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(Chip Towers/DawgNation)
Sanford Stadium was all dressed up and ready for action early Saturday morning as the Georgia Bulldogs readied for today's noon kick against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.

DawgNation Pregame: Noon kick ideal for Georgia Bulldogs, not necessarily for their fans

Chip Towers

ATHENS — Greetings from Sanford Stadium, where I set a personal record for leaving my house and arriving at Seat 100 in the Dan Magill Press Box.

That’s right. Not a lot of folks on the roads or in the parking lots early this morning. Technically, the Middle Tennessee State game is a sellout for the Georgia Bulldogs because all 92,746 tickets were sold in advance. But moving the game to noon from 7:15 p.m. is going to come with some attendance consequences, I’m sure.

Field Street, directly behind Sanford Stadium, was desolate three hours before Georgia’s kickoff Saturday. It is usually packed with fans before the Bulldogs’ home games. (Chip Towers/DawgNation)

I know for a fact it affected my family, four of whom were going to come to the game when it was at night and none of whom are coming for this lunchtime kick. It wasn’t that they were turned off by the heat, which once again is supposed to be intense, with a high of 95 degrees. It’s just that everybody had long-made plans for their Saturday that didn’t mesh with an early kickoff.

I guess it was necessary in respect to Hurricane Florence. I’m still a little confused about what the early kick is actually accomplishing in that regard. But I’m all for safety and caution, so I’ll go with that.

It will be raining later tonight, according to weather forecasts. According to the hour-by-hour breakdown on weather.com, precipitation will arrive about 9 p.m. and gradually intensify. And sitting here looking at the glistening field between the hedges, there’s definitely not going to be any rain on today’s parade. It’s absolutely gorgeous, albeit a little hot, even two and half hours before kickoff. There’s some breeze, though, and that’s going to pick up throughout the day. So maybe it won’t be as sweltering in here as it was for Austin Peay.

Of course, Georgia coach Kirby Smart, I’m sure, wants it as hot as it can possibly be today. He’s on record saying that hotter is better as far as he’s concerned. It was ridiculously hot last week in Columbia and, as we all witnessed, the South Carolina Gamecocks seemed to melt in that 21-0 third quarter. I’m sure it won’t be nearly as hot next weekend in Columbia, Mo., but the Bulldogs are scheduled for another noon kick then against the Missouri Tigers. So this is certainly ideal for Georgia from that standpoint.

I had a couple of buddies over for our weekly Thursday Night Football get-together and they’re both Georgia grads and, of course, big Kirby fans. Their theory was that today’s game is a noon kick simply because that’s what Kirby wanted. And, you know, with Bulldogs’ coach these days it’s, “He wants it; he gets it,” when it comes to Kirby Smart.

Regardless, there’s a game to be played and it will commence in a couple of hours. So gulp down that coffee and get on down here to the stadium. If you don’t have a ticket, fear not, I’m confident you can find one.

As for today’s game, don’t mistake the Blue Raiders (1-1) for Austin Peay. These guys are FBS and Conference USA, so they have 85 players on scholarship and they practice hard every day just like Georgia does. But the betting line for the Bulldogs is minus-32.5 points for a reason, and I suspect they’ll be able to cover it — if they want to.

What will we see here today? Well, I’m glad you asked.

  • Middle Tennessee has a prolific, spread offense and a good quarterback who throws the ball a lot. Again, it’s a nice precursor to the Missouri game next week. So the Bulldogs will look to defend the quick-tempo, fast-passing game better than they did in the first half against South Carolina next week.
  • Running back D’Andre Swift admitted last week he’s getting a little anxious about recording his first career 100-yard game. I think he might get it as I expect the Bulldogs to rededicate themselves to a power running game the way they did in the third quarter against South Carolina. That is, after all, the best defense for great offenses — keeping them sidelined.
  • With wind speeds reaching the mid-teens during the game, I wouldn’t be surprised to see kicker Rodrigo Blankenship kick a really long field goal today. He’s already has 44- and 45-yarders to his credit this season. Look for him to possibly add another 50-plus yarder to his ledger.
  • The Justin Fields Watch will continue, of course. Georgia’s dynamic freshman quarterback didn’t get in against South Carolina until the game was in hand in the fourth quarter. I suspect we’ll see him in the first half today, more along the lines of what we saw in the opener against Austin Peay. His continued development remains an important factor for the Bulldogs this season. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s progressing in terms of offensive operation.

As always, Mike Griffith, Jeff Sentell and Brandon Adams will be here to bring you all the coverage you could possibly want, and then some. Stay with DawgNation before, during and after the game for continuous updates and news reports.

Now, excuse me, but I’m going to go grab another cup of coffee.