ATHENS — It’s a name-your-score kind of game for Georgia, but beyond that, Kirby Smart and his staff have goals to accomplish.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (1-0) contracted FCS Murray State (1-0) a payout of $550,000 to be their patsy for 60 minutes of regulation at Sanford Stadium starting at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
To be clear, the Racers do not enter the arena with that intent. In fact, Murray State’s head coach created waves with a chippy press conference discussing his team’s need to bruise and bloody the Georgia football team.
So if you’re Smart, what is it that you want to get done beyond the win?
Here are three keys to a successful Saturday for a Bulldogs’ football program wanting to stay on track for a College Football Playoff Championship season:
1. Keep team healthy
Georgia already enters this game missing two players who started in the opener on account of injuries. Receiver Kearis Jackson (hand) and offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson (ankle) are expected to miss next Saturday’s pushover (Arkansas State) as well. Smart and the Bulldogs can’t afford to lose any other players, particularly starters, in what amounts to a scrimmage.
2. Make downfield throws
This, of course, should not come at the expense of No. 1 on this list, and that’s the trick. Murray State does bring pressure from several different directions, and the last thing UGA needs is Jake Fromm taking any unnecessary hits. Smart said after the Vanderbilt game the Bulldogs need better pass protection. Smart also said he wants to see Fromm go downfield more often, but again, that won’t come at the expense of being vulnerable in the pocket.
3. Turn backups loose
So-called “Buy” games are boring for the fans, but they are healthy for the program and the locker room. Georgia gets an added home game without having to play a return game in the future, and several players who wouldn’t ordinarily get to play make it on the field and are rewarded for all of their hard work in practices. It’s a premium opportunity to build depth and perhaps even foster new competitions for playing time.