ATHENS — It’s time for kickoff and now it’s hardly raining. But more is on the way.
That’s probably the most pertinent information I could pass on as No. 8 Georgia and No. 13 Alabama get set for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Sanford Stadium. Georgia officials say they’ve already had two inches of rain fall on the field here and that number could grow to more than five inches before we’re through. But while that really sucks for the 92,746 spectators who apparently still plan to attend — there was still a lot of tailgating going on around campus as I drove in — it should not have a profoundly negative impact on the athletic contest itself.
UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity was just telling me that the Bulldogs have a true, USGA-certified, sand-based bermuda field. And here’s why that’s important: First off, no mud. And secondly, it “percolates” at a rate of 18 to 21 inches per hour. So unless it rains more than that per hour, then there is going no puddling on the field.
And UGA is taking no chances besides. The Redcoat Marching Band will not be allowed on the field for pregame ceremonies or at halftime. And grounds crews will be dispatched out on the field between TV timeouts and quarters to attend to any sod damage that has occurred during the course of competition.
So how the rain itself effects the ball and the passing game is one thing, but this is going to be no quagmire contest like we saw at the old Gator Bowl in Jacksonville in 1993. Footing is not going to be a problem. And with the modern-day gloves receivers wear nowadays and the systems they use to keep the balls dry, I’m not thinking the weather is going to prevent these teams from throwing the ball, at least as down and distance dictates.
I’m reminded of that aforementioned “Monsoon Game” between Georgia and Florida. Yes, field conditions were deplorable, but that didn’t prevent quarterback Eric Zeier and the Bulldogs from throwing the football all over the yard. In fact, Zeier attempted a school record 65 passes for 386 yards and two touchdowns. Georgia tight end Shannon Mitchell also set a record in that game with 15 receptions (for 140 yards).
The point being, teams can still throw in the rain. And that’s important because I believe Georgia is going to have to pass the football to win this game. That’s where the disparity in proficiency is greatest between the Bulldogs and Alabama. The Crimson Tide is 11th in the SEC defending the pass, as opposed to first by a mile at stopping the run. And Georgia under quarterback Greyson Lambert is fourth in all of college football at 10.6 yards per pass attempt. You may have also heard that Lambert has completed 33 of his last 35 passes for the Bulldogs. That’s 94 percent.
He won’t have only one incompletion in this game, but I’m expecting you’ll still see Georgia throw and catch a lot. We’ll find out soon enough.
In the meantime, here’s a few pregame nuggets from colleague Seth Emerson:
- The dress-out list doesn’t have any major surprises. Inside linebacker Reggie Carter (shoulder) and fullback Christian Payne (fibula) are out, as expected. Defensive back Rico McGraw (knee) is set to suit up, though Jeremy Pruitt said on Wednesday that McGraw could be a “game-time decision.”
- Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy is also set to suit up, after missing last week’s game with a concussion.
- Some other notable players not on the dress list:
CB Shattle Fenteng
TB A.J. Turman
LB Shaun McGee
DL Keyon Brown
QB Nick Robinson
TB Tae Crowder
OLB Johnny O’Neal
OL Sage Hardin
OL Jake Edwards
OL Sam Madden
WR Charlie Hegedus
DL Justin Young
K Rodrigo Blankenship
DB Kennar Daniels-Johnson
- UGA legend Herschel Walker is in attendance and led the crowd in the “Go Dawgs” cheer before the kickoff.
- Shaquery Wilson has now officially switched to No. 28
- The family of Devon Gales is here and will be recognized on the field during the first quarter.
- Gambling update: The line on the game has actually moved to a pick-em, after Georgia started the week as a slight favorite. So if the line stays a pick-em then Alabama’s run of 72 times not being the underdog won’t end after all.
- Adeline Kenerly, a UGA student, will be crowned Miss Georgia at halftime. But her boyfriend, Georgia quarterback Greyson Lambert, likely won’t be able to attend the ceremony, as he’ll be with his team in the locker room.