Boy, that Georgia-LSU collision in Baton Rouge, La. should be some kind of football game. In fact, it may be the top game in the nation as both the 2nd-ranked Bulldogs and 5th-ranked Tigers could be 6-0 entering the 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Tiger Stadium.
But wait a minute, you say. Isn’t Georgia first playing the Vanderbilt Commodores this Saturday night in Athens and, aren’t the LSU Tigers going against the Florida Gators Saturday afternoon in The Swamp in Gainesville?
You are right on both accounts. Every coach and player should well know the folly and danger of looking ahead to a highly-talked-about, much discussed so-called big game when there’s more important business to take care of looming right in front of you.
For weeks now, I’ve heard Bulldawg Nation talking about the trip to Baton Rouge and the anticipated Oct. 13 matchup with Ed Orgeron’s surprising LSU team, which enters the Florida game Saturday with a 5-0 season worksheet … something that wasn’t expected to happen with all the “hot seat” talk swirling around Orgeron’s head in the weeks leading up to the 2018 season. This is a game Georgia fans have looked forward to for some time, maybe not on the same level as the Notre Dame and Rose Bowl trips last season but, certainly, up in that same stratosphere.
But, conversely, about the only talk I’ve heard about Vanderbilt is that the Commodores will be providing the homecoming opposition for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff between the hedges. The Bulldog faithful seem to be placing Vandy in the same category as they did the Tennessee Vols last weekend. In other words the Commodores, like the Volunteers, will show up and play inspired football for a while before Georgia’s superior manpower wears them down and makes for another blowout by Kirby Smart’s unbeaten Dawgs.
And of course the fans can think like that all they want to, can truly look ahead a week to the trip down to the bayou. But let’s hope the Bulldogs themselves aren’t carrying that same mindset into Saturday evening’s SEC counter with the ‘Dores. Every conference outing counts the same and if Georgia allows Vanderbilt to come to Athens and pull off the upset — the way Derek Mason’s team did two years ago by 17-16 — then the luster of Georgia-LSU the following Saturday will be somewhat knocked off the bloom.
Being truthful, I don’t believe Smart will allow his Bulldogs to suffer any kind of letdown in this football game. Of course I thought the same thing last weekend before Tennessee came to town. Following the somewhat lackluster performance at Missouri, I figured Georgia would be clicking on all cylinders against the Vols and beat up on Tennessee by that 42-14 tally that I predicted. Well, I didn’t miss the point differential but by two points because as you know the Bulldogs toppled UT by 26 points, 38-12.
Still, due to inconsistency on offense, six more nagging penalties and the defense allowing the Vols to score on two sizable pass plays, Georgia didn’t play with the sharpness and intensity that it took to South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium back in the season’s second game on Sept. 8.
So, question is, how will these Bulldogs come out and perform against another huge underdog this Saturday evening? Will they take control of this game from the very start or will they allow the Commodores to hang around and make things closer than they should be as the game moves past halftime and into the final two quarters of play?
One thing’s for sure, if Vanderbilt brings the game it took to South Bend, Ind. several weeks ago, Georgia could find itself in a tightly-contested ballgame. Because on Sept. 15, the Commodores took host Notre Dame down to the proverbial wire before falling to the still unbeaten Irish, 22-17. Many who witnessed that game said Vandy should have won it. Conversely, the very next week back on their home field in Nashville, the Commodores performed dreadfully in a 37-14 loss to South Carolina.
So Vanderbilt has been most inconsistent in its 3-2 voyage to date this season but Smart is looking for the ‘Dores to bring their A-game to town Saturday in an attempt to deal the nation’s 2nd-ranked team its first defeat of the season.
That’s why he’s prepped the Georgia defense diligently this week to stop Vanderbilt’s potent passing attack featuring talented senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur and Kalija Lipscomb, the SEC’s leading receiver at present. And that’s why Smart has drilled into the Bulldogs offense’s collective head that it can’t afford any hiccups in the running and passing games Saturday night, that it must be a smooth-functioning unit that puts points on the board nearly every time it has possession.
You’ve got to think Georgia is ready to stage its finest all-around performance since that aforementioned South Carolina game, what after not even being pushed in a romp over Middle Tennessee and then the somewhat less-than-brilliant wins over Missouri and Tennessee. So I’m calling for the Bulldogs to shipwreck the Commodores by about 45-13 this weekend.
And then, we can all start thinking about those LSU Tigers!