How 'Bout Them Gym Dogs?

Much of my attention lately has been focused on this Saturday's G-Day game in Athens.  However, the Bulldogs' spring scrimmage in Sanford Stadium is not the only sporting event taking place in the Classic City this weekend, nor even the most important.  

On Saturday evening, the Gym Dogs will host the N.C.A.A. Southeast Regional.  The undefeated and top-ranked Georgia gymnastics squad, loaded with winners of too many individual awards to name and fresh off of winning its 15th Southeastern Conference championship, enters this weekend's meet hoping to capture its 18th regional title and qualify for its 23rd consecutive appearance in the N.C.A.A. Championships.  

Good-looking Southern women.  A sporting event involving an S.E.C. championship Georgia squad.  A Saturday night in Athens.  What more could anyone ask?

This will be the seventh N.C.A.A. regional gymnastics meet held in Stegeman Coliseum.  The Gym Dogs finished first in five of the previous six and took second place in the 1985 regional competition.  

The top two teams from each of the six regional meets will advance to the National Collegiate Women's Gymnastics Championships taking place in Corvallis, Ore., starting on April 20.  Joining Georgia in Athens this weekend will be No. 12 Nebraska, No. 13 Missouri, No. 22 West Virginia, No. 23 North Carolina, and N.C. State.  

Suzanne Yoculan, the architect of the Bulldogs' dominant women's gymnastics program, pointed out that "Nebraska is the only team that was in this year's pre-season top 10 that we haven't seen."  

23 seasons.  15 S.E.C. crowns.  17 regional championships.  Six national titles.  She's like Steve Spurrier . . . if Steve Spurrier won a lot more.

This season, Georgia is 21-0 overall, 6-0 in regular-season conference meets for the seventh time in the last decade, 19-0 against top 20 teams, and 11-0 against top 10 opponents.  If the Gym Dogs win Saturday evening's regional meet, the Red and Black will have beaten every other preseason top 10 team.  

Think about that for a minute.  

Naturally, not even the earliest of preseason college football polls is out yet, but let's assume that the teams that were good in 2005 will be presumed still to be good heading into 2006.  The order might be shuffled somewhat, but I doubt whether the projected top 10 released in late August will contain any teams not ranked in the postseason top 15 in early January.  

Imagine, if you will, that defending national champion Texas entered 2006 ranked No. 1 and, over the course of their regular season schedule, conference championship game, and bowl game, the Longhorns faced all nine of the other preseason top 10 teams.  

If, over the course of next fall's campaign, Texas beat Auburn, Florida, Louisiana State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Southern California, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia, would there be any doubt that it was the greatest feat accomplished by any college football team since Sewanee's 1899 squad won five games in six days against major opponents?  

If Mack Brown's Longhorns had won seven or eight more games of this caliber last season, they'd be in a league with Coach Yoculan's Gym Dogs.

The Georgia women's gymnastics squad may be poised to do exactly that.  

I am looking forward to Saturday's G-Day game between the hedges, but, were it not for family obligations later that evening, I would plan on sticking around the Classic City for the regional gymnastics meet.  If you're going to be in Athens all day on Saturday, you should head over to the Coliseum, where you might be witness to history in the making.  

I will refrain from getting all E.S.P.N. on you with all that "Greatest Team of All Time!" rhetoric before the season even ends, but the Gym Dogs have a chance to accomplish something extraordinary and every citizen of Bulldog Nation should sit up and take notice.  

Go 'Dawgs!  

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