Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Defending Georgia (Sort of…)

For the most part, I like SI.com’s Stewart Mandel. Writing about the impassioned sport of college football is a challenge, and everything you write inevitably leads to criticism from one group or another. So I empathize with Mandel when it comes to some of the condemnation he suffers for expressing his viewpoint.

In his recent “Mailbag”, however, I have to take make some factual disagreement with his post regarding the Georgia Bulldogs.

The salient part of the post (question and answer ) is as follows –

Q: For two years you've been dodging my question. When will Georgia coach Mark Richt start to feel the heat for never making the BCS title game, let alone bringing a national title to Athens? It seems like every year the Bulldogs are overhyped and every year they load the NFL, but it never translates to the BCS Championship Game. What gives?--Jeff, Atlanta


A: It's not that I've been dodging it -- I just can't believe anyone would ask that with a straight face. The last time I checked, Richt has produced four 10-win seasons and two SEC titles in a six-year span. That's two more titles, by the way, then Georgia had won in the previous 20 years. Perhaps you'd prefer to go back to Jim Donnan? Or Ray Goff?

Not that Jeff represents the average Georgia fan (I hope), but I lived in Atlanta for five years, and it always baffled me just how inflated a perception people have there of that program's place in the national landscape. Keep in mind, because of my age, I didn't start following college football until about the mid-'80s, so I missed the Herschel Walker glory years. To me, Georgia was just an average, top-20 type program for most of my life. But to listen to their fans, you'd think Georgia was a USC or Notre Dame. They've won two national titles in their entire history, the last one coming 27 years ago. The salient part of the post (question and answer ) is as follows –

Now I agree with Mandel that Georgia fans generally have an unreasonably elevated opinion of their team, and the question asker here is a perfect example.

No, the part I take exception with is the following –

But to listen to their fans, you'd think Georgia was a USC or Notre Dame.

Mandel states he didn’t start following college football until “about the mid-80’s” (which happens to coincide exactly with my experience).

And in fact, over the time period Mandel cites, you wouldn’t just “think” Georgia was a “USC or Notre Dame”, over that time period Georgia is exactly like a “USC or Notre Dame”.

Using 1985 (mid-80’s) to the present time period, the Georgia Bulldogs are 16th most winning program in Division I-A at 180-83-3.

In the same time period, Notre Dame is 15th at 180-83-2, while USC is 17th at 178-87-5.

15th, 16th, and 17th, with only a TIE separating Georgia and Notre Dame.

You can’t get any closer than that.

Now, I don’t believe in “National Championships” per se, but Notre Dame had one MNC in 1988, and Southern Cal one in 2004 (and a half, AP-type-MNC in 2003). Georgia’s last was in 1980.

Does a single MNC 8 years after Georgia’s make Notre Dame vastly superior, with the same win-loss record? Or Southern Cal, who has only really been successful over the cited time period in the last 5 years?

Interestingly when you look at the overall list of the most winning teams since 1985, the top five are –

1. Miami
2. FSU
3. Nebraska
4. Michigan
5. Tennessee

Florida is 6th.

But Mandel didn’t say “But to listen to their fans, you'd think Georgia was a Miami or Florida State”, which would have been the most appropriate teams for the time period he cites as relevant.

Hell, even saying “…you’d think Georgia was a Auburn (9th overall) or Texas A&M (13th overall)", would have been more accurate than USC or Notre Dame.

You can’t have it both ways Stuart – either you have only followed college football since the “mid-80’s”, in which case Georgia is every bit a “USC or Notre Dame”, or in citing those teams you are talking about a time period altogether different.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised by the longtime sports media affection for the faded glory of Notre Dame, or the modern shilling for the all things SoCal and Trojan.

But is getting your facts right too much to ask?.

10 comments:

Henry Gomez said...

great points. As per usual.

machete said...

Amen.

Steve said...

And the bottom line: while it's imprudent for any fan to "expect" national championships every year, the fact remains that while Georgia produces great teams and top-notch talent every year they still CANNOT beat their biggest rival. This is why I hate seeing Richt ranked so highly as a coach. He needs to figure out some way to get his team up for the Florida game!

jimcaserta said...

Facts and research, who needs them. I wonder how long he takes to answer those questions - my guess is 30 seconds.

NCT said...

UGA can't beat their biggest rival? Last time I checked, Georgia was 6-0 over the last six years against Georgia Tech. Ah, Florida? Yes, a rival. But not the biggest. I realize it's a matter of opinion and perspective, but for this life-long, second-generation, two-degree Georgia fan and alumnus, both the in-state rivalry (Tech) and the oldest college football rivalry in the South (Auburn) are ahead of Florida.

Henry Gomez said...

How many conference titles has Tech stood in the way of for UGA?

I thought so.

Beating Tech is no great accomplishment these days. I mean c'mon.

NCT said...

No, don't get me wrong. I don't mean to diminish the importance of the Cocktail Party. It's very important to me and all Georgia fans for Richt et al. to figure out a way to beat Florida. It's a huge game. And a big rivalry. It's just not the biggest. Like I said, "biggest rival" is largely a matter of opinion and perspective ... unless you live in Alabama, that is. I'm old-fashioned and tend to stick with tradition where such things are concerned.

Mergz said...

Well, no matter how either of us feel about each other (Florida or Georgia)...

...we are both far more relevant than Notre Dame.

NCT said...

I agree, Mergz. And I appreciate the observations in the post. I didn't mean to crawl onto your blog and appear as one of those smack-talkers from another camp just showing up to stir things up. I harbor no especially bad will for Florida. It was fun and poetic to hate the team coached by a guy who hammered us, in part out of symbolic revenge for the blemish on his Heisman, almost-first-conference-championship season. But the Gators without him? We need to win, but no seething hatred any more.

Your observations about ND are right on point. The Irish? Just another team against whom UGA has a 100% winning record.

Senator Blutarsky said...

With regard to Tech and Florida, I think the way I'd put my feelings is that in any given year I want to beat Florida more than any other team on Georgia's schedule, but I hate to lose to Tech more than any other team on Georgia's schedule.