Scheduling up? Georgia plans to do so 'periodically'

semerson@macon.comApril 30, 2014 

uga_clemson

Tailback Todd Gurley and the Georgia Bulldogs open SEC play Saturday against South Carolina.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com

ATHENS - Now that the SEC ground rules are set, Georgia's head football coach and athletics director are on the same page when it comes to non-conference football scheduling.

Playing a second high-major opponent - a Clemson, or even a Notre Dame - is fine. But only every once in awhile.

The SEC decided on Sunday to keep its eight-game conference schedule, but starting in 2016 to require each team to play at least one high-major conference opponent (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, Pac-12) every season. That means no change for Georgia, which has the annual rivalry with Georgia Tech.

Georgia was also happy to keep the flexibility to schedule a second high-major opponent, as it has for four of the previous five seasons, as well as this season. But that doesn't mean Mark Richt, the head coach, wants to make a habit of it.

"I’m sure there’ll be some others down the road that will be those types of games. I think we have to be a little bit careful how we do it," Richt said Wednesday, during an SEC spring coaches teleconference.

One of Richt's chief concerns is not having enough home games, especially since the Bulldogs are locked into one neutral-site game per year, the Florida game in Jacksonville.

"You don’t want to have too many seasons where you only have six games," Richt said. "I haven’t really looked at it, (but) if you get too many of those types of games you could conceivably only have five home games. I think we should have six, seven, even eight home games at times. I know that's not gonna happen that many times because we have Florida in Jacksonville.

“I think we have to be careful about it, but I think there’ll be some of those coming down the road.”

Richt's boss, athletics director Greg McGarity, also wants to pick his spots on when to schedule harder.

"It's just like we've said before, with the eight-game schedule: We will look to schedule games of that nature, in addition to Georgia Tech, periodically. But there's no definite time frame in there," McGarity said Wednesday.

Georgia has played a second high-major opponent four of the previous five seasons: Oklahoma State in 2009, Colorado in 2010, Boise State in 2011, and Clemson in 2013. And Georgia has lost each of those games.

"While it might have been exciting to fans, it did not yield a championship," McGarity said. "So one could argue that in order to put yourself in the best spot, what model works best."

Georgia also hosts Clemson to start this season, to finish the home-and-home series. Georgia currently doesn't have any other such high-major opponents on a future schedule, and McGarity said they're not close on any deals yet.

Everything was on hold awaiting the SEC's decision on its conference schedule. The result was the preservation of the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, which made Richt happy.

"The game with Auburn is important to our people. I think it's important to the south as far as rivalries go. I think that's a big part of college football. And so I'm fine with that," Richt said. "Knowing that we already have a power-conference game outside of the league, it really wasn't going to change much of what we're doing. I guess when things don't change people have a comfort level with that. I think everybody's gonna have a strong enough schedule. I think everybody's gonna play enough tough opponents to not hurt anyone's chances of playing in the Final Four (football playoff). So I think it's good."

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