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October 24, 2009

Bulldogs Off A Bye

Today is one of those infrequent and, more often than not, precious Saturdays during the Bulldogs' football season--a bye week, or, if you prefer, off week or open date.  ESPN's Colin Cowherd mentioned the other day on radio how the best coaches, particularly in the NFL, usually have an outstanding record in games following an open date; give a great coach an extra week to prepare for an opponent and his team should have success against said opposition.In Georgia and Mark Richt's case, I immediately think of two years ago.  The Bulldogs were crushed by Tennessee, dropping their record to 4-2, and were almost, and probably should have been, defeated by Vanderbilt the following week.  Georgia used a much-needed off week to regroup and, as more than a touchdown underdog, defeated Florida (photo) following the bye.
 
From then on out, the Dogs resembled a much different team than before, coasting through the rest of their schedule to 11 wins, a Sugar Bowl victory, and a #2 final ranking.  Many have pointed to that particular open date in the 2007 schedule as a major factor that assisted in Georgia's late-season success.  Two years later, the Bulldog Nation is praying this week's open date will help the Bulldogs get organized and rejuvenated, hopefully leading to a competitive showing against top-ranked Florida next Saturday.
 
In recent history, Georgia, for the most part, has benefited from having two or even three bye weeks a year, like the majority of collegiate teams.  Until the 1950s, the Bulldogs had no open dates in their schedule for most seasons, playing straight through on every Saturday.  Georgia then enjoyed a single off week nearly every season, usually occurring the week between the Auburn and Georgia Tech games--the Dogs' final two regular-season opponents.  In 1968, Georgia had two open dates for the first time and then again in 1975.  However, the Bulldogs did not schedule two yearly bye weeks on a regular basis until 1980.  Since then, in 29 seasons through 2008, Georgia has had two off weeks in 21 seasons, three off weeks in four campaigns, and only one off week in four seasons.
 
We remember Georgia benefiting from its lone bye week in 2007 but have breaks in the schedule historically helped the Bulldogs?  Since 1980, in games following an open Saturday, Georgia has a 39-17-2 (.690) record.  In comparison, from 1980 to the present, the Bulldogs have an overall record of 255-99-5 (.717)--a slightly better winning percentage than off bye weeks.  A more telling comparison: If Georgia's record off byes, season openers, and bowl games are excluded from its overall record, the Bulldogs are 175-70-1 (.713) since 1980 in games played on consecutive Saturdays with no rest, again, slightly superior compared to their record following open dates.  Of Georgia's 58 games after bye weeks, an even better indicator is the fact the Dogs were favored to win 74% (43) of the games but yet were victorious in just 69%. 
 
For the Bulldogs since 1980, there certainly appears no correlation between having a week off  and success, including during the Coach Richt era.  To date, Richt's overall record is 86-25 (.775), including 61-19 (.763) on consecutive Saturday games.  He is 11-3 (.786) following open dates but his teams have been favored in 12 of these 14 contests.  On a positive note, Georgia is 8-6-1 as an underdog off a bye since 1980, including 2-0 under Richt.
 
Coach Richt's three losses after an open date are unfortunately easy to recall--Auburn in 2001, the Tigers again in 2005, and Georgia Tech last year.  Notwithstanding, some of the coach's greatest wins, like LSU in 2004, Tennessee a year later, Georgia Tech in 2006, and, as mentioned, a rare victory over the Gators two years ago, have resulted for Richt and his Bulldogs off a bye.  It'll likely take a miracle but just maybe, somehow, someway, "Florida in 2009" can be added to the list a week from tonight.  

For Georgia since 1980:

* Open dates include the Saturday following Georgia's game vs. Alabama on a Monday in 1985 and the Saturdays prior to Georgia playing Georgia Tech on Thanksgiving in 1993, a Friday in 1994, and Thanksgiving in 1995.

* Of the 29 seasons, 20 had a bye week prior to the Georgia Tech game.

* The 1986, 1989, 2006, and 2007 seasons consisted of just one open date; the 1985, 1991, 1996, and 1997 campaigns had three off weeks.

* Besides Georgia Tech, the most common opponent following a bye week is Auburn (12 times).

* The biggest upset victory following an open date was defeating Auburn, a 10-point favorite, in 1996; the biggest upset loss after a bye was losing to Auburn, a 10-point underdog, in 1999.

* On two occasions there were back-to-back off weeks between games or a span of three consecutive weeks the Bulldogs did not play during a regular season: In 1981, Georgia hosted Auburn on November 14 and was originally scheduled to then play at Georgia Tech on November 28 (one open week).  ABC Television, however, wanted to broadcast the Georgia-Georgia Tech contest but would only do so if the game was pushed back to December 5.  Both teams obliged to accommodate television.

Georgia played South Carolina on September 8, 2001, and was then scheduled to host Houston the following week until 9/11 occurred, cancelling all September 15 games.  The Bulldogs had a bye week on September 22.  So, after the South Carolina game, Georgia would not play until three weeks later on September 29.  The Georgia-Houston game was rescheduled and played on December 1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In 2005, UGA was starting a senior QB who was a career back-up with spotty time on the field. That QB was a highly recruited high school phenom. That QB led the Dawgs to an SEC title and a Sugar Bowl berth.

In 1998, Tennessee was starting a new QB that backed up the immortal Peyton Manning in previous seasons. That QB led the Vols to a national championship.

COX = SHOCKLEY! COX = TEE MARTIN!

Or so some thought.