In a season full of many accomplishments, Kirby Smart’s Dawgs finishing the 2017 campaign undefeated in Sanford Stadium sends a strong message
With Georgia in the midst of an outstanding season, the Bulldogs will try and beat Kentucky while checking off a couple more boxes. Thus far this season, Georgia has beaten three of the five teams that defeated the Bulldogs last season.
A year ago, Georgia lost on the infamous Hail Mary to Tennessee 34-31. Two weeks later, the Bulldogs were upset at home by Vanderbilt, falling to the Commodores 17-16. On the vengeance tour of the state of Tennessee this season, the Bulldogs trounced Tennessee 41-0 in Knoxville on September 30th. The next week in Nashville, the Dogs vanquished Vanderbilt 45-14.
Then there is Jacksonville. Last season on the banks of the mighty St. John’s River, Georgia fell to Florida for a third straight time, losing 24-10. On October 28, Georgia vaulted to 8-0 with a 42-7 gigging of the Gators.
There is another team that beat the Bulldogs last season remaining on the schedule the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
However, next up is Kentucky.
A win over the Wildcats would check off three more big boxes.
While the Dogs lost the three heartbreakers between the hedges last year, Georgia also pulled out some tight ones against upstart opposition. There was the 26-24 escape against Nicholls State in the second week of the 2016 season. Back on September 16, the Bulldogs handled Samford, an opponent of similar pedigree, 42-14. It took a fourth down touchdown in the closing minutes and subsequent Missouri fumble for Georgia to escape Columbia with a 28-27 win. This season, Georgia improved to 7-0 with a 53-28 win over Missouri between the hedges. Last year in Lexington, the Bulldogs beat Kentucky 27-24 as the clock struck 0:00 on Rodrigo Blankenship’s game-winning field goal.
Margin of victory matters. For a multitude of reasons.
What Georgia did reeling off six straight wins by at least 25 points between the 20-19 win over Notre Dame and 24-10 victory over South Carolina in Athens is unprecedented in Bulldogs lore.
In this very column space back in August, the top two stated goals for the Bulldogs of 2017 was to:
1) Win the state championship, and
2) Go undefeated at home, re-establishing Georgia as a dominant team at Sanford Stadium.
Item number one will be on the agenda next week. As for item number two, a win over the Wildcats would give Georgia a perfect 6-0 record between the hedges this season. Georgia last went undefeated at Sanford Stadium in 2012. Those three excruciating losses at home, as painful as they were, much like the fiery Phoenix consuming himself with his own fire, those filaments and the lessons learned have been a huge part of the 2017 rebuild and drive to be great.
There are some fine teams and programs on the home schedule this year, no doubt, but a Sanford slate of Appalachian State, Samford, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and now Kentucky, if there was ever a season to be perfect at home, this is it. But it’s going to take a win over one of Kentucky’s best teams in years to accomplish that.
A victory over the Wildcats would also give Georgia a perfect record against the Southeastern Conference’s East Division for the SEC East champs. The league split into divisions in 1992 when South Carolina and Arkansas joined the conference. In large part due to Florida over the past quarter-century, Georgia has gone undefeated against the SEC East exactly zero times. Yes, dating back to 1992, the Bulldogs have not gone 5-0 (1992-2011) or 6-0, since Missouri and Texas A&M came into the league in 2012, against the SEC East. In an era when the East has been down, and Florida and Tennessee have had their struggles, this is the time to strike. It’s a big reason Kirby Smart is coaching at his alma mater and thriving.
Control the home field, control the division, and control the state. Wins these next two weeks would check off those boxes for the Bulldogs of 2017.
There is so much on the line for this one – Georgia with all those dreams and aspirations in sight. Head Bulldogs Coach Kirby Smart reminding his team weekly to “keep chopping” and that “humility is only a week away.”
Kentucky meanwhile has a finish in the upper half of the SEC East in sight, and a win over Georgia would go down as one of the biggest in Wildcats lore, while certainly boosting their bowl stock.
It’s one of the biggest Georgia-Kentucky games ever at Sanford Stadium.
There was a mighty big one 20 years ago, with two very good teams squaring off on a rainy Saturday between the hedges, a week before the Bulldogs stirring victory in Jacksonville. Esteemed writer Mark Schlabach, then a cub reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, well, he watched from the press box as his dog “Tubby,” named for Georgia’s super basketball coach “Tubby” Smith got loose on the field in the first quarter.
Georgia would win 23-13, the stars of the day for Georgia, Robert Edwards, who had an 80-yard touchdown dash, and a junior safety from Bainbridge who twice picked off 1999 number one overall NFL Draft choice Tim Couch. The next year, Smart again intercepted Couch twice, as the Dogs escaped Lexington a winner in a 28-26 thriller.
That talent, tenacity, and cunning on the field has transitioned to the sidelines, and Smart’s Dogs of ’17 aim to make some more happy memories and check off a couple more boxes.
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