Dawgs travel far this fall

DESTIN, Fla. – On Sept. 18, Georgia will fly its football team 1,918 miles to Tempe, Arizona, for a football game.

 The roundtrip will include 3,488 more miles than the Bulldogs have traveled for non-conference games in the last 10 years combined. Georgia has long had a reputation as a homebody in college football, a team unwilling to venture out of the Southeast, and a recent study by MapGameDay.com backed up that belief.

 No team has traveled fewer miles (358 combined) to play non-conference games in the last 10 years than the Bulldogs, according to the Web site. Those miles were logged exclusively on trips to Atlanta (Georgia Tech) and Clemson, S.C. (Clemson).

 That trend is changing under athletics director Damon Evans, who wants to make the Bulldogs more of a national player. To that end, Georgia will play on the Sun Devils' home field this year, at Oklahoma State in 2009 and at Colorado in 2010.

 More, even more marquee, matchups could be in the horizon. Georgia has had discussions with Michigan and Notre Dame about home-and-home series during Evans' tenure, but nothing came of it and those discussions are no longer ongoing.

 "I would be kidding you to say it wouldn't be exciting to have the Fighting Irish in Sanford Stadium and then for us to take the Dogs up to South Bend," Evans said. "I'm excited about the Arizona States out there, but I hope we do have the opportunity to play (Notre Dame) one day. I think it's good for our program."

 Evans wants to guard against "overscheduling" he said, and there still will be plenty of Georgia Southerns and Central Michigans on future schedules, he said. At the same time, there are advantages to playing more non-conference games against teams from other BCS conferences.

 The one that resonates the most for Evans is branding.

 "You will start getting national exposure," he said. "People just automatically become more aware of who you are, and I want people to know about Georgia. There is no bigger promoter than our football program."

 There also is the issue of recruiting, which Evans uses as the carrot to help entice head football coach Mark Richt to accept difficult non-conference games without too much complaint.

 "Our two biggest stars – Matthew (Stafford) and Knowshon (Moreno) – one is from New Jersey and one is from Texas," Evans said. "That's significant."

 However, Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville dismissed that idea.

  "We didn't get any kids because we played USC," Tuberville said. "Our television exposure is phenomenal compared to the other conferences so we get enough exposure."

 Tuberville thinks once every five years is enough for an SEC game to play a major non-conference opponent, he said.

 "I think it's good for college football," he said. "I don't know if it's real good for us as SEC teams."

 When the 12th regular-season game was made a permanent part of college football, Richt agreed with his administration to play one non-conference opponent from a BCS conference per year. He's not happy that he'll have to play two in 2009 (Arizona State at home and Oklahoma State on the road).

 Even one game per year against an unfamiliar year foe is enough to make college football coaches nervous.

 "You hope," Richt said, "that that one game is not the reason you didn't get a chance to play for all the marbles in the end."

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