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SEC Headlines – 4/14/11 Part Three

1.  LSU’s season opener against Oregon will air on ABC at 8pm ET on September 3rd.  (Unfortunately that’s smack opposite Georgia’s game with Boise State.)

2.  With spring practice in Starkville complete, MSU’s strength coach is set to take over.

3.  Dan Mullen wants his team to be playing in Atlanta at season’s end.  (And he doesn’t mean in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.)

4.  The DT Shackelford injury at Ole Miss is a major loss.

5.  With Nathan Stanley transferring out, there are now two quarterbacks on the Rebel roster… three if Barry Brunetti gets an NCAA hardship waiver.

6.  Andy Kennedy has yet another vacancy to fill on his coaching staff as his offseason shake-up continues.

7.  This year’s Liberty Bowl — which featured UCF’s 10-6 win over Georgia last year — will have a 3:30pm ET kickoff on New Year’s Eve.

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Richt And Miles Should Move If Possible

Some call it “staying one step ahead of the posse.”  Some say it’s just a matter of “getting while the getting’s good.”  Either way, Mark Richt and Les Miles should both have leaving on their minds.

In December, we wrote that Richt should pursue the then-open Colorado and/or Miami head coaching jobs.  The Dean of SEC Coaches, Richt has almost worn out his welcome in Athens.  His team finished 6-7 in 2010 and laid a major egg in the Liberty Bowl against UCF.  Last week his new boss — athletic director Greg McGarity — had to ask UGA backers to keep making donations to the athletic department for the sake of all the Bulldogs’ other programs.  In other words, don’t hurt the track team just because you’re mad about the football team.

That’s a bad situation for Richt.  Good luck finding another coach not named Paterno who’s lost a comparable amount of fan support only to survive, rebound and become popular again long-term.  It doesn’t happen.  So at this point, Richt is likely just delaying the inevitable.

Ron Seibel of The Macon Telegraph seems to agree:


“Unless Georgia can get some things done and seriously contend for the SEC East title, things likely will get ugly in Athens at the then end of the 2011 season.  A coaching change likely will be forced upon the program should the Bulldogs turn in another mediocre season, and nobody comes out looking good in that situation.

And while very few are saying that Richt needs to leave right now, would it be better for all involved for Richt to take one of the high profile positions that are currently available and leave Athens with his reputation and image intact?”


Seibel mentions a couple of schools that might welcome Richt should he take an interest in them — Stanford and Michigan.  Unfortunately, Richt’s best escape route might have been at Miami.  As an alum, if Richt had raised his hand it’s likely The U would have tabbed him as its new head coach. 

You tell me, who would Hurricane fans have felt better about: Richt or Al Golden?

But Richt elected to remain loyal to Georgia.  He’ll probably pay for that next season.

Emerson mentioned the Michigan job as a possibility for Richt, but that job is expected to go to either LSU’s Miles or San Diego State’s Brady Hoke.  Both are Michigan men.

If his alma mater tries to call him home, Miles should jump at the opportunity to exit Baton Rouge on a high note.

Despite a rich recruiting base and a gaudy contract, things will never be as good for Miles on The Bayou as they were in 2007.  Never.  Miles followed up that BCS championship season with a 17-9 two-year stretch.  As a result, The Hat found himself on a warming seat entering 2010.  A bungled near-loss to Tennessee cost him even more fan support in October.

An 11-2 finish and a big Cotton Bowl win have cooled the anti-Miles wolves for now… but how long before they start howling again?

Unless he expects to beat Nick Saban each year and compete for SEC titles every single season — and that’s tough to do, folks… ask Alabama and Florida fans — Miles should re-start his coaching clock by heading home to Ann Arbor.

In the current environment, coaches can’t afford to spend too many years in one place.  It’s become common for coaches to be hired and fired in laughably short three-year cycles.  Fans want big victory totals year-in and year-out in exchange for hikes in ticket prices, parking prices and concession prices.  So if a successful coach has a chance to move from one good job to another, he should take it.  End of story.

Richt blew his chance to go back to his alma mater.  If given the choice, Miles should avoid making the same mistake.


(SIDENOTE — We originally attributed the column from The Macon Telegraph to Seth Emerson… as it appeared in a spot usually filled with Emerson takes.  However, this particular column was penned by Ron Seibel.  Our mistake and our apologies to both Seibel and Emerson for crediting one with the other’s views.)

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As Expected, UGA’s Green Goes Pro

No surprise here: Georgia receiver AJ Green will head to the NFL, possibly as the league’s top draft pick in April.

The junior wide receiver teased Dawg fans about possibly “owing” them another year when he returned from a four-game suspension that got UGA’s season off on the wrong foot.  But when push came to shove — and money was weighed against risk of injury — Green took the money and made the smart move.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” Green said.  “This is a longtime dream since I was a little boy.  I feel like my skills are up to par to make this jump.  I feel like I proved myself in one of the best conferences in college football from day one.”

That he did.  And Georgia fans won’t soon forget his incredible career in Athens:

* 166 catches (3rd in school history)
* 2,619 receiving yards (3rd in school history)
* 23 touchdown catches (2nd in school history)

But they’ll also remember his selfish decision to sell a jersey.  Whether fans agree with that NCAA rule or not, Green chose to break it in order to put a little green in his pocket.

The resulting suspension started Georgia off on a bad road in 2010.  When Green returned, the Dawgs offense lifted off the ground and the Bulldogs finished strong — at least up until the nothing-to-play-for Liberty Bowl.

UGA’s 6-7 record has left Mark Richt on the hottest of seats.  Green’s suspension was the snowball that started that avalanche.  And now Richt won’t have Green to help his offense in 2011… when he needs him most.

Best of luck to Green in the NFL.  He’s destined to be a star.  And Richt said of his departure: “Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”

Maybe so, but Richt might not be a Bulldog after next year.  And to some extent Green should be remembered as a guy who played a role in that.

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McGarity Feels Your Pain; Richt Entering A No-Win Scenario

New Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said yesterday that he understands the frustration of angry Bulldog fans.  (No word on whether or not he bit his lip and stuck out his thumb as he stated that fact.)

“You’ve got a certain faction of fans out there that are just disappointed and if they don’t have change, then they’re gonna drop out of the program,” McGarity said yesterday.  He was referring to Bulldog backers withholding donations to the university… which is something that we’ve pointed to for two years as the sure-fire “tell” that Mark Richt is in trouble.  Now that “tell” is being told.

“I know they’re frustrated with football right now, but what is so important is the contributions go to support every sport that we sponsor.  If you have some that are pulling out of the program, in essence, I know they’re frustrated, but they’re basically pulling out of making a contribution that helps us in every facet of our operation.”

Following a Liberty Bowl loss to UCF, McGarity said that feedback from fans was close to 50-50 in terms of supportive/negative toward the football program.


A few other interesting notes:

* McGarity said that Richt “started to show the passion he has for the job” in his season-ending press conference this week.  “I think that’s something Mark needs to do more of — show his passion and express it in ways that perhaps he hasn’t done before.”  This falls right in line with a post from The AJC’s Tony Barnhart earlier this week.  Either Barnhart had already queried McGarity about his feelings regarding Richt or McGarity is paying close attention to what the SEC’s top scribe opines.

* McGarity said that he expects to see “improvement in all areas” of the football program next year.  “We want to see improvement in discipline; we want to see improvement in leadership; we want a passionate football team.  We want every member of our staff, regardless of what sport it is, to be passionate about being here.”

Let’s interrupt all this talk of passion to ask a simple question: Has anyone ever questioned Bill Belichick or Tony Dungy because they aren’t as “passionate” as someone like a Bill Cowher?  Some guys pump their fists, spit or kiss their players.  Cowher did all three.  But some guys look like statues on the sideline and sound half-dead in their press conferences.  Belichick and Dungy have done alright for themselves minus the theatrics.  No one worried about Richt’s passion as he led Georgia to a #2 national ranking in 2007.  And he looked like an escapee from Disney’s Hall of Presidents then, too.

If the spark has left your relationship, you don’t ask your partner to make googly eyes with you just for show.  That’s akin to what’s happening at Georgia.  “In lieu of wins and losses, we want you to scream and yell like a fan.”

But the passion thing won’t work anyway.  If Richt “passionately” loses, fans will still worry about the loss than any new, more-animated sideline gestures.  And if Richt displays more emotion some will no doubt suggest that it’s a sign that the pressure of a declining program is getting to him.

* McGarity said there’s no set number of wins that Richt must record to insure a return in 2012.  “All our coaches know what is expected of them; they are expected to compete for championships, to be in the hunt.  So I’m not here to put a figure on a number of wins and everything.”

* UGA’s new AD also said that he believes one of Richt’s “weaknesses was that he was trying to do so much himself.”  Therefore, McGarity has helped take some administrative duties off Richt’s plate.


Final question: How many times has a college coach reached this level of turmoil and survived?

Let’s say Richt wins 8 games next year.  That would be an improvement over 2010, but would fans pull out their checkbooks again? 

What about 10 wins?  Sounds good, but if the losses are to Florida and Georgia Tech — for example — what would be the result?

Heck, let’s say Richt reaches Atlanta in 2011, but falls back to 6-6 in 2012.  What then?  (Ex-Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer could probably give him a hint.)

Richt has been a very successful coach in Athens as well as a tremendous ambassador for the school and the conference.  But when fans stop making donations and your boss asks to see more passion from you, you’re time is running out. 

Last month we said that Richt should have pursued the openings at Colorado and Miami and tried to get out of Georgia while the getting was good.  He didn’t.

Eventually he’ll regret that.

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UGA To Correct Player Plaques Reading 7-6

In December, prior to Georgia’s Liberty Bowl date with UCF, the Bulldogs held their traditional end-of-season awards gala.  The seniors on the team were presented plaques honoring their achievements in 2010.  (Hold your laughs.)

The Dawgs were 6-6 at the time, of course, but the record on the plaques read 7-6. 

To the surprise of no one, Central Florida players heard word of UGA’s Nostradamus act and used it as motivation in last week’s 10-6 win over the Dawgs.

But UGA officials say there was nothing out of the ordinary with this year’s plaques. 

“Every year we present the senior plaques at our football gala, which is always held before the bowl game,” Georgia associate AD Claude Felton told The AJC.  “One line on the plate is the season record, and we always list it with a win in the upcoming bowl game.  If we los the game, we replace the plate.  We’ve done that 14 straight years and only had to replace the plate three times.”

Too bad Felton couldn’t have gotten that word to UCF’s players before the Liberty Bowl.

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Richt Dealing With Another Off-Field Black Eye For His Dawgs

When you lose to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl to fall to 6-7 on the season, the last thing you need are off-the-field issues.  Especially when your entire reign has been marred by numerous off-field issues.

But that’s just what Mark Richt is facing today.

In May, backup linebacker Marcus Dowtin was charged with second-degree assault in Ocean City, Maryland.  According to reports, Dowtin knocked a man unconscious in a bar fight.  Records show that the case was settled on December 21st, but no further details have been released.

Here’s the kicker — Richt didn’t even learn of the arrest until yesterday.

Look, a coach can’t be beside 85 of his players at all times, especially in the summer.  But fair or not the Dowtin situation creates the perception that Richt has no idea what’s going on in his program.

Richt reportedly booted Zach Mettenberger from Georgia’s team last spring because he wasn’t honest with the coach when asked about his own run-in with the law.  How will Richt react to a player who got into trouble but didn’t tell him about it? 

Richt, obviously, is facing a make-or-break year in Athens in 2011.  He has a number of star players who could leave for the NFL months before his season kicks off.  Can he afford to boot anyone from his team at this point?  From a perception standpoint, can he afford not to?

If there was ever a year for Georgia players to behave themselves, it’s this one.  Their coach can’t afford more black eyes for his program.  So they can’t be dishing out black eyes to citizens this winter, spring and summer.

Each time a Bulldog screws up off the field in 2011, he’ll be inching his coach a little closer to the unemployment line.

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SEC Bowl Game Headlines 1/1/2011

Liberty Bowl

1. Central Florida 10 – Georgia 6.  Bulldogs finish at 6-7, first losing record for Georgia since 1996.

2. David Ching: “This was an uninspired effort from everyone involved.”

3. Georgia kicker Blair Walsh: “Our attitude needs to change.”

4. A.J. Green will wait a few days before making a decision on the NFL.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

5. Florida State 26 – South Carolina 17.  Steve Spurrier now 1-4 in bowl games at South Carolina.

6. Backup QB burns the Gamecocks.

7. Spurrier: “We didn’t give ourselves much of a chance to win the game.”

Outback Bowl

8. Last hurrah for Urban Meyer and Florida’ seniors.

9. A new life awaits Meyer while a new assistant coach is coming to Florida.  Will Muschamp is targeting Charlie Weis as the next offfensive coordinator for the Gators.

10.  Is this the last game in a Florida uniform for QB John Brantley?

Capital One Bowl

11. Sunshine State or a state of disappointment for the Tide?

12. SEC vs. the Big 10 in bowl games the last 10 years – 14-12 with four more this year, including three today.

13. Jon Solomon: “The pressure is on the Big Ten.”

14. Nick Saban on the two conferences: “If there’s any difference at all, it’s probably the passion of the fans.”

Gator Bowl

15. It’s Chris Relf’s time to shine.

16. Dan Mullen: You watch Denard Robinson and the first thing that does not come to mind is slow.”

17.  With Tate Forcier sent home, the options behind Robinson at QB for Michigan are slim.

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Big East Boasts Best Bowl Record Since 1998

Which conference has the best overall bowl record since the berth of the BCS system in 1998?  The folks at Rivals.com have done the math and the answer might surprise you:

The Big East.  Yes.  The Big East.

Here are the records and winning percentages for the FBS conferences in all bowls between 1998 and 2009:


Rank
School
Bowl Record
Winning Percentage
1
Big East
36-23
.610
2
Mountain West
25-16
.609
3 SEC
56-39
.589
4
Big 12
45-45
.500
5
Pac-10
33-34
.493
6
ACC
39-42
.481
7
Big Ten
38-43
.469
8
WAC
19-24
.442
9
Conference USA
23-35
.397
10
MAC
13-20
.394
11
Sun Belt
5-8
.385
12
Independents
4-10
.286



Interesting numbers.  But here’s the rub: Bowl schedules aren’t created equal.

As Rivals’ Steve Megargee wisely points out, the Big East’s 16-6 mark over the last four years includes an 8-0 record against bowl teams from outside BCS conferences.

When looking at the SEC’s schedule, you’ll notice that lower-seeded SEC teams are consistently matched up against higher-seeded teams from other leagues.  Whether it’s the SEC’s 5th selection playing the ACC’s 2nd pick in the Chick-fil-A Bowl or the SEC’s 8th selection (really the 9th with two BCS bids) playing the C-USA champion in the Liberty Bowl, SEC squads are often matched up against teams that finished higher in their own conference.  That makes the SEC’s bowl record quite a bit more impressive.

Also impressive?  The fact that since 2003 the Southeastern Conference has gone 36-19 in all bowls and 9-2 in BCS games.  The league is also a perfect 5-0 in BCS title games during that stretch.

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Georgia Bulldogs to Meet Central Florida Knights in Liberty Bowl: Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

Georgia
Content provided by Dawg Sports.

Our mindset going into the Liberty Bowl, and you can see that from the season we’ve had, is we’re going to win it. We’re not just going to a bowl game and going to play an SEC school. We’re going to win this game.

Central Florida Knights defensive end Bruce Miller (December 4, 2010)

Miller seems rather sure of himself in the wake of UCF’s Conference USA championship campaign, in which the Knights tied a school record with ten wins in a single season. I can’t help but admire the young man’s confidence, especially since Central Florida has never in its history won a bowl game and the SEC has gone 4-0 against Conference USA since the Liberty Bowl began pairing representatives of the two leagues.

In 2010, the Knights have gone 10-1 against teams from Division I-AA, Conference USA, and the MAC while posting a ledger of 0-2 against teams from automatically-qualifying BCS conferences. George O’Leary’s club fell to the N.C. State Wolfpack by a 28-21 margin in Orlando and dropped a 17-13 decision to the Kansas St. Wildcats on the road. However, Central Florida outgained N.C. State but finished at minus-five in turnover margin, and Kansas State needed a go-ahead touchdown with 24 seconds to play to beat UCF in a game featuring a weather delay of almost 90 minutes.

In short, the Knights are no pushovers, but they have gone 0-11 against major conference opposition since upending N.C. State by a two-point margin to start the 2007 season. Since moving up to Division I-A status in 1996, Central Florida has gone 1-13 against the Southeastern Conference, falling to the South Carolina Gamecocks in 1996, 1997, and 2005, to the Mississippi Rebels in 1997, to the Auburn Tigers in 1997, 1998, and 1999, to the Mississippi St. Bulldogs in 1997 and 2007, to the Florida Gators in 1999 and 2006, to the Georgia Bulldogs in 1999, and to the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2001, but beating the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2000, when the defending SEC champions went 3-8 in Mike DuBose’s final season at the Capstone.

Go ‘Dawgs!


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Georgia Bulldogs Appear Liberty Bowl-Bound to Face Conference USA Champ; Is This a Good Thing?

Georgia
Content provided by Dawg Sports.

It looks like the Liberty Bowl is about as much of a mortal lock as it can be at this point, short of the Outback Bowl doing something stupid again to throw everything into chaos. Unfortunately, the Tennessee Volunteersvictory over the Kentucky Wildcats made the Big Orange available as an attractive in-state option for the Nashville-based Music City Bowl, which likely eliminates all hope of a postseason renewal of the rivalry between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Clemson Tigers.

Since it appears pretty clear that the ‘Dawgs are Memphis-bound, we need to do what we can to make the best of a bad season by looking for the silver lining. Why should we love like tolerate receiving a Liberty Bowl bid? Let me count the ways:

  • The Liberty Bowl is sponsored by AutoZone. It’s always a plus when you know what product or service the corporate sponsor sells, and it’s an extra added bonus when you’ve actually been to one of their stores and bought something. At least we won’t be wondering, “Who the heck is BBVA Compass?” or, “What the heck is MagicJack?”
  • The Liberty Bowl is being played on the afternoon of December 31. Getting to a New Year’s Eve bowl game counts for something.
  • Memphis is roughly 450 miles from Athens and a little under 400 miles from Atlanta. That’s not ideal, but it makes for a nice trip, particularly to a city with as much to offer as a tourist destination as Memphis has. (One word: Graceland.)
  • The Bulldogs will face the winner of next weekend’s Conference USA title tilt between George O’Leary’s Central Florida Knights and June Jones’s SMU Mustangs. Given Mark Richt’s history with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Mark Richt’s history with Coach Jones’s previous team, I like Georgia’s chances against a gold-and-white-clad club led by Coach O’Leary or a team guided by Coach Jones.
  • The Bulldogs have history with both Central Florida and Southern Methodist. In 1999, the winless Golden Knights came into Sanford Stadium and nearly upset eleventh-ranked Georgia between the hedges. Aided by a missed UCF extra point and a debatable pass interference penalty, the Classic City Canines escaped with a 24-23 win. Against the Ponies in the Cotton Bowl at the end of the Bulldogs’ 1966 SEC championship campaign, Georgia cruised to a 24-9 triumph with the help of two future members of the State Bar of Georgia: Kent Lawrence, currently a State Court judge in Athens, broke off a 74-yard touchdown run on the second play of the game, and Billy Payne, a 1973 graduate of the Joseph Henry Lumpkin School of Law, brought in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Kirby Moore.

(Kent Lawrence’s 74-yard touchdown run.)

  • Georgia has history in the Liberty Bowl. The Bulldogs fell by a 14-7 margin to an N.C. State Wolfpack club led by quarterback Jim Donnan in 1967. The future Georgia head coach earned most valuable player honors by completing 16 of 24 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. The Red and Black went on to win a 20-17 outing against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Memphis in 1987, in a game that appeared in doubt when the Hogs drove inside the Georgia ten yard line with fewer than 120 seconds remaining in a tie ballgame. A holding call set Arkansas back, and a missed 35-yard field goal try set the stage for John Kasay to close out his freshman year with a game-winning 39-yard field goal as time expired.
  • The Liberty Bowl has history, as well. It is the eighth-oldest existing bowl game, behind the Citrus (now Capital One), Cotton, Gator, Orange, Rose, Sugar, and Sun Bowls. While never a major postseason destination, the Liberty Bowl has been around for more than half a century, which carries some cachet in a sport with so many fly-by-night small-time bowl games.
  • Since the Liberty Bowl began pitting an SEC representative against a Conference USA squad in 2006, the Southeastern Conference has gone 4-0 in Memphis, but the league’s four victories were decided by margins of eight, seven, six, and three points, respectively. We should expect a good game.
  • The likelihood that the Conference USA Championship Game will determine the Red and Black’s bowl opponent spares that contest from the ignominy of being named this week’s national game of disinterest.
  • The O’Jays will be providing the halftime entertainment, so those who attend will get to hear “Love Train” performed live.

Is the Liberty Bowl a perfect option for the Bulldogs, or even the best possible option? No, it isn’t, and no Georgia fan should be satisfied with this outcome to a season that ought to have been better than it was. Nevertheless, we are where we are, and, given the reality of our situation, the Athenians could do a lot worse than the Liberty Bowl. If everything plays out as expected, the Liberty Bowl is a tolerable opportunity of which the Red and Black (and their fans) should make the most.

Go ‘Dawgs!


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