Da' Dream Makin' Cold Blooded Sausage

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Putting the Program to the Louisiana Test.

If you actually know what the real Louisiana test is then we are speaking the same language. If you don't know what it is then you may need to check your Southern credentials. I was inspired to write this based on a comment exchange I had yesterday with the ever wily and elusive Anonymous. The dispute that we had was on the topic of if the SEC is stronger now than it was when Richt first arrived. One of the linchpins of my argument (that the SEC is far stronger) was the LSU program. In fact the Georgia and LSU programs are very similar and have found themselves facing very similar problems over the years. I want to take a closer look at each program and find out why they have 2 National Championships since the Richt era began and we have none.

Conference
LSU and Georgia both play in the SEC. LSU is in the West and up until just recently the West has been a bit of a wide open place. In fact since the last expansion in 1992 the West has sent five of it's six teams to the Championship game. In contrast Georgia is in the East, and the power base there is far less diversified. Florida represented the East in the first five championship games. Tennessee then had the honor for two years and right back to Florida for two years and then once more to Tennessee. So in the first ten years of the existence of the Championship game it was Florida seven times and Tennessee three times. It took eighteen years before one of the three "have nots" (South Carolina) broke the control of the big three in the East. The traditional big three-little three in the East was broken last year, and in recent years the West has settled into a big three (LSU, Auburn, Bama) in-between one (Arkansas) and little two (Ole Miss, Missy St). In the Richtian era we can say this about LSU and Georgia-each has faced consistently equal or superior competition from two schools in their division and each has seen the rise of a lesser program (Arkansas and South Carolina) in their division. Equally each has seen a former door mat become competitive (Missy St. and Kentucky) and both have seen terrible programs stay terrible (Ole Miss and Vandy although Ole Miss did have two decent years under Eli Manning). In this both LSU and Georgia seem equally yoked.

Geography
LSU and Georgia are both located in the deep South (which is where all the talent is). Each is bordered by at least three other states (Georgia has a fourth). Each has a much smaller and less talent rich state to the east (Mississippi and South Carolina), and each has the ability to go into this smaller state and take the top tier talent. Each has a similarly sized but far less talent rich state to the north (Arkansas and Tennessee) and those State schools always try to poach talent from their Southern neighbors. Georgia has the top talent producing state at its Southern boarder and LSU has the second best talent producing state at its western boarder. Both LSU and Georgia have pockets carved out in these neighboring talent rich states by which they garner players. The big difference in geography lies in the fact that Georgia has Alabama as a fourth bordering state. Alabama is home to two major SEC programs and both Alabama and especially Auburn have pockets carved out in the state of Georgia. This is a hindrance that LSU does not have and therefore Geographically LSU has an advantage.

Recruiting/Population
Georgia is the fourth best talent producing state in the country and LSU is the fifth. Both programs could build National powers based solely on in-state recruiting. LSU controls the state of Louisiana. LSU has 99% of its in-state talent on lock down. Georgia does not. The reasons for this are numerous but here are a few.
1.LSU has no major in-state rival to compete with.
2.LSU has a very unified population. Yes they have a major city but the people of New Orleans aren't all that different for the rest of Louisiana. On the other hand you know the old saying in Georgia--"There are two Georgias...Atlanta and Georgia". The large Atlanta based population is a transiate population. There are a lot of Yankees and other non-Georgians. In short there are more people in Georgia but fewer people with state loyalty than Louisiana. In this LSU has an advantage.

Poor Coaching in the 90's
LSU and Georgia each placed their fortunes in the mid-90's on coaches that had been very successful at smaller schools. Donnan could recruit but he couldn't beat Florida and Gerry DiNardo was just awful. Then enter Saban and Richt. Each had to change the culture. Each had re-establish control of in-state recruiting, each was asked to awaken a sleeping giant. Saban did it by 2003. Upon Saban's departure Les Miles walked into a golden job. While he has had his own struggles he has won another Nat Title and continued to dominate in-state recruiting. Richt looked well on his way but then something happened. Richt couldn't quite get over the Florida hump. While the demise of FSU in the early 00's and Tennessee in the mid to late 00's opened the door for greater control of in-state recruiting Richt failed to lock it down. Instead Auburn entrenched itself deeper into west Georgia, Alabama got Saban and started beating at the door as well. One has to ask how much longer will Tennessee stay down? Doesn't Jimbo Fisher look to have FSU on the come up? Hasn't South Carolina begun to close the talent gap between itself and Georgia?
Richt did a marvelous job on in-state recruiting this year. Georiga was very LSU like this year but when Richt arrived in 01' the biggest poachers of in-state talent were Tennessee and FSU. Those teams have been replaced with Bama and the Barn. However, UT and FSU will be back. Georgia could be looking at a scenario in five years where they must fight Alabama, Auburn, Florida, FSU, and Tennessee for each and every recruit. Add to that the sudden improvement at South Carolina and Georgia could no longer be in play for top SC talent. In this LSU has an advantage because the two replacements that LSU has had since DiNardo have taken the program to the pinnacle of college football while Georgia's one replacement has plateaued short of the peak.
So much to the delight of Anonymous (wherever he is) I must admit that Richt has had a few more encumbrances than the HC at LSU...but Richt is also the reason for a few other encumbrances. Perhaps it is a bit unfair of me to expect Gerogia to produce at the same level that LSU does. Perhaps LSU is just in a better position to win with more consistency. However, if you placed any of the SEC schools against LSU in this sort of head to head comparison I will bet you that LSU would win those as well. Conference, Geography, and In-State Population may actually make LSU the best job in the world. I would argue that of all the other schools in the SEC Georgia is the closest to LSU in terms of natural advantages. Yet South Carolina won the east last year, Auburn the National Title, and before that Bama, Florida, LSU, Florida, etc.
How does a team like Auburn with none of these natural advantages surpass Georgia? Why are Auburn and Alabama placed among Florida and LSU? Alabama is not a top five talent producing state. Alabama is equally encumbered with boarder state schools. Auburn and Alabama share this state while Georgia has the minor inconvenience of Tech which is a far inferior school athletically. Georgia is in a better position to win at the National level than Auburn or Alabama based on these natural advantages. Sure you can say "Well Auburn and Alabama beat LSU and Florida too" and you would be right but LSU and Florida each have two National titles in the Richt-era. Florida and LSU will also continue to be listed among the elite teams in the Nation while Georgia has fallen off the map in the past couple of seasons.
I have made the point in the past that Georgia has fallen short under Richt. Just because we are better than we were does not mean we are where we want to be. LSU has been in the same place that we were at the same time and they have two National Titles. We still have none under Richt. We enter the 11th season under Mark Richt and we would love for him to shut us up and win a National Title. On the other hand how much longer will Richt-O-Philes ask us to stand pat and watch other programs (some with more natural advantages and some with fewer) raise the crystal football if we win 6 or 8 or 10 games and go to yet another non-BCS bowl?

2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed your analysis. A well thought out look from a fresh perspective. I am an old dawg. Have followed SEC football for a long time, probably longer than many of the readers have been alive. Agree with your comments. There are many factors than can attribute to the outcome for teams, one way or the other. In the end, it all comes down to two things. Management (coaching) and luck. CMR is not equal to many of his counterparts in the league, and has to be one of the most unlucky individuals to ever pace the sideines. I don't remember Bear Bryant having many highly recruited players on his teams, most considered average when they signed up, but I do remember the ball bounced his way more than once.

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  2. You forget history after one season? We won back to back Cotton Bowls before last season. We also beat LSU in those years as well. We had one bad season (last year), and one bad era (Orgeron). Other than that, we haven't been that bad. Go to the SECCG and win again and then talk.

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