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September 14, 2009

Pick 'Em

Ray Goff pitches to Glynn Harrison against South Carolina in 1975 (photo--The Red and Black).

I noticed this morning the pointspread or "line" for this Saturday night's Georgia game at Arkansas is an uncommon "pick 'em" or even odds. Now, the chances this line will remain at a pick 'em until kickoff, or even eventually shift but return to even odds where it started, is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, it reminded me of the very few Bulldog football games that kicked off at equal odds.

Since 1973, and two months ago I mentioned why this season in particular, of Georgia's 436 games, the Bulldogs were favored in 316, underdogs for 105, there were even odds for only four, and on 11 occasions, there was "no line" for the game. Until recently, no line or "NL" was designated to most games involving a Division I-A team playing an opponent of a lower division (i.e., Georgia Southern, William & Mary, Western Carolina, etc.).

Georgia has had great success in its four games of an even pointspread, winning all four, including two bowl games. A quick recap of those four:

December 28, 1973 (Peach Bowl): 17-16 over Maryland

In front of a disappointing 38,107 spectators in Atlanta's sixth-annual Peach Bowl, the Bulldogs faced 18th-ranked Maryland. The bowl's first points were scored when Georgia's Andy Johnson threw a screen pass to halfback Jimmy Poulos. Poulos, playing in his last game as a Bulldog, reversed his field, side-stepped defenders, and broke tackles on his way to a 62-yard touchdown. Late in the third quarter with the scored tied 10-10, freshman Sylvester Boler, the "Black Blur" and the bowl's defensive MVP, laid a crushing tackle on a Terrapin ball carrier. Georgia recovered a fumble and three plays later, Johnson scored from one yard out. The Bulldogs would hold on to win by a single point and capture its fourth game of its final five following a 3-3-1 start, including losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

September 27, 1975: 28-20 over South Carolina

At night in Columbia, although passing for only 19 yards, Georgia rushed for 403 and held off a late Gamecock rally for an eight-point win. Glynn Harrison led the Bulldogs with 160 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown but it was a little-known sophomore who caught the attention of most. Kevin McLee, far from a highly-publicized back, rushed for 130 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. A little more than two years later during his senior season of 1977, the one-time obscure McLee would pass the great Frank Sinkwich as Georgia's all-time leading rusher. After more than 30 years, his 2,581 career rushing yards still rank seventh in school history.

January 1, 1989 (Gator Bowl): 34-27 over Michigan State

In his final game at Georgia, Coach Vince Dooley went out a winner in an offensive shootout in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs, who had been strictly a running team during the regular season, took to the air. Wayne Johnson, Georgia's bowl MVP, completed 15 of 27 passes for 227 yards, three TDs with no interceptions, and also added 30 yards rushing. Rodney Hampton led the Bulldogs in both rushing (109 yards on just 10 carries) and receiving (four catches for 71 yards) and scored three touchdowns. In a losing effort, MSU's Andre Rison had one of the best bowl performances in college football history, catching nine passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns.

October 25, 2008: 52-38 over LSU

LSU began the week as a slight favorite; however, by kickoff, the odds were dead even in the 27th game between the Bulldogs and Tigers. The so-called "experts" must have known something as Coach Mark Richt improved his record against ranked teams to an impressive 26-14. Georgia's Matthew Stafford threw for 249 yards on 17 of 26 passing and two touchdowns. Sophomore Knowshon Moreno rushed for 163 yards on 21 carries and a 68-yard touchdown. Although the Bulldog defense yielded 38 points and nearly 500 yards, it intercepted three passes, including two returned for touchdowns by linebacker Darryl Gamble.

Like I said, the chances Georgia-Arkansas remains a pick 'em game is slim. In fact, I just checked again and the early money must be getting laid on the Hogs as Arkansas is now currently a one-point favorite. If the Razorbacks stay the favorite, 2009 will be only the third season since 1973 Georgia began the year an underdog in at least two of its first three games. In 1985, the Bulldogs opened the season underdogs to Alabama, were then favored against Baylor, and then an underdog at Clemson. In 1978, Georgia started the season as underdogs in its first three games against Baylor, Clemson, and at South Carolina.

1 comment:

MikeInValdosta said...

Man, had Dooley loosened up before his last game and let Wayne Johnson play, his last few years would have been more memorable.

That Gator Bowl and the Win over Auburn in 1986 were two of the biggest games during my school years. They were also the two games Wayne Johnson played the most.

Interesting stats!