs face a “brutal” schedule in 2024. And a lot of us think the Texas game is likely to be the toughest one. But Bama might prove us wrong.

Defensive lineman Nazir Stackhouse is seen during Georgia’s practice session this past Tuesday. (Tony Walsh/UGA) (Tony Walsh/Dawgnation)

Bill, I agree with your assessment concerning the D-line. … In my view, the offense will be good enough to overcome most of our opponents. The challenge will come when the Dawgs face an outstanding defense, and the D-line has to step up.

— Jim Sandifer

I agree with you. For those of you who might have missed it, Jim is responding to my previous comments about areas of concern in 2024.

Based on what we saw last season, the Dawgs’ defensive front is an area where I hope we see improvement in 2024 — both in terms of pass rush and containing dual-threat quarterbacks.

I think Jim is correct in believing that Georgia’s offense should be the difference-maker in most games (see more on that below). But, in all likelihood, there will be a game or two where the Dawgs have a tough time offensively (as was the case against Alabama last year), meaning the defense must shut down the opponent’s offense.

I’m cautiously optimistic that will be the case.

Tickets for the annual G-day intrasquad game go on sale to the general public March 19. (Hyosub Shin/AJC) (HYOSUB SHIN / AJC/Dawgnation)

Hey Bill, I’m in need of a trip Between the Hedges! When will we be able to buy tickets to the G-Day game?

— Lila Dougherty

Tickets for the April 13 G-Day game currently are available to Hartman Fund donors, Lila, and they’ll go on sale to the general public at noon Tuesday, March 19, on a first-come, first-served basis. They are priced at $5 per seat.

All seating will be reserved for the game, and due to construction at Sanford Stadium, seating will be limited to the east, north and west sides.

The spring scrimmage will kick off at 1 p.m. and it will stream on ESPN+/SEC+.

Georgia run game coordinator and running backs coach Josh Crawford talks to tailback Trevor Etienne during the first spring practice. (Tony Walsh/UGA). (Tony Walsh/Dawgnation)

With Trevor Etienne, Roderick Robinson and Andrew Paul, it looks like the Dawgs are pretty loaded at tailback. Meanwhile, Georgia has lost its two biggest producers in the receiving corps with Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey gone. Do you figure Mike Bobo will revert to form and stress the run game over the passing game this fall?

— Mike Watkins

Actually, I expect more of what we saw from Bobo last season and from Todd Monken the season before, which is a pretty balanced attack that uses the running game to open up the passing game.

As The Athletic’s Seth Emerson recently pointed out, Georgia’s overall game stats last season were skewed a bit by the offense running the ball a lot late in blowouts, but during the first three quarters, the Dawgs passed on 51 percent of their plays. And, under Monken, the 2022 offense passed on 50.9 percent of its plays during the first three quarters.

I do agree with you that Georgia should be in good shape in the backfield this coming season, with Florida transfer Etienne as the speedy starter and Roderick Robinson as the powerful short-yardage back. A mostly veteran offensive line should help in that regard, too.

But even with the loss of Bowers and McConkey, the Dawgs’ receiving corps should be a major strength of the 2024 team, with Dillon Bell, Rara Thomas, Dominic Lovett and Arian Smith returning, supplemented by transfers London Humphreys, Michael Jackson III and Colby Young, and with grad transfer Ben Yurosek joining Oscar Delp and Lawson Luckie at tight end.

And with a Heisman-worthy quarterback in Carson Beck, who led the SEC in passing last season and was third nationally with 3,941 yards, and had a .724 completion percentage, I expect we’ll still be seeing plenty of Air Georgia, particularly early in games.

Carson Beck talks to members of the media in Athens. (Jason Getz/AJC) (Jason Getz/Dawgnation)

Hey Bill, what’s your position on Carson Beck and his $270,000 Lamborghini? Is it a sign of the worst excesses of today’s college football and a sign that all that name, image and likeness money has gone to his head, or do you think it’s one of the well-deserved special perks for one of college football’s top players, or maybe his own private business and nobody’s else’s?

— Suzanne Cole

I like how Beck himself answered when questioned about the car at this past week’s spring practice press conference: “It’s not a big deal at all, in my opinion. … I love cars; I got a car. That’s really all it is. Obviously, a lot of people are going to look at it and say, ‘What a terrible decision, what a terrible choice with his money.’ But it’s just a car at the end of the day, and it’s not that big of a deal.”

Beck did not make it clear whether he bought the Uros Performante, leased it or just has the use of it as part of an NIL deal, and under the rules he doesn’t have to tell anybody how or where he got it.

But as long as he doesn’t take up street-racing around Athens (or anywhere else, for that matter), I don’t see a problem.

His teammates don’t appear to mind. “We’re happy for him, man. He deserves it,” linebacker Mykel Williams said. “He deserves everything he’s getting because he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country, we feel like, and he works hard for everything he gets.”

And I’ll add this: Having these special perks, as you put it, out in the open is much preferable to the old days, when star players were seen driving around Athens (and other college towns) in cars that you were pretty sure their parents couldn’t afford, but nobody said anything about it in public.

Also, considering that the fortunes (so to speak) of Georgia football are riding heavily on Beck’s shoulders this season, I can’t imagine why anyone would begrudge him this indulgence. As he put it: “There’s something about pulling out of the driveway and hearing a well-built engine and exhaust. I don’t know how to explain it. It just puts a smile on my face.”

Good for him.

When it’s full, Stegeman Coliseum is a great place to watch a basketball game. (Kari Hodges/UGA) (Kari Hodges/Dawgnation)

Hey Bill, I’m not seeing anything from Mike White or the athletic association to make me think UGA finally is going to get serious about men’s basketball. And I will go out on a limb and say I don’t think that Georgia’s basketball program ever will amount to anything as long as they play in that aging barn of an arena. I’m sure when recruits visit Athens, the Steg is a major turnoff. What do you say?

— John Willis

First, the fact that you refer to Stegeman Coliseum as a “barn” makes me think that you probably haven’t been inside Georgia’s arena since the days when the athletic department shared it with the agriculture school for livestock shows.

It has been upgraded quite a bit since then and, frankly, is completely adequate for Georgia’s current needs (it’s used for men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics and some volleyball matches). UGA doesn’t need a 20,000-seat arena ringed with luxury boxes.

In fact, the only improvement I’d really like to see to the Steg would be to redo the seats so you have adequate knee space, which probably would require reducing the seating capacity slightly. In some areas of the arena — particularly the curves — you practically have your knees jammed up into your chest.

As for the coaching question, I think it’s a bit early in White’s tenure to declare him a failure, even though the Dawgs basically have been a .500 team in his first two seasons. It’s true that the team did tend to collapse in games where they started out strong in the second half of this season. The season itself had a good start that saw folks talking about them as a possible NCAA tournament bubble team.

Head coach Mike White is seen during a February game against South Carolina at Stegeman Coliseum. (Cassie Baker/UGA) (Cassie Baker/Dawgnation)

So, I’d expect there might be some pressure on White to show improvement in his third season.

What would it take to make Georgia a regular in the NCAA tournament and a Final Four contender?

Well, as I said, I don’t think it’s new construction. Georgia’s training facilities are excellent, and the Steg is a great place to see a game when it’s full and the crowd is making a lot of noise. And, as I’ve pointed out before, Duke has an older, smaller arena than Georgia’s and still manages to be a perennial power, so I don’t think the arena’s age and size is the key to success.

However, I think the Duke situation touches on the real reason Georgia isn’t a basketball power — it never has been one.

Highly ranked basketball prospects tend not to think of Georgia when they ponder where to go for a couple of years to polish their skills for the NBA. Georgia is thought of as a football school. NIL money probably could balance that out a bit, but, so far, the main thrust of those efforts for UGA athletes appears to be in football.

Another way for UGA to break through in basketball would be to hire a big-name coach, whose presence alone would attract top-level talent to Athens.

While Georgia occasionally has gotten top recruits — including the likes of Anthony Edwards and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the past and Asa Newell in White’s 2024 recruiting class — the program never been able to do so consistently, or in the numbers needed to be elite.

Maybe White will be able to turn that around. I hope so. If not, perhaps when it’s searching for its next basketball coach Georgia should go big.

A lot of top names — like Bill Self of Kansas or Tom Izzo of Michigan State — are a bit older than would be ideal if you’re trying to build a program — even if UGA somehow could interest them.

But there are a bunch of younger coaches who’ve established successful records at traditional basketball schools.

It might take a ridiculously lucrative offer to draw such a coach to Athens, but that would be the quickest way for the Dawgs to attract top-level talent on a consistent basis.

UPDATE: Georgia’s men’s basketball team will face Xavier on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Stegeman Coliseum in the opening round of the 2024 NIT. Tickets will go on sale to the general public at noon on Monday at https://georgiadogs.evenue.net/list/MBB