ATHENS — Georgia football Kirby Smart coaches up his players for games like the one approaching against Middle Tennessee.
You know, the kind of game where everyone in the stadium knows the Bulldogs will win before it even starts?
The No. 3-ranked Georgia football team (2-0) plays at 7:15 p.m. (TV: ESPN2, Radio: WSB 95.5 FM, 750 AM) on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
The Bulldogs are more than a four-touchdown favorite against a Conference USA opponent that lost to Vanderbilt in the opening week by a 35-7 count.
“We tell our guys all the time we play to a standard … and our standard is to go out and dominate the opponent, physically, mentally, wear them down,” Smart said before the opening contest against FCS member Austin Peay, a game the Bulldogs won 45-0.
“That’s what we try to do, and that way if you have that message, you’re not changing the message every week. The message is very consistent, that when we go out to practice, we’re trying to be the best team in the country so that when we get in the game we can dominate people physically and not really worry about the scoreboard or who we’re playing.”
There is value in the game against the Blue Raiders, the name of this week’s non-conference sparring partner.
Middle Tennessee QB Brent Stockstill had five touchdowns and 407 yards passing in a 61-37 victory over FCS Tennessee-Martin last Saturday.
Georgia defensive lineman Julian Rochester said Monday there are some similarities between the pass-happy Blue Raiders and the following week’s opponent, Missouri.
“I believe so, with the spread offense and air raid attack, between Drew Lock and Brent Stockstill,” Rochester said. “They are both great passers that can throw the ball really well, so it’s a good opportunity and a good challenge for us.”
Indeed, and Smart felt there was room for improvement in Georgia’s back seven against the pass against South Carolina, even though the Gamecocks completed just one pass of more than 20 yards.
“We got loose in some of our coverage,” Smart said after the 41-17 triumph. “They made some plays, we’ve got to get better in our pass coverage, and we’ve got to get better in our pass rush.”
Georgia lost 31 seniors off last season’s team and half of the position starters, so there are plenty of new starters and young players hungry for playing time.
“It’s a great opportunity to get better, against a team like this that runs the spread offense,” Rochester said, “and then playing Missouri the next week, so we have plenty of opportunities to show our pass rush ability, and two weeks to get better at it.”
Bulldogs fans can take pleasure in watching the game within the game, anticipating when Smart will insert freshman quarterback Justin Fields, and seeing how explosive freshman tailback James Cook looks in his third career game.
Smart said he understands fans at Sanford Stadium might want better non-conference opponents, but there’s another side to the story.
“I think it’s good for the fan base to have better games, the home-and-home — I think those things are good for college football,” Smart said. “But you have to look at it through two people’s perspective and sometimes these programs wouldn’t survive. I’m a big advocate for football in general and I think that they need these games to survive financially. Without them, some of these programs may not be able to survive.”
Essentially, Smart is suggesting, the impending beatdown is an act of humanity.
Don’t feel too sorry for Middle Tennessee as Georgia lights up the scoreboard — the Blue Raiders program is getting paid $1.7 million just to show up.