Friday, July 29, 2005

Blogpoll 4 - No, it really is personal!

My blogpoll 4 responses to follow.
Longwinded as always.

1. Who are your rival(s)?

Every Georgia fan (and anyone who has had the misfortune of spending time with a Georgia fan) can tell you about the “big four”: Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech. For many fans, some combination of this group is “our biggest rival(s)”, sometimes all 4.

Georgia Tech – there's no question. Any time two instate schools play each other, it's a rivalry game. Interestingly enough, I'm not sure it has major recruiting implications. It's definitely a bragging rites game. This series has been in Georgia's favor, with Georgia holding a 56-38-5 edge, 12-3 in the last 15 (Tech's 3 consecutive wins 98-00 helped usher out the Donnan era, in fact). Georgia disputes 2 Tech wins because they they allege Tech used ringers from the Naval Academy. Which is probably true.

Georgia fans will probably tell you that Tech fans have an inferiority complex about the series. Tech fans (all 11 of them) will probably get all huffy and try to make some claim about academic superiority, or their superior “culture”. Or try to talk about Basketball. It is true that Georgia fans often treat this game in a blase manner. It's also true that many Georgia fans would probably be unhappy winning 6 games every 10 years. This game is huge. Georgia's biggest rival? I don't know that I'd go quite that far. There is none bigger, perhaps. Like many rivalry games, it often features contests that are closer than the on-paper match ups would suggest. The Bobo to Corry Allen dagger in 97 was repaid when tech won a 51-48 OT thriller in 99. Jasper Sanks was ruled to have fumbled on the 1 with time running out (replays clearly showed he did not, and Ga would have attempted a chip shot field goal for the win), and then in OT Tech's game winning FG attempt on third down was blocked by Kendrel Bell, only to have Tech fall on the ball while Georgia was celebrating and get an additional attempt for the win.

Auburn – The all-time series is incredibly close (48-52-8, favoring the Plainsmen). The all time series scoring? Even closer: 1618-1619 – an incredible number for a series where 108 games have been played. Neither team is that adept at winning at home; Since 1980 UGA is 3-8 between the hedges, while Auburn is 5-7-1 on the plains. It's billed as the “oldest rivalry in the deep south”, was the first hereabouts to crack the century mark (incredibly, Auburn and Alabama have only met 69 times) and is one of the longest running rivalries in all of college football (unsubstantiated: I've read it's tied for seventh with Oregon-Oregon State).

For every blowout, there are 2 close contests and one is usually a real Barn Burner – like the 1996 first-ever SEC overtime contest. Or the heartbreaking last second failed comeback attempt in Athens in 01 (Richt's first year), where Richt opted for a run from the 2 yard line with little time left on the clock and no time outs. Or the David Greene to Michael Johnson dagger that propelled the Dawgs to their first SEC title in 20 years in 2002. Or loss in OT in 2000.

Auburn is equal to Georgia Tech, for all intents and purposes. Ask 100 UGA fans, and I think you'd have just as many name this game as Tech if they had to pick just one rival. Ask Any Auburn fan, and they'll likely say Alabama first. But Georgia will be right behind them – Georgia and Auburn started playing each other before they ever played their in-state rivals (by a year). Only the Two world wars put a stop to the series (no games played in 1917-18 and 1943).

This is without question the rival Georgia has the richest tradition with.

Florida – Calling this a rivalry will sound funny anyone new to college football in the last 15 years. Since Steve Spurrior took over in 1990, Florida has gone 13-2 against UGA, with UGA's second win coming just last year. Of course, Georgia was 15-5 the previous two decades. Just like there's a generation of Georgia fans who don't understand what it's like to beat Florida, there was a generation of Florida fans who didn't understand what it was like to beat Georgia. This is one reason Spurrier is so revered. Florida's previously unexperienced SEC success was paralleled in the dominance of UGA. Many Florida fans today might dismiss Georgia as a rival, but it's a series that both sets of fans have really cared about, historically.

Of course the game is recognizable for it's famous moniker: The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Played in Jacksonville at a “neutral”site, hordes of fans from both sides flood Jacksonville – ticket or no - to enjoy the festivities.

Georgia holds a 45-35-2 edge in the series, despite the recent inability to beat the Gators.

Other Georgia fans will pick other teams. The South Carolina game is big, despite Georgia's lopsided edge in series (this game is particularly big for South Carolina fans – see Tech – who seem to view Georgia as a stepping stone to their often promised, yet always fleeting, rise to the top of the SEC). The Tennessee game is huge, and after being dominated for most of the 90s Georgia has made it a series again. While it is one of the big four, and has important implications in the east race, it isn't in the class of “rivalry” game the way the rest of them are.

2.Size up your chances in your rival games this year. Pretty straightforward. Try to be objective.

All three games look to be interesting Georgia probably has the least chance against Florida, though I do not think they lack a chance. First place in the east could be on the line when they meet at the end of October. Auburn is going to miss it's departed players I think, but the game coming to Athens doesn't bode well. It's unclear just how good Auburn's offense will be (no way it measures up to last year), though the defense should be tough with two all-world Ends leading the way. Tech will be better than some people think, and that Gaily still isn't much of a coach.

Georgia will do well to go 2-1 in these 3 this year.

3.If you could start up a new rivalry with another team, who would it be? Is there a team out there that you think would make a perfect rival for your team?

Clemson would not exactly be a new rivalry. The teams have played a number of times, Georgia holding a 41-17-4 edge as well as possessing the modern day record for getting a fan base in and out of Clemson, SC, for a game (88 hours). It makes perfect sense – Clemson is actually closer to Athens than Atlanta. I wouldn't mind playing them every year.

That said, I'd go for something a bit more exotic. Since my secret goal in life is to be best friends with all of the bloggers who mock Georgia and the SEC for pathetic scheduling, I'll chose the Washington Huskies. They have an underrated football tradition. Washington state seems like it would be a neat place to visit. It's really far away. Of course, then these people wouldn't have nearly as much to write about, and that would be tragic.

4.Overall, what do you think the best rivalry in college football is? Try to pick one that doesn't involve your own team. What makes that rivalry so much better than all the others?

Hampden-Sydney versus Randolph-Macon. I was there (as a wide-eyed, and inebriated, sophomore) for the 100th game in the series in 1994. Then, it was only the third series in the nation to cross the 100 game mark. There were several thousand people there (no small feat for a school that had enrollment of about 900 at the time), and ESPN sent a pretty big camera crew for it. For those of my readers who are used to big time football (all 4 of you), games at HSC were a lot more like high school games. I enjoyed them, though, and we had two solid teams in my time there.

Hey, if Spurrier is allowed to vote for Duke every year in the first coaches poll, I'm allowed to pick this. Though I'm not an alumnus proper (matriculated for 2 years before heading to Athens), they're still my boy.

5.Lastly, game trophies. What are the best and worst rivalry trophies out there?

I'm not really crazy about any particular Rivalry trophies. Though I wasn't aware of the “Keg of nails” prize for the Louisville-UK winner, and must concur with EDSBS that this is a pretty hard core trophy. Even admiration worthy.

Now the Mayans knew how to do rivalries. When you lost to the other team in that weird game where you had to throw a ball through a 40 foot sideways hoop, you got ritually sacrificed. Everything has been a let down since, I think. Or maybe that was the Aztecs. Anyway, the point stands. I tend to enjoy the games for the games, not so much the prizes. When you aren't playing for the right not to be sacrificed, the prize just seems pale by comparison.


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