ATHENS GA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Mark Richt and Hairy mascot of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate their 42-34 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Sanford Stadium on November 27 2010 in Athens Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
As you probably know, conference expansion has created some uncertainty regarding the schedule for next season. We've discussed the possibility that we may see a change in our permanent West opponent, although there's also been talk that it will remain Arkansas. Another possibility that's being thrown around is that the traditional ordering of opponents will change. For years and years, we've played a fairly consistent order of Eastern opponents and Arkansas. The game against Vanderbilt changes occasionally, but we typically play Georgia in early September, Kentucky in early October, Tennessee on Halloween weekend, Arkansas the next week, and Florida to close out the SEC slate. That may change next year. And one of the particular changes that's apparently being discussed is that Georgia wants to play us later in the year.
As some of you are probably aware, there's a persistent myth among Dawgs fans that the only reason we ever beat Georgia--indeed, the only reason the game is ever anything other than a four-TD UGA win--is because the game happens early in the year. I've had to sit through more than one absurd conversation, disbelief in my eyes, as an UGA fan tried to convince me that UGA would enjoy a series record against the Gamecocks that would be more like Florida or Tennessee's if only UGA could get us on their November slate. Nevermind the fact that UGA has been Florida's whipping boy nearly as much as we have over the past 20 years, with the case similar with Tennessee until the Vols' recent decline. I've never quite understood why UGA expects to dominate us just as much as a team that has utterly dominated them has, but there it is. The truth behind our historically poor November performance, IMO, isn't that we don't have the depth to play hard into November; it's that our November schedule is backloaded with traditional powers. If the depth argument was ever true, moreover, it's probably not anymore, as Carolina has upgraded its recruiting over the past few years, hence the demise of the infamous "Orange Crush."
Despite the presence of cold, hard facts that appear to suggest it will be a futile effort, it appears that UGA supporters are in Greg McGarity's ear, urging him to strike while the iron is hot and to have the USC game moved to mid-season or later. I'll have to admit that I'm really annoyed about this while thing. Part of it is that it just really irks me that this fanbase has such a deep-set inability to admit when it gets beat by a better team. But part of it is about tradition. Opening the SEC slate with this game is one of Carolina's most cherished football traditions. It's something we look forward to every year, and the game gets a fair amount of media attention as one of the more significant early-season SEC matchups. Losing that over a fanbase's petty, irrational denial complex would be a crying shame.
Granted, it's fair to say that Georgia has a lot less to lose here than we do. Georgia has many SEC rivals, whereas we're still in the process of trying to carve out our identity in the conference. You won't see me argue that point. The game simply means more to us. Still, I don't see why we should have to give the tradition up, given the situation. As one of the four schools intent on keeping a permanent intradivisional rival, UGA is already forcing concessions from the rest of the conference, most of the members of which would prefer to do away with the scheduling imbalances created by UGA, Auburn, 'Bama, and Tennessee's rivalries. The least the conference could do is let the rest of us keep a few of the things we want. I certainly hope that Eric Hyman isn't rolling over and playing dead on this one.