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Georgia Bulldogs 2011 Season Preview: The Bye Week

So devoted am I to previewing the scheduled happenings of every single Saturday on the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2011 slate that I now turn my attentions and dedicate my energies to providing a comprehensive look at the Red and Black’s open date, October 22. This is the one weekend of the entire autumn on which we can be absolutely confident that the Classic City Canines will not lose a football game.

Oh, I’m sure vineyarddawg still will look to find a reason to disbelieve, but the annals of the Bulldogs’ football history could not be more clear upon this point: Georgia is undefeated on open dates, going all the way back to 1892. Seriously, I went through the media guide, and everything. A loss on October 22 literally would be unprecedented.

This is not to say that the ‘Dawgs necessarily will have an easy time of it that Saturday, though. For instance, the Athenians’ October 22 opponent finished 24th nationally in total defense, allowing 330.8 yards per game to end up right behind Georgia in the Division I-A standings. Oh, wait, I’m sorry; that was BYU, not B-Y-E. My bad. All right, this one’s in the bag, then.

Since there’s not a Georgia game that Saturday, what will we in Bulldog Nation be doing? Well, for one thing, we’ll be watching college football: October 22’s slate of games includes Air Force at Boise State, Auburn at LSU (I’m picking the Tigers), Georgia Tech at Miami, Penn State at Northwestern, Tennessee at Alabama (apparently, the third Saturday in October falls on the fourth Saturday in October this year), USC at Notre Dame, and Wisconsin at Michigan State. That’ll be worth opening up an all-day comment thread, even though the Bulldogs will be idle.

Actually, that’s not a fair statement; I’ve never liked it when commentators use the term "idle" instead of "bye week" or "open date." The latter two are literal descriptions; the former is a value judgment, and an unwarranted and unwelcome one, at that. We have no idea whether the Red and Black will be idle. Aaron Murray may use that day to catch up on his e-mail and clean his room. Alec Ogletree may get some laundry done. Tavarres King may wash his car. There’s just no reason for accusing these young men of the sin of sloth.

What I hope the players and coaches are not doing that Saturday is tweaking the team’s uniforms. We’re already doing that one too many times this season for my taste, and this ain’t "Project Runway." Georgia’s performance in Jacksonville in 2009, and Florida’s performance there one year later, demonstrate clearly that it’s not the placement of your open date that counts; it’s how you use it.

One way or the other, October 22 will be the most important Saturday of the season for the Bulldogs. Whether the Red and Black come off of their open date needing to maintain momentum or regain it, the bye week will be critical to the Classic City Canines’ capacity to turn in a strong stretch run. The restoration of a pre-Cocktail Party off week provided a needed reprieve, but it is no guarantee of success. In 2007, it proved crucial to a solid finish; in 2009, the opportunity was wasted, as, honestly, has been pretty much every on-field opportunity since. Regardless of the Red and Black’s record seven games into the season, hanging tough in the final month of the campaign will be every bit as important as hanging tough in the fourth quarter.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Thursday is the first night of the rest of your weekend. And October 22 is the first Saturday of the future of Georgia football for 2012, and beyond.

Also on Dawg Sports: Boise State game preview . . . South Carolina game preview . . . Coastal Carolina game preview . . . Ole Miss game preview . . . Mississippi State game preview . . . Tennessee game preview . . . Vanderbilt game preview . . . Maple Street Press annual!

Go ‘Dawgs!