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There's Only You and Me and We Just Disagree

We here in Bulldog Nation believe in safeguarding the full panoply of Constitutionally protected liberties, defending the right of free speech for all within our borders and ensuring even the freedoms of Methodist ninjas and drunken offensive linemen.  

In that spirit of open discussion, I would like to reply to a recent comment left by a Dawg Sports reader.  I earlier encouraged my fellow Georgia fans to write to E.S.P.N. to explain why the Worldwide Leader in Sports should aid in our efforts to get a Georgia-Michigan football series scheduled.  

Way cool helmet graphic courtesy The M Zone.

This enterprise has caused some readers to ask tough questions and prompted alternative proposals, but the only truly negative reply came from this anonymous contributor, whose remarks warrant a detailed response.  

He writes:  

Here's your argument.  Tell me if I have it correctly please?  

Item one:  Auburn always plays an easy schedule of just only silly opponents.  Southern California plays in the very weak PAC 10.  Last season, Southern California played 13 games against opponents who averaged every single week including Texas, the average NCAA Number 82 Total Defense, Total Offense.  The year you question, too the year before last 2 years ago, Southern California did not have including both themselves and Oklahoma more wins against Final AP Poll ranked opponents as Auburn did by itself.  Southern California fans, of whom none go to their games, all talked up the fact that Auburn played The Citadel.  The problem is that Auburn fans did not talk up whom it was that Auburn had wins over compared to the 2 Mythical BCS National Championship Pick 2 Game Opponents, as it was only I who did all season long.  That is their fault as Auburn fans.  Auburn ended up # 2 in every single solitary poll; Oklahoma was not # 2 in any poll; and, we should forget the fact that is yet another huge black eye for the BCS "system" of only 2 teams when we need a Plus One Format and schedule Georgia to go to Ann Arbor yet again to gain an opportunity to have Michigan finally come play us at our house because Auburn did not get to play in the Mythical BCS Pick 2 Championship Game.  So what that Auburn every season plays a whole host of creampuff, powder-puff, pansy football teams.

No, you do not have my argument correctly.  

It could never fairly be said of Auburn or any other major conference team that it "always plays an easy schedule of just only silly opponents."  While Auburn's history of non-conference scheduling often has been shameful, as when the Tigers dropped Florida State for Appalachian State, the Plainsmen have scheduled more aggressively than we give them credit for, both historically and more recently.  

All conferences have their good and bad years, but Southern California faced some stiff competition in the Pac-10 and clearly earned the right to play for the national championship in 2004 and in 2005.  Average rankings are just that . . . averages.  

If a team plays four consecutive games against opponents ranked No. 1, No. 98, No. 2, and No. 99, respectively, in total offense and goes 4-0 against those squads, we might truthfully claim that those four opponents were, on average, ranked just 50th in total offense . . . yet that team would have beaten the two best offenses in college football in the process.  Quality Pac-10 offenses make the league's defenses look worse than they really are, just as quality S.E.C. defenses make the conference's offenses look worse than they really are.  

It is true that S.E.C. football fans lead the country in attendance, which is deservedly a point of pride for the league.  However, that is not a legitimate factor in determining a team's worthiness for a national championship game berth and I am willing to cut Southern California fans a break.  If a larger percentage of Mississippi State fans than U.S.C. fans attend college football games, that might have something to do with the fact that there are more things to do in Los Angeles on a Saturday night than there are in Starkville.  (Georgia baseball suffers from a similar attendance problem, not because the Diamond Dogs are undeserving of our attention but because they play an hour away from Turner Field.)  

Now imagine one of these that said "Starkville."  Never gonna happen, my friend.

Likewise, postseason rankings, by definition, cannot be a component in determining the participants in the national championship game.  Auburn ended up ranked ahead of Oklahoma because the Tigers won the Sugar Bowl and the Sooners lost the national championship game.  At the end of the season, more teams that lost to Auburn may have ended up ranked than teams that lost to U.S.C. or Oklahoma, but there was no way of knowing that at the time the Orange Bowl pairing was determined.  

There are flaws in the B.C.S. and I argued at the time that Auburn was more deserving of the chance to play Southern California than Oklahoma was.  (I don't believe it would have mattered, though; although the Tigers likely would have given the Trojans a better game, it is highly doubtful that any college team---and perhaps some N.F.L. teams---could have beaten U.S.C. on that field that night.)  

However, these facts remain facts:  Oklahoma's 2004 non-conference schedule consisted of Bowling Green, Houston, and Oregon; Southern California's 2004 non-conference schedule consisted of Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Brigham Young, and Notre Dame; and Auburn's 2004 non-conference schedule consisted of Louisiana-Monroe, The Citadel, and Louisiana Tech.  Had the Plainsmen replaced The Citadel with Michigan, the B.C.S. formula might have produced a different result.  

Item two:  The bottom line on this line of thought in your argument for Michigan to drive to Athens for the 1st time ever when The Georgia Bulldogs have already been to Ann Arbor twice, when neither Michigan nor Georgia (who won the game in Ann Arbor you do discuss, but you left that out neatly) have ever been shut out of a potential national championship game because of poor strength of schedules, you summarily state that Ohio State benefited from losing to Texas last year, when both Texas and Southern Cal went undefeated when Texas' Average NCAA Total Defense Rank they faced all 13 games including Southern California was the # 52 Total NCAA Defense.  Texas played Colorado for the Big XII Championship Game, or have you forgotten that or simply left that out too because it does not suit your argument?  Colorado lost 6 games last season, and was one of the most criticized Probation Football Programs of All-Time, ever including buying strippers for recruits.  And, the Big XII has been the worst football conference ever in Bowl Games, with their losing record in Bowl Games.  Explain to me again please how Ohio State benefited from losing to Texas when Ohio State did not get to play in the BCS National Championship Pick 2 Mythical Game because Texas and Southern California both played such weak Defenses every single week of the season, both in very weak conferences when Ohio State played in the Big Ten (11) that had 2 of the Top 4 Final AP Poll Teams by comparison?

I will confess that I am not altogether certain as to the precise nature of the argument that is struggling to escape from that paragraph, but I will do my best to address it, nevertheless.  

Georgia and Michigan have met twice on the gridiron.  The Wolverines beat the Bulldogs in Ann Arbor in 1957 and the Red and Black defeated the Maize and Blue in the Big House in 1965.  Given the lengthy lapse of time and the absence of any enduring contractual obligation between the two schools, I do not believe the fact that both previous series meetings occurred in Ann Arbor is relevant to the scheduling of an upcoming home and home series between the two schools.  Moreover, since I was not yet born the last time the two teams met, I would welcome the opportunity to see Georgia play at Michigan.  

I am not sure what relevance Georgia's 1965 victory in Ann Arbor has, nor do I know why it matters that Texas played a team from the weak Big 12 North in the conference championship game, so it is not clear to me why my argument would be weakened by acknowledging those two facts, each of which I readily acknowledge.  

And your point would be . . . ?

In advocating more aggressive intersectional scheduling, I have pointed out that, in 2005, the two major non-regional games played during the regular season were Southern California's visit to Notre Dame and Texas's visit to Ohio State.  The winners of those two games went undefeated and met in the Rose Bowl to settle the national championship.  (Whatever one may think of the B.C.S., there can be little doubt that the nation's top two teams met in Pasadena at the end of the season.)  

The losers of those two games received credit for "quality losses" and both the Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish ended up in the Fiesta Bowl.  Ohio State's and Notre Dame's final poll rankings and B.C.S. bowl payouts demonstrate the benefits to both programs.  Had either Ohio State or Notre Dame beaten Texas or Southern California, respectively---and both games were close contests---registering the upset would have vaulted either team into national championship contention.  

Item three:  If Michigan and Georgia are both such quality football programs that Georgia must drive a 3rd time to Ann Arbor to play there to entice them to come play us 'Tween the Hedges, then why was Michigan not ranked whatsoever at the end of last season in the Final AP Poll?  Why is that?

The Wolverines were unranked in last year's final A.P. poll because Michigan went 7-5, lost its bowl game on multiple blown officiating calls, and, despite playing a number of close games that could have gone either way (including a win over Penn State that spoke to the Maize and Blue's ability as a team), had the worst season the school has endured in more than 20 years.  

Even elite teams have periodic downcycles.  My desire to see Georgia play Michigan is attributable partly to the rich history and tradition of both programs.  The Wolverines began the 2005 campaign with more victories (842), a higher winning percentage (.746), and more television appearances (332) than any other Division I-A school.  Michigan can claim the sport's largest on-campus stadium, has won 42 Big Ten titles and nine national championships, and arguably plays college football's most noticeable fight song.  Michigan, as they say, isn't in a class by itself . . . but it doesn't take long to call the roll.  

Maybe the naysayers will respect this place more when they put in the luxury boxes.

The Wolverines' 2005 season was a disappointment.  However, Georgia---also a traditional powerhouse program---has experienced six seasons in the last 16 years that we in Bulldog Nation would have traded for Michigan's 2005 ledger of 7-5:  the 'Dawgs went 6-6 in 1989, 4-7 in 1990, 5-6 in 1993, 6-4-1 in 1994, 6-6 in 1995, and 5-6 in 1996.  During those half-dozen seasons, Michigan posted records of 10-2, 9-3, 8-4, 8-4, 9-4, and 8-4, respectively.  

In five of the last nine seasons, the Wolverines won 10 or more games; in two of the other four years, the Wolverines won nine games.  2005 obviously was an aberration.  

Michigan played the Number 3 Strength of Schedule in the NCAA Rankings for last season and Georgia the Number 15 Strength of Schedule.  This has nothing to do with the fact that once again Auburn's was Number 33.  

I would rather play a good football program like now like Texas or Southern California than Michigan.  Michigan is not what they once were.  Michigan nowadays is down there with the Tennessee vols and Florida State criminoles at Number 15, Number 16 and Number 17 football programs over the last 5 years with their Lloyd Carr horrendous coach, were you to compare Lloyd Carr's results in fact during The Coach Richt Era at Georgia.

I agree; this has nothing to do with Auburn's strength of schedule.  On the other hand, the fact that the Maize and Blue played the country's third-toughest schedule, were in every game, and finished the season with a bowl bid and a winning record says something positive about the caliber of its program.  

I am completely in favor of a matchup between Georgia and Texas or Southern California.  As I have written repeatedly, I view a home and home series with Michigan as a starting point, not a stopping point.  

I am proud of Mark Richt's record---indeed, between "The Dawg Show" and Kyle on Football, I have counted down every single Mark Richt victory en route to his eventual, and inevitable, breaking of Vince Dooley's school record for total wins---but my concern is primarily with the institutions rather than with individuals.  

Sure Mark Richt is The Man . . . that's why I want to have a grandson named after him.

Michigan had a down year last year, as did Tennessee.  Florida State has taken a step back since Coach Richt left Tallahassee.  However, historic programs tend not to stay down for long.  You may rest assured that the Wolverines, the Volunteers, and the Seminoles are not perennial contenders for rankings in the mid-teens.  

In fact, all three of them have won national championships---in some cases, more than one---since Georgia last finished the season ranked No. 1, so I am not inclined to disparage them during their downcycles, even if some Michigan fans may be more glum about their team's prospects than I am.  I don't want to play the Wolverines because I think they're bad; I want to play them because I know they're good.  

I don't care about playing Michigan one bloody hoot.  Georgia plays in The South.  And, everyone knows that The South goes to the games, that we have the most NFL players from here, that we have the most ranked teams, and that we are what college football is all about.  What we need to fix is the BCS Mythical Pick 2 Format, not sit here and dream up reasons why UGA must drive to Ann Arbor yet a 3rd time to go play a washed up football program about the 17th best football program comparing Lloyd Carr with Coach Richt in the Top Half a Dozen.  

Now, maybe if you told me Lloyd Carr would be gone from Michigan when the games actually would be played, then you might have a better footing to stand on in your argument.

First of all, I'm pretty sure the team would fly to the game.  

Given Coach Carr's advancing age and the number of years into the future for which the Bulldogs' tough out-of-conference games already are set, I feel confident that Michigan will have a new coach by the time The Movement's success is played out on the field.  

I take a back seat to no one in my respect for Mark Richt or in my appreciation for what he has meant to the Georgia program.  I also am as fierce in my regional pride as anyone you are apt to meet.  

Nevertheless, we must stop spouting specious nonsense about having cornered the market on quality.  The list of teams embodying "what college football is all about" certainly includes many Southern schools, among them Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisiana State, Miami, Tennessee, and Texas.  

There are other teams appearing on that list, though:  Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Southern California, and Washington, for instance.  (Two of those teams even have their own Pez dispensers.)  Any serious attempt at compiling an all-time top 25 would have to include many non-Southern schools, as would a list of teams that are well-represented in the N.F.L.  

As always, I appreciate getting feedback and I try to give all ideas a full hearing and a fair fight.  I understand why some Georgia fans may not share my enthusiasm for a series with Michigan and I respect their point of view.  

I hope I have answered the criticisms leveled by the anonymous commentator quoted above and I trust the correct position has been clarified by our exchange of divergent perspectives.  

Go 'Dawgs!