Pooch kicks: Another ‘rival,’ revisiting Georgia-Auburn ’96, Dawgs vs. Ohio State in Glendale? (Updated)

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Missouri fans see Georgia as their top SEC rival. (Ben Walton / UGA)
Missouri fans see Georgia as their top SEC rival. (Ben Walton / UGA)

Missouri fans see Georgia as their top SEC rival. (Ben Walton / UGA)

Some random notes …

Georgia’s already hip-deep in “rivalries,” what with the long-standing importance (to both sides) of the series with Florida (the battle for the Okefenokee Oar formerly known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party), Auburn (the Deep South’s oldest) and Tennessee (currently tied 21–21–2, with the Dawgs having won the past five), plus South Carolina in the Steve Spurrier era, the in-state rival in Atlanta and, historically, Clemson (now reduced to a couple of times a decade).

But it looks like the Dawgs have another budding rivalry, at least in the minds of Missouri fans.

The SB Nation Missouri fan blog recently checked Tiger fandom to see, after three years in the SEC, how they rated conference rivals. Georgia ranked highest, mostly because of the two home losses they’ve suffered to the Dawgs and the whole Grown Man Football thing.

Interestingly, among the comments Mizzou fans had about UGA was our “great fans.” Said one: “I like UGA. Their fans have seemed the best and their coach and program have a certain demeanor and class. Hopefully we can knock them off this year and even the score — and if this continues, they could become a great rivalry.”

There’s also the fact that Georgia and Missouri have, between them, won the past four SEC East titles. As one Tiger fan put it: “If you want to be the best you have to beat the best.” Said another Tiger fan of Georgia: “Strong team and Mizzou’s biggest game as will come to the wire on who wins the east with these two teams.”

Of course, I’m not sure you can have a true rivalry if you’re that nice about the other team’s fans, but  this just underscores that the Dawgs loom large just about every year in other schools’ view of the SEC. …

Speaking of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, some of the hours I devoted last week to the UGA Takeover of the SEC Network (what a fun day!) were spent watching the replay of the 1996 Georgia-Auburn game, which saw a tremendous Bulldog comeback result in the conference’s first overtime game.

What did you think of the black stripe on Georgia's helmet during the Jim Donnan era? (University of Georgia)

What did you think of the black stripe on Georgia’s helmet during the Jim Donnan era? (University of Georgia)

One thing that jumped out as we were watching was the black stripe that went down the center of the white stripe on the Dawgs’ iconic red helmets during the Jim Donnan era. My wife said she liked the black stripe and my daughter was undecided. My son said that, by far, he much preferred the current helmet, without the stripe, which he thinks is cleaner looking.

I also prefer the helmets without the stripe, but I have to admit I didn’t mind the stripe when we had it, and after watching that game again I noticed that the little Georgia helmet replica I once gave my father that sits on my desk dates from that time and has the stripe.

So, what did you think of the black stripe? Did you like it or do you prefer Georgia’s helmets without it?

Also notable in that 1996 Georgia-Auburn game was the fact that, at one point, the announcers said that a Tiger player was back in the game after having left it earlier “with a concussion.” That’s something thing you definitely don’t see any more, and it’s an improvement in looking out for the players’ welfare — even if today’s sensitivity on that issue has been prompted by lawsuits against the NFL. …

Georgia announced its 2015-2016 nonconference basketball schedule this week, which is loaded with home games and features matchups with the likes of Kansas State, Clemson, Seton Hall and Baylor besides the annual clash with Georgia Tech.

Georgia will have a strong home schedule at Stegeman Coliseum this coming season. (University of Georgia)

Georgia will have a strong home schedule at Stegeman Coliseum this coming season. (University of Georgia)

Five of Georgia’s 11 nonconference opponents competed in postseason play during 2014-15: NCAA participants Baylor and Robert Morris, NIT quarterfinalist Murray State and CIT teams High Point and Oakland. And nine of them ranked No. 153 or better in the final RPI for the 2014-15 season.

“You’ve got to cut your teeth early on to prepare yourself for the league,” head coach Mark Fox said. “Our league is very strong. One way to prepare your players for the league is to challenge them in nonleague play.”

Plus, the higher Georgia’s RPI, the better the chance of making the NCAA tournament.

“Our goal was a nonconference schedule that would put us in a proper position with the strength of schedule numbers at the end of the year,” Fox said. “You never know what kind of season a team you play will have, but with the numbers from last year I think we’ve been able to establish the strength of schedule we need. It’s a little tougher numbers wise than it was a year ago. That’s important when you get to the month of March.”

It’s a strong home schedule, and the Dawgs’ 18 regular-season games at Stegeman Coliseum will equal the most in program history.

Still, it would be great to see Georgia do another home-and-home deal with a traditional power, such as when they played UNC back in the 1990s. A hopeful sign in that regard was the Athens Banner-Herald report a few weeks back that Fox and Tar Heels coach Roy Williams have talked about getting their teams together for a home-and-home series or perhaps games at neutral sites such as Charlotte and Atlanta.

“He’s willing to consider it,” Fox said. “We’re in the early stages.”

If it happens, I would much prefer the games be played in Athens and Chapel Hill. …

Tailback Nick Chubb is in the running for the Maxwell Award. (Jim Hipple / UGA)

Tailback Nick Chubb is in the running for the Maxwell Award. (Jim Hipple / UGA)

This time of year, it seems hardly a day goes by without a Georgia football player being named to the watch list for a season-end award, which is at least an indication of what sort of talent folks outside the program think the Dawgs have.

So, a tip of the cap to Nick Chubb for being named to the watch list for the 79th annual Maxwell Award, which is given to America’s college player of the year; Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd, who both have been named to the watch list for the 21st annual Bednarik Award, given to the college defensive player of the year; and Isaiah McKenzie, who has been included on the watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile players. (UPDATE: Kicker Marshall Morgan has been named to the watch list for the Lou Groza Collegiate Place Kicker Award; Greg Pyke has been named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s top interior lineman on either offense or defense; and Jenkins and Floyd are on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, for the national defensive player of the year.) …

Finally, College Football Playoffs predictions are also a dime a dozen this time of year, and, the fact is, your guess is pretty much as good as the guy who purports to be an expert.

With that in mind, I’ll note that, when I took my daughter out to dinner the other night at a neighborhood restaurant, the waiter, spotting my Georgia T-shirt, offered a prediction of Georgia and Ohio State in the national championship game.

I don’t know what he based that on, but I do know he got a nice tip.

Go Dawgs!

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

Junkyard Blawg mugBill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.


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