Georgia Bulldogs to Play Ohio State (In Completely Awesome but Fictitious Post-Season Alternative)
The Capital One Bowl has the largest payout of any non-BCS Bowl at just over $4.5 million per team (at least that was the case last year). But the social, recruiting and fanatical payout is significantly less than any BCS Bowl can offer. Why not balk the system? We’re all laughing at Louisiana Tech this week because those Bulldogs turned down a bowl bid (the coveted Advocare V100 Independence Bowl, because we all remember the first time we became independent of Advocare and V100) and didn’t get another. But what rules/limitations are placed LA Tech for such a declination? To my knowledge there is no penalty.
And what rule limits LA Tech from playing a glorious exhibition against a team of their choosing in what might or might not be NCAA sanctioned and might or might not ever appear on their final win/loss sheet? Frankly, I have no clue. I’m sure there is some kind of rule for ruling’s sake, though. But what if there wasn’t? Or what if the penalty was insignificant enough to not be on the Louisiana Tech radar?
And what if I was talking about the Bulldogs we actually care about? Say, the Bulldogs from the University of Georgia. And what if they rebelled against a system that gives credence to five-loss Wisconsin, a team like Northern Illinois and teams that didn’t win their own divisions (like Oregon and Florida) over a team that took the eventual National Champion to the brink after winning their own division with an 11-1 record?
Could Georgia decline a bowl bid and start its own game – or at least its own glorious exhibition? Why not participate in the Inaugural DudeYouCrazy College Football Expo against a team like Ohio State (currently on post-season ban). The game wouldn’t have to count – at least not to anyone other than the players, coaches and fans – but it could be a blast.
Bowl games are notoriously disappointing and I believe they are characterized by an inverse bell-curve with regards to performance. The teams that are “happy to be here” and celebrating a Bowl-eligible season with an end-of-year game that checks off a bucket-list item tend to play with some enthusiasm. On the other end of the spectrum I believe the teams in the National Championship – and probably the teams in BCS Bowls in general – play up to their potential as they are in the brightest of spotlights and competing in a game that (for better or worse) signifies season-long success of the highest degree (am I right, Wisconsin?). But all the other teams in the middle tend to disappoint.
The graphic above provides an illustrative example. I know nothing about the Rice Owls, but they’re a far-cry from being a football power-house. I’m sure they’re thrilled to be playing in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl (although they just missed out on a BCS Bowl that went to a Wisconsin team that lost one less game than the Owls), and I bet they’ll play to something close to their potential. Similarly I expect Alabama to ball so hard Notre Dame wants to fine them. Georgia on the other hand (and I used the Dawgs not to pick on them or make a point about their players, coaches, etc., but rather to show that I’m not being hypocritical in criticizing the system as a whole and other teams), is disappointed with where they are and may not play their best football.
So teams like Rice and Bama may show up, but all the other teams struggle to find motivation as they are taking on foes that typically have little-to-no historical rivalry or bad blood and because winning the Capital One Bowl is a far-cry from the trajectory of the plan setting and plan-adjusting that probably went on in Mark Richt’s meeting room. Think of it this way: we know for a fact that one of CMR’s goals this year (and every year) is to win the SEC East. If that is accomplished then the Bulldogs go to the Georgia Dome and set the goal of winning the SEC, and that is ultimately his reasoning for first having the goal of winning the division. If the Conference is then won, then the Bulldogs are at the very least guaranteed a Sugar Bowl slot, and more recent history implies they would be in the National Title. But, if Georgia doesn’t win, suddenly the coaching staff must sell a very successful team on fighting for a consolation prize.
Consider the picture below:
Now, this is certainly my own opinion and not inspirational material stolen from the Georgia locker-room or from a coaches’ meeting. But, the fact remains that Georgia’s goal each year is to win the division, presumably so that they can play for the Conference Championship presumably so that they can win that Championship and presumably so that they can win a BCS Bowl if not a National Championship. As you can see from the overly-simplifies graph above, that is the goal series that the Bulldogs worked towards for 333 days this year. In one single day (really in the matter of a few hours this past Saturday – maybe even in the matter of just a few yards) that trajectory was changed. And in one day of “waiting” for Bowl assignments it was lowered – significantly. Now the Bulldogs will adjust accordingly – and that adjustment will either be down to the level of the Capital One Bowl’s importance (this game will carry less implication than a mid-season game) or upward (in which case the game will look like a waste as they destroy a Cornhusker team that is already a 10 point underdog).
That change of direction can’t be easy. The most recent real-world Georgia Bulldog instance of this phenomenon was last season. If Georgia takes on Michigan State during the middle (or even beginning) of the 2011 season I think they beat the Spartans. But adjusted goals resulted in a lack of motivation for the Dawgs and ultimately a poor showing in the Outback Bowl.
And, for the most part I think coaches struggle in the same way as the players. They’ve led in one particular direction towards one ultimate outcome for 11 months and now as the year winds down and the Holidays roll in they must seek consolation. And let’s not forget that bowl bonuses drop dramatically once the BCS is off the table. If Mark Richt had played in and won a BCS Bowl he would have picked up $425,000 in bonus cash. He’ll get a $75,000 for playing in the Capital One Bowl with no additional funding for winning the game.
I can’t fault him for not having the same fire under his tail as he would if he was preparing for Notre Dame on January 7th.
And, this game frankly means nothing to most fans. Do I want Georgia to beat Nebraska? Absolutely. But I wrote off the Michigan State game last year as soon as it was over for all of the reasons I just outlined above. I don’t expect an A-game from Georgia. I don’t expect one from Nebraska either, but I would suspect the Big 10 would love beating down an SEC opponent. I don’t know if the SEC – the nation’s premier conference – could care less about a game like this.
Furthermore, I don’t know many Nebraska fans and have no ill-will for the Cornhuskers. If anything I feel sorry for their team mascot. Bowl games lack rivalry and thus lack the hoopla that should not merely follow a postseason college football experience but should define it. The argument (and there is only one) for College Football over the Pros is not the product on the field (the players, coaches, refs, commentators, etc. are all better in the NFL), it’s the atmosphere and the rivalry. Neither of those are found at bowl games. So the post-season is a complete waste as it defies the very definition of what makes the game great.
Very few of the SEC teams playing in non-BCS Bowl games this year will enter a fiercely bitter rivalry or even into a game against opponents that would justify heated banter.
Here is a look:
- Ole Miss plays Pittsburgh: nothing of note here.
- Mississippi State plays Northwestern: who cares?
- Vanderbilt plays NC State: Vandy vs. an ACC team that lost to Tennessee, now that’s compelling.
- A&M plays Okloahoma: This at least has previous conference affiliation going for it, but if this is South Carolina / OU there is no reason to get excited other than for the fact that this should be a good game between two good teams.
- South Carolina plays Michigan: everyone in the nation loves beating Michigan, so nothing unique.
- LSU plays Clemson: This may at least have legs as these are two massive institutions from the south playing in Atlanta – a city with large alumni bases. But I don’t think LSU fans will have any extra edge that will lead them to pour more bourbon on female Clemson fans than they would pour against any other opposing school.
A Game with Meaning
So why wouldn’t Georgia participate in an exhibition against Ohio State? And vice versa. (Dude’s Note: I realize that this will not happen this year. I’m not an idiot. But I’m using this example as a conversation-starter for a broader scale alternative to spurned teams looking for Bowl alternatives.)
This game would pit two talented teams against each other. Ohio State is 12-0 and might be in the BCS National Championship if Urban Meyer’s squad was eligible. Georgia is 11-2 coming off of a brutally close defeat to Alabama. Georgia would certainly view Ohio State as a more noble adversary than Nebraska (Nebraska is 25th in the AP Poll to OSU’s 3rd and lost by 25 points to the Buckeyes), and I think the Buckeyes would find playing the Bulldogs to be more noble than sleeping in, experimenting with drugs and alcohol and getting tattoos for free.
Furthermore, two teams this talented would make for one heck of an NFL scouting trip. And if scheduled at a good time – say the third week of December before the truly talented teams start playing simultaneously all over the country – the NFL turnout would be sizeable. And that tends to bring out the fiercest in competition.
With players fired up the job would be a little easier on the coaching staffs. Furthermore, an early game date equates to less time to prepare, less time off and more urgency. And, I think there would be another “X” factor at play here that would make even Simon Cowell jealous.
By balking “the system” Mark Richt and Urban Meyer (or any other hypothetical coach in the country) would be (again, hypothetically in this awesome alternative world) going out on a limb along with their athletic administration and saying, “Thank you for the Bowl opportunity, but this year playing in an alternate game is what’s best for me, my players, my program, my school, our fans and college football as a whole.”
That’s a bold statement to put your name on. You don’t want to say that and show up flat. You don’t want to turn down a win – or at the very least a convenient, hassle-free loss – against Nebraska in exchange for a humiliating, public and unorthodox butt-whooping at the hand of the Ohio State Buckeyes. If you’re Mark Richt in this alternative universe, you show up and you coach your tail off.
And you know what else? The fans would love it. The fans would love seeing their university’s administration taking matters into their own hands, and the fans would support that initiative (it might even make me like Michael Adams). The fans would realize that the administration wouldn’t make such a bold move for a feeble reward (in other words, Georgia wouldn’t turn down the Capital One Bowl to take on Louisiana Tech at a high school stadium). The fans would be given a game with significance: Urban Meyer’s return to the SEC, two traditional powers, what is right with College Football (Mark Richt) taking on what is wrong (Urban Meyer and Ohio State/Scandals).
How much would the fans love it? Enough to make the whole thing possible.
The game could be played in a 70,000 seat neutral stadium – preferably a dome (for sake of argument I’m using the Georgia Dome’s dimensions as a general guide, but the game’s location would be much more neutral).
With 165 Corporate boxes accommodating 20 people each and sold at $500 per ticket (easily accomplished through large corporations and big-wig donors, keep in mind people were paying $300 for cheap seats to the SEC Championship) the first 3300 fans in luxurious attendance would generate $1.65 million in revenue.
I’ll work on the assumption that the lower level takes up 35% and the upper level takes up 45% of the remaining 66,700 seats while the rest exist in the mid-level (box level) at the field’s corners and endzones. That leaves 23,345 lower level seats to be sold at $150 each ($3,501,750 total), 30,015 seats to be sold at $90 ($2,701,350 total) and 13,340 to be sold at $115 ($1,534,100 total).
Total ticket revenue at this juncture would be $9.4 million. If corporate sponsors (or even University boosters) can contribute enough to cover the cost of the game (I have no idea what that would cost, but I think it could be covered – even by a TV deal), then that ticket revenue would offer both Georgia and Ohio State a nice payout that is slightly larger than what the Capital One Bowl shells out.
So why can’t that happen someday? What large dome would turn down the revenue from concessions and parking – even if the event was scheduled relatively last minute (the day after Bowl selection)? What fan-base isn’t already waiting to see where they’ll end up traveling? What talented team is really that fired up about being one of the best teams in the nation and watching Wisconsin play and quietly going along with it?
This could be the Great American Bowl. Presented by DudeYouCrazy. Dot Net. And I could make a whole lot of money running it. I wonder if anyone’s ever tried that…
That’s all I got/