Third-ranked Georgia will be between the hedges Saturday for its 2019 home opener but on this particular afternoon, the football game will hardly be the main event.
No, let’s face it, it’s a mere formality that the Bulldogs will run roughshod over FCS team Murray State in the 4 p.m. contest and that will be the case the following Saturday as well when Georgia hosts the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
What will be the highlight this Saturday will be the naming of the Sanford Stadium field for legendary former Georgia coach and athletic Vince Dooley. You need to be in your seats early on for the pre-game ceremony that will officially designate the Bulldogs’ picturesque venue as Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium. And I hope you’ve been able to pick up a copy of our tribute magazine to Coach Dooley this week, complete with stories and great photos of the coach’s storied career in Athens.
And after the long-overdue naming of the field for Dooley, who delivered a national championship and six Southeastern Conference titles to Georgia, there will be a football game of sorts between the Bulldogs, who are coming off a 30-6 season-opening win at Vanderbilt, and the Racers of Murray State, who also rolled in their season debut with a 59-20 spanking of Pikeville.
The Bulldogs, you see, are nearly a 49-point favorite over the Racers and if this game isn’t over by the end of the opening quarter or a little ways into the second period, then you will know that Georgia has come out totally flat and uninspired … with the Bulldogs’ minds already fixed on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish two weeks hence.
Murray State does have a few offensive playmakers in the likes of running backs Rodney Castille and Jared McCray and quarterback Preston Rice and also several good defensive players in linebackers Anthony Koclanakis and Kendrick Catis but those guys are playing in the FCS division for a reason — they certainly can’t compete with the numerous 5 and 4-star players that will line up on both sides of the ball for the University of Georgia.
The Bulldog players, following the mantra of head coach Kirby Smart, said it doesn’t matter whom their opponent is on any given Saturday, that they want to play to a standard. Their goal is to achieve excellence both on offense and defense and also in the special teams’ areas.
So against Murray State Saturday, Georgia will be attempting to build on the opening-game pasting of the Commodores. The Bulldogs will strive to be more consistent on offense for an entire game after putting up 21 points in the first half and only three field goals in the second half last weekend in Nashville. And defensively, of course, Georgia would take another game where it doesn’t surrender a touchdown but, even on that side of the ball, the Bulldogs allowed the Commodores’ ace running back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, to rip off a number of sizable gains.
And most of all, Smart and his assistant staff want to see the Bulldogs quit stopping themselves like they did against Vandy with 10 penalties for a whopping 117 yards.
I’m looking for the Georgia starters to be on the field Saturday for at least a full half, putting the Racers away over those first two quarters and thereby enabling the coaches to play almost everyone on the dress roster the entire second half … yes, even those 30 or so extra guys who didn’t make the 70-man traveling roster for the Vanderbilt game.
A final score prediction for this game? Your guess is as good as mine. Throw out any high point total for the Bulldogs and you should be close to it. I’ll go ahead and call it Georgia 51, Murray State 10.