Charlotte is a great city. In due time, the Belk Bowl, if that's what it's still called in due time, might be a desirable destination.
But let's not gussy this up too much. This bowl and this destination is not what Georgia and its fans wanted, and there's a very good argument that it deserved better.
Yes, Georgia could have avoided this problem by winning one more game. Don't squib it against Georgia Tech, and you're probably headed to Miami or the Georgia Dome.
And perception aside, it should also be noted that Georgia was matched with another good opponent, Louisville, which has the same record. After the six major bowls, there are only four that will match two ranked opponents, and the Belk Bowl will be one of them.
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But you also have Auburn, a team with a worse record, one which Georgia throttled, going to a perceived better bowl, the Outback, and in what’s definitely a warmer location. Tennessee, at 6-6, is arguably going to a more attractive bowl, although there’s no way Georgia wanted a return trip to Jacksonville.
The point for fans - and yes, players and coaches - is they'd like to enjoy their bowl trip. So the frustration of those who wanted a warmer climate is understandable. For that you could blame the conference or Georgia if it makes you feel better. But the real culprit here may be the bowl system itself, especially the way the locations are chosen.
There are bowls in the Bahamas, Hawaii, San Diego, Las Vegas, Boca Raton and San Antonio. They aren’t affiliated with the SEC, which instead has agreements with bowls in locales such as Memphis, Nashville, Birmingham and Charlotte.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing: The SEC’s bowl sites are in bigger cities, and by playing in Charlotte, the Bulldogs will be playing in an NFL venue, in what is also their recruiting territory.
But if bowls are truly for the players and fans, don’t you think they’d enjoy a trip that amounts to a vacation? Right now in many places that’s not really the case.
The year Georgia ended up in the Liberty Bowl, in its frigid winter temperature and antiquated stadium, there was really no cause to complain. You only win six games, that’s what you get.
But this year Georgia won nine games, beating three ranked teams along the way. It wasn’t the season the Bulldogs wanted to have, but it was still pretty good, and the team and fans are right to feel they could have ended up in a better destination.
GRANTHAM GETS HIS WAY?
These were Todd Grantham's first two tweets upon being hired at Louisville, on Jan. 16:
If you took those as thinly-veiled shots at Georgia's lack of an indoor practice facility, and the strength program, then you weren't alone.
Now here we are 11 months later, and Georgia is about to face Grantham, and guess what else is happening? Georgia is in the process of getting an indoor facility, and it's getting a new strength and conditioning coordinator.
I can't wait for Grantham's first media availability in Charlotte.
POOR MAN RICHT?
Mark Richt is on the verge of being the lowest-paid head coach in the SEC, at least among public universities.
Tennessee, for some reason, is giving Butch Jones a raise to $3.6 million. That’s a lot of brick money. It also vaults a coach who went 6-6 this year over Richt, whose total annual salary ($3.314 million) continues to plummet on the SEC totem pole. He was sixth entering this season, but since then schools have been handing out extensions left and right.
Ole Miss just gave Hugh Freeze a new deal that pays him $4 million per year.
Florida is also paying its coach more now, as Jim McElwain's salary is expected to be around $3.6 million annually.
Kentucky gave Mark Stoops a raise to $3.6 million back in October.
So for now that puts Richt 12th in the SEC, ahead of only Mississippi State's Dan Mullen (who undoubtedly is getting a raise from his current $3 million salary), and presumably Vanderbilt's Derek Mason, whose salary is not released by Vanderbilt, a private school.
The rest of the SEC coaching salaries, according to the USA Today database: Nick Saban ($7.16 million), Kevin Sumlin ($5 million), Les Miles ($4.37 million), Steve Spurrier ($4.016 million), Gus Malzahn ($3.85 million) and Gary Pinkel ($3.4 million.)
HOPE FOR HOOPS
I know it’s early, but for what it’s worth Georgia’s RPI rank is now 75, per CBSsports.com. From my experience, a team’s RPI rank at this point in the season isn’t a worthless stat. It’s not the be-all, end-all. But the range you’re in right now does matter.
So that puts Georgia in striking distance for what it wants heading into SEC play: Not having to win the whole conference to get in the NCAA tournament. That was the case last year, but the win over Colorado now gives Georgia something it hasn’t had the previous two seasons: A good non-conference victory. There’s still work to do: At minimum Georgia needs to be 8-4 heading into SEC play, which is doable, and winning at Kansas State is doable too. (Tennessee just beat Kansas State.)
Kenny Gaines, who sprained his shoulder in Sunday’s win, should be okay, from what I’m hearing. Update: Well, maybe not: Mark Fox said on his radio show Monday that Gaines was receiving an MRI on Tuesday, as they were worried that the initial diagnosis of a sprain may not have been accurate.
It’s a good thing for Gaines and the Bulldogs they have two weeks off, although they really need him for the next game, home against Seton Hall – which is 7-0, and ranked No. 17 in the RPI.
Georgia’s record may not be what it wants, but there are a lot of encouraging signs for this year’s team: Marcus Thornton is playing great, and fellow senior Nemanja Djurisic has been just as solid in the post. They’ve been good enough that Yante Maten, the highly-touted transfer, hasn’t had a big impact yet but it hasn’t been very noticeable yet.
J.J. Frazier has hit some very key 3-point shots off the bench. When Charles Mann is playing well, which he did against Colorado, that gives Georgia one of the better players on the court.
The Seton Hall game now looms as another important test, and the Kansas State game will be as well. But by finally getting one of these early-season resume' games, the Bulldogs can breathe a bit easier.