If you don't believe bowl games can spruce up a dreary season, just ask Auburn Coach Gene Chizik. In a game comprised of exceptional offensive and special teams play, Auburn trampled all over the Virginia Cavaliers (43-24) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl Saturday night.
With that win, the Tigers' 8-5 season was wiped away for at least a shining moment. Tiger fans are thinking ahead to brighter days instead of fighting a torrid case of halitosis for the next nine months. In fact, the sweet taste of bowl victory has washed over their taste buds like a refreshing swig of Listerine.
Scratch your head.
This headline says "Georgia Bulldogs football."
So what does Auburn's bowl game win have to do with Georgia's impending matchup with Michigan State today?
The answer is: everything.
Auburn's bowl win was an attitude changer. It instilled a sense of hope in a team devoid of an offensive and defensive coordinator. It confirmed to all that Coach Gene Chizik still has what it takes to lead Auburn to big wins. It proved that one player doth not make a team.
The Outback Bowl could give Georgia this same clout. A Dawg defeat of Michigan State could be what it takes to keep some players at Georgia. It could be the end of the road for some coaches and contract renewals for others. It could also be the cure for the critics of Mark Richt and Mike Bobo.
You see, Auburn's season like Georgia's—was, well, I'm saying it—disappointing. Yes, I know this Georgia team bounced back from some early-season losses, won 10 games straight and a division title. But ever-so-close catches, fumbles inside the 5-yard-line and other costly mistakes kept them from BCS bowl contention when they had their fair chance against LSU in the Georgia Dome.
But this is today. It's a new year. And like Auburn's win that washed over the drought-laden Plains, a Dawg victory in Tampa could take this 2011 Eastern Division champ into a postseason full of lofty 2012 BCS aspirations. With a win against Michigan State, the Dawgs' national notoriety will be transformed into visions of a trip to the promised land.
Let's face it, the Outback Bowl is Mark Richt's opportunity to prove to the world that Georgia Bulldog football is as real as kudzu in Atlanta. With a 2012 schedule that is—diplomatically said—primed for a sweet ride to the top, this bowl with an Australian flare is the first stop on the ride.