I figured I'd go ahead and put this out here since I've started seeing discussion about predictions for next season. I can't believe we're still 6 months away from college football becoming the main topic again. But nevertheless...
I haven't yet written down my predictions for 09, but I will sooner or later, because even though it's likely a huge waste of time, it's fun to look back and see what you thought would happen.
But one thing I have thought about extensively is the idea of "if UGA had to lose one game next season, who would be the best team to lose to?" Now I'm not saying that I necessarily think that Georgia will only lose one game next season. I haven't really thought through it much, but that would be a pretty bold prediction. But assuming we were to lose one game only, who should we lose to?
I'm thinking Oklahoma State.
Strange right? Our first game could be the best to lose?
1. It's a well known fact that it's always better to lose your games as early as possible in the season. This way, not only do the voters forget about it after a few weeks, but you also have plenty of time to win big games and work your way back up in the rankings. Oklahoma State happens to be our first game of the season, therefore you can't find an earlier game to lose. It would be best to get 1 loss over with, assuming we only have one loss.
2. It's also well known that when you lose a game, you usually want to lose to a highly ranked opponent (as opposed to an unranked team). This one is pretty obvious. We know that Oklahoma State will be at least ranked in the preseason top 25, likely in the top 20, and possibly in the top 10. Given that this is the first game of the season, we luckily don't have to worry about OSU losing to some D1-AA team the week before us to take away from our game or the strength of our opponent (as happened last year with Arizona State and South Carolina). Don't forget that losses tend to look better when they are away from home, especially long distances. It also doesn't hurt that Oklahoma State got a lot of hype last year, and so did the Big 12 (which is going to be continually argued as perhaps the best conference). But this doesn't all guarantee why OSU could be our best game to lose.
3. Finally, we want to win the SEC. We know by now that the only possible chance we have at playing in the National Championship game is to win the East, and then win the conference. With likely very strong competition from a weak-scheduled Florida, and maybe some surprises from other usual suspects (UT, USC, UK), we need to win EVERY SEC game we can, including the ones against West teams. Nothing speaks more highly of a team than winning the SEC, especially if a team goes undefeated in the SEC. Therefore, if we want to lose one game, it almost surely should be against a out of conference opponent.
So, according to the critera, the best loss would be:
1. Early in the season
2. Against a highly ranked opponent (and away from home)
3. Against an out of conference team
In other words: Oklahoma State
The only problem I can see with this is that the game should get plenty of attention, so a loss will be well noticed by everyone. But as I said before, with a long college football season to follow that, probably with Georgia facing multiple top 25 opponents, we'll have a good shot to climb back up in the polls (and, if we get it done on the field, play in the SEC championship).
I'm well aware that some of these criteria occasionally don't matter. For instance, Florida's loss last year to Ole Miss (at the time an unranked opponent). Remember though, that UF's loss was relatively early in the season, and one SEC loss didn't really affect them in the conference race. Another example would be LSU in 2007, who lost 2 conference games, including an end of the season at home loss to Arkansas. Well, needless to say, the Tigers were pretty lucky that the SEC West was so down that season, and they got to go to the big games. But this is surely an outlier and unusual.
End Note: Once again, I'm not predicting one loss for Georgia next season, nor am I predicting that we will lose to Oklahoma State. For that matter, I hope we don't lose to Oklahoma State, or anyone. I just find it interesting that perhaps the least harmful game we could lose this coming season might just be our first.
What does everyone else think?