SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Some Notre Dame players had heard what Georgia’s Dominick Sanders said on Tuesday in Athens, Ga. Most of them had not. But generally the Fighting Irish were unmoved by the declaration of the Bulldogs’ star defensive back that UGA intends to “punish them from the start” when the two teams play here Saturday.
“Yeah, you certainly hear it,” said All-American left tackle Mike McGlinchey, a 6-foot-8, 315-pound senior. “You know, it’s just one of those things that they can say what they want to say, and we’ll just stick to what we’re doing. We’re not going to sit here and talk about what Georgia is saying or what they’re doing. We’re going to worry about Notre Dame. That’s all I can really say about that. We’re going to go and play our hearts out on Saturday, and whatever team wins wins. We hope it’s us.”
Notre Dame, like any other major college football program, gets its fair share of trash talk every week. In fact, Temple cornerback Kareem Ali threw a little the Irish’s way last week when he proclaimed that the Owls were going to “kick their ass.” Linebacker Shaun Bradley upped the ante later when he said Temple not only would win the game, but win it in “a blowout.”
Of course, Notre Dame scored 33 seconds into the game and kept scoring en route to a 49-16 season-opening victory last Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The Fighting Irish rushed for 422 yards in the game.
Generally, Notre Dame expects much more resistance from Georgia, which a few of the players referred to as a “historical college football power.” Three of Notre Dame’s five captains were available for interviews at the Guglielmino Athletics Complex Wednesday before practice across the street. Others will speak Wednesday after the workout.
Those who spoke earlier were extremely complimentary of what they’ve seen from the Bulldogs so far and what they know about them as a traditional SEC leader.
“Obviously Georgia is a great historic program, and it’s an opportunity for us to test ourselves against a conference who has proven itself over the years in the SEC,” said linebacker Drue Tranquill, who spent part of his childhood in Chattanooga, Tenn. “So we’re excited to go against a tough, physical opponent in Georgia, and you know, see where we stand and also compete against some of the best competition in the country.”
Notre Dame hasn’t played an SEC team at home since Tennessee in 2005, and it hasn’t met an SEC team since its loss to Alabama in the 2012 national championship game. The Irish will see a lot of the professed best conference in college football in the near future, however. They’ll play Georgia again in 2019 in Athens, Arkansas in 2020 and 2025, and Texas A&M in ’2024 and ’25.
The Irish are 26-18 all time against SEC members. That initiated a pretty good exchange between the media and the Notre Dame players on whether they buy the narrative that the SEC is the best conference in college football.
“I guess that’s kind of the general consensus,” McGlinchey said with a shrug. “They normally have a great amount of top-25 teams finishing the year. But you know, the national championship team came from the ACC, the Rose Bowl team came from the Pac-12. It’s kind of all over the place. But I think there is a certain number of teams that are consistently great every year from that conference.”
Tranquill offered a dissenting opinion.
“I mean, growing up I was an Auburn fan, and so I always rooted for Auburn and the SEC. But I’m going to stick one out there for the independent conference and say that’s the best conference in football,” he said.
Interestingly, it was running back Josh Adams who seemed to know the least about Georgia. He said he was unaware of the Bulldogs’ running back reputation, wasn’t familiar with the work of current tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and knew nothing of the win over Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to secure the 1980 national championship.
He also hadn’t heard about Sanders’ comments.
“I’m not big on social media,” said Adams, who had 161 of Notre Dame’s 421 yards rushing last Saturday. “I only have an Instagram. So I don’t really search for a lot of that stuff. No, that’s interesting. I haven’t heard anything about that.”