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The Georgia Bulldogs and the Odd Effects of Attempts to Even Out the 2013 SEC Football Schedule

The addition of the Missouri Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies to the Southeastern Conference produced some scheduling oddities, which the SEC hopes to iron out by shifting the site of the 2013 game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers. What impact will this have on the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry?

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This week has been a bit overwhelming, so I hope you will pardon me for overlooking a detail that Senator Blutarsky spotted and NCT noted regarding the 2013 SEC schedule:

Each team will retain one permanent rivalry game against a non-division opponent. South Carolina and Texas A&M will become permanent rivals, allowing Missouri and Arkansas, which share a border, to play annually. However, if all of the current permanent rivalry games simply flip to the opposite venue next season, it is not mathematically possible to establish a rotation where a team can cycle through all of the schools in the opposite division.

“Some interesting games will have to go back to a certain venue [two years in a row],” Templeton said.

To best establish a full rotation, all permanent rivalry games would have to be hosted by SEC West teams one year, and SEC East teams the next. In 2012, three of the five continuing rivalry games are at SEC East venues (Alabama-Tennessee, LSU-Florida, Mississippi State-Kentucky) and two at SEC West venues (Georgia-Auburn, Vanderbilt-Ole Miss). Therefore, the logical solution is for all permanent rivalry games, including South Carolina-Texas A&M and Missouri-Arkansas to be played in SEC West stadiums in 2013, so that three of the five rivalries can stay on their current rotation. Is it borderline criminal for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to be played on The Plains two years in a row? Maybe, but so was expanding to 14 teams.

“Realistically that’s the way you want it to work,” Templeton said of the all-SEC West hosts for next year’s rivalry games, “but we’re still not sure if that’s how it will end up.”

In addition to Auburn and Georgia, Vanderbilt would have to travel to Oxford for the second year in a row. Mississippi State-Kentucky, which had to be played in Lexington in both 2011 and 2012, could revert back to its rotation with a game in Starkville next season. Auburn and Georgia have not played in Jordan-Hare Stadium in an odd year since the series moved to campus sites from Columbus, Ga. in 1959. Don’t be surprised if it happens in 2013.

There’s also a side benefit for the Bulldogs’ in-state rival. Georgia Tech has long been wanting to discontinue having to play at Virginia Tech, at Clemson and at Georgia in the same season. This could provide an opportunity to switch the Georgia Tech-Georgia game next year to Athens, so that the Yellow Jackets could have a more workable road schedule in even years, and so Georgia wouldn’t have to play at both Auburn and Georgia Tech, its two traditional late-season opponents, in the same year.

Well, swell. As long as we’re working to benefit the Auburn Tigers and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, that’s just hunky-dory, isn’t it? (I trust this at least has the benefit of convincing even the zaniest conspiracy theorist out there that the Georgia Bulldogs do not hold any meaningful degree of sway over the Southeastern Conference schedule, however.)

Nevertheless, we have been saying for two years now that a team must play the schedule in front of it, so let’s accept for the sake of argument that this is going to happen and move forward from there. Accordingly, what would it mean for the Red and Black if we began playing Auburn on the road, and Georgia Tech at home, in odd-numbered years?

Except in circumstances in which conference expansion skews the scheduling, every SEC team plays four league games at home and four league games on the road. We Georgia fans may not notice this, because we annually play the Florida Gators at a neutral site, but, when the Bulldogs wear red jerseys in Jacksonville, it counts as a home game for scheduling purposes, and, when they don white tops to face the Gators, it counts as an away game for scheduling purposes. Don’t think too hard about this, just accept it.

This year, we face the Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, and South Carolina Gamecocks on the road, and we face the Florida Gators, Mississippi Rebels, Tennessee Volunteers, and Vanderbilt Commodores at home. Our six division rivals are set to switch places next season, so that, in 2013, Georgia will take on Kentucky, Missouri, and South Carolina at home while facing Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt on the road. (Once again, this just means the ‘Dawgs will wear white jerseys by the St. John’s River next year.)

Ole Miss should rotate off of the Classic City Canines’ 2013 slate, to be replaced by another Western Division team. If the Auburn game is moved from Athens to the Plains next year, that would require having our rotating SEC West opponent venture between the hedges to keep the scheduling even. That gives us four true conference home games (Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and, say, Alabama).

Currently, Georgia is scheduled to have two non-conference home games (against Appalachian State and North Texas) and two non-conference road games (against Clemson and Georgia Tech) in 2013. A swap with the Yellow Jackets to bring our in-state rivals to the Classic City for a second straight season would give the Bulldogs seven home games, four in SEC play and three in out-of-conference action.)

There actually is a degree of benefit to Georgia (or, at least, to Bulldog fans) from making this switch. Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt all would be road games in the same autumn, which would fall during the same season that we got Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and our rotating Western Division opponent at home. With the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party always being played at a neutral site, it would be nice to know that, in any given year, fans would be able to see either Auburn and Tennessee or Georgia Tech and South Carolina visit Sanford Stadium, and that we would be paid a visit by an other than perennial SEC West foe in those seasons in which we had to travel to the so-called Loveliest Village.

From an historical standpoint, I don’t know that it’s any big deal that we play Auburn at home in an even-numbered year instead of in an odd-numbered year. Though we have alternated between Sanford and Jordan-Hare Stadiums since 1959, the first two-thirds of a century in the history of this rivalry occurred almost entirely away from campus, with series meetings being played in Atlanta from 1892 to 1903, in Macon from 1904 to 1907, in Montgomery in 1908 and 1909, in Savannah in 1910 and 1911, and in Columbus from 1916 to 1928 and from 1930 to 1958. The one occasion on which Georgia and Auburn met in Athens in an even-numbered year (in 1912) produced a Red and Black victory, and it represented the first series meeting in the Classic City, so there is an argument to be made that the present change represents the restoration of a 100-year-old tradition that has been broken in every subsequent series meeting.

Yes, this switch will mean making the trek to the Plains twice in a row, but, inasmuch as the Bulldogs are 14-10-2 all-time at Auburn and 12-18 all-time against the Tigers at home, I am less than convinced that it is not in our interests to be given the “away field advantage” in Jordan-Hare Stadium for two years running. In short, this probably ought to tick me off on general principle, but, once I sat down and thought about it, it really didn’t. Imagine that.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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