We can fret and wail and gnash our teeth, but I would rather put our time to more productive use. Damon Evans has upgraded Georgia's non-conference slate with the addition of Arizona State, Boise State, Colorado, Louisville, Oklahoma State, and Oregon. Now that the Maize and Blue are no longer a possibility, to whom do we next turn to continue that healthy trend?
Here are seven possibilities . . . one each from the other five B.C.S. conferences, one powerhouse from a non-B.C.S. league, and one independent. In alphabetical order, these are they:
Navy: You didn't think I was going to go with Notre Dame, did you? Not after they tied up the Wolverines for the next quarter-century! When Georgia ended the practice of scheduling high school teams in 1910, the Red and Black began scheduling more aggressively. The Classic City Canines' 1916 date with the Midshipmen in Annapolis kicked off a half-century of national scheduling by the Bulldogs that would not end until the 1965 Georgia-Michigan game. The 'Dawgs should return to their roots by scheduling the U.S. Naval Academy, a quality opponent coached by former Georgia Southern head honcho Paul Johnson . . . and a team, by the way, against which Georgia is 0-2.
North Carolina: While I am not anxious to incur the wrath of the Tar Heel faithful again, the fact is that the 'Dawgs have more history with U.N.C. than with any other out-of-state A.C.C. rival not located between John C. Calhoun's back yard and a lake. The Bulldogs and the Tar Heels have squared off on the gridiron 30 times, with 10 games played in the Classic City, 10 games played in Chapel Hill, and 10 games played at neutral sites. The series is a close one, with the Red and Black holding slight edges in won-lost record (16-12-2) and total points scored (466-457). Although the country's two oldest state universities met five times before 1900, they have met only once since 1966. The Bulldogs and the Tar Heels played a pair of memorable postseason games, with Charley Trippi facing Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice in the 1947 Sugar Bowl and Vince Dooley meeting Bill Dooley in the 1971 Gator Bowl.
Penn State: Although Big Ten teams typically have not scheduled S.E.C. opponents, the Nittany Lions' long history as an independent has left Joe Paterno's club with a lingering willingness to tangle with tough out-of-conference opposition, even if it means crossing the Mason-Dixon line. P.S.U. played an epic 10-year series with Alabama from 1981 through 1990 and the Crimson Tide are slated to face Penn State in 2010 and 2011. 'Bama is but one of the marquee non-conference opponents the Nittany Lions will encounter in the next several seasons. The last time Georgia and Penn State squared off, the result was a classic contest in a national championship-settling showdown. The fans are interested in seeing this one. Let's set up a series that includes a game in Happy Valley and a game in the Classic City.
Rutgers: Last time, I was just kidding. Since then, though, the Scarlet Knights have proven to be a pretty decent football team. If Belford, N.J., native Knowshon Moreno turns out as well for the 'Dawgs as I think he will, we'll want to preserve a recruiting pipeline to the Garden State. What better way is there to do that than by playing a home-and-home with the State University of New Jersey?
Obligatory photograph of Rutgers alumna Kristin Davis.
Texas: I'm all on board for a Big 12-S.E.C. Pigskin Challenge of the sort under discussion at OrangePower.com, but the 'Dawgs are not being given their due. Besides, I've been in favor of a Georgia-Texas matchup for a while . . . for a long while. Although fans of the Bayou Bengals, the Gators, the Sooners, and the A.C.C. would disagree, there is an argument to be made that this contest would pit the top two programs from the top two Southern football conferences. Athens and Austin. Mack and Mark. Bevo and Uga. John Lastinger on the jumbotron. Competitive tailgating. Let's do it.
Texas Christian: The Horned Frogs have established themselves as, arguably, the country's most consistently good mid-major team behind Boise State. The Bulldogs' 2005 opener against the Broncos signaled a sea change in Georgia's scheduling practices and springboarded an S.E.C. championship run. Might an exchange of games with T.C.U. provide a similar spark for the Red and Black? The Bulldogs' first postseason victory was a 40-26 win over Texas Christian in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 1941 campaign . . . and, the following year, the 'Dawgs captured their first national title. In 1980, a 34-3 victory over the fellows from Fort Worth completed an undefeated September in the course of a national championship season. If we're looking for another top-tier team from a non-B.C.S. league, we have to ask ourselves . . . how 'bout them Frogs?
U.C.L.A.: The Bulldogs clinched the aforementioned 1942 national championship with a New Year's Day win over the Bruins in the Rose Bowl. U.C.L.A. returned the game four decades later, opening the 1983 campaign in Sanford Stadium. Believe it or not, Bulldog fans and Bruin fans are kindred spirits with mutual respect. Heck, if we play our cards right, Nestor, Jason, and I might even be able to put that whole East Coast/West Coast schism behind us.
Tupac-10, meet the Notorious S.E.C.
Those are my suggestions. Let me know what you think of them by voting in the new poll and leaving your comments below.