Now that Hurricane Florence has intervened, the Georgia Bulldogs will be playing their third consecutive game in broad daylight rather than enjoying their first night game of the season on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
But, doesn’t matter. Facing the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders now at 12 noon instead of the original kickoff time of 7:15 shouldn’t change the fact that the 3rd-ranked Dawgs will blow out the Conference USA team from Murfreesboro, Tenn., just as Georgia did against the other team from Tennessee, Austin Peay, in the season opener two weekends ago.
Question is, how long will it take for the Bulldogs to put the Blue Raiders away Saturday? Coming off the 41-17 romp at South Carolina last Saturday — where Georgia fashioned a third-quarter performance I thought was every bit as impressive as any single quarter the 2017 championship team managed — will the Bulldogs play inspired enough from the get-go in a contest that is sandwiched between two huge conference tests, South Carolina and Missouri?
I’ll quickly answer my own question concerning Georgia’s motivation for the Middle Tennessee State game Saturday. As you readily know, Kirby Smart has said countless times it doesn’t matter who the Bulldogs’ opponent is, it just matters how each Georgia player takes the field and fulfills the expectations that Smart and the coaching staff have for said player. Every Bulldog has to compete for a starting job every single day of practice and once they do earn a starting nod for the approaching game, the player can lose that job just as fast if he doesn’t perform to the coaching staff’s standards in the game itself.
Kirby, you see, doesn’t play favorites! No matter if you’re a seasoned senior or a wet-behind-the-ears freshman when you take the hallowed playing field at Sanford Stadium you have earned your playing time through sacrifice and hard work on the practice field as well as giving the coaches the confidence you will handle your position assignments well when the band starts playing.
So, yes, because of Smart’s coaching methodology with this football team, I don’t think you will see the Bulldogs having any sort of letdown Saturday afternoon. I’m calling it Georgia 48, Middle Tennessee State 10, which will mean the Dawgs will be heading to Columbia, Mo. next weekend with a 3-0 season record and 1-0 SEC ledger.
Now, that we’ve got the eventual outcome of the game out of the way, here are a few things I believe the Bulldawg Nation would like to see happen in the romp over the Blue Raiders:
*** The Georgia secondary getting tuned up for Missouri’s great passing quarterback, Drew Lock, by putting the clamps on Middle Tennessee left-handed quarterback Brent Stockstill, a pretty fair passer in his own right, and Stockstill’s ace receiver, Moultrie-Colquitt County product Ty Lee.
*** Along that line, the Bulldogs’ defensive front getting ample pressure on Stockstill, just as they will HAVE to do against Mr. Lock on Sept. 22 in another high noon kickoff. I’m looking for such guys as D’Andre Walker, Monty Rice, Juwan Taylor, Jonathan Ledbetter, Walter Grant, Tyler Clark and the like to sack Stockstill Saturday … something the Bulldogs couldn’t do often against South Carolina QB Jake Bentley in Columbia.
*** And with that pressure the Bulldogs’ linebackers and D-linemen bring on Stockstill, the Georgia defensive backs picking off some of the quarterback’s throws. A pick-six by Deandre Baker, Tyson Campbell, J.R. Reed or Richard LeCounte would be greatly appreciated. Of course, senior corner Baker had one against the Gamecocks if he hadn’t dropped the ball at the SC 1-yard line after rambling 55 yards with the interception off Bentley.
*** Offensively, how about quarterback Jake Fromm playing again like he did in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium? Say a 200-yard passing performance from the Bulldog starter and a 100-yard passing effort from Justin Fields in relief would be a good mix for the UGA air game as it polishes its act for the trip west next week.
*** Those kind of passing days from Fromm and Fields would, of course, equate to a splendid performance by the Bulldog receiving corps. Mecole Hardman just continuing to do what he’s been doing in the first two games would be dandy but how about a breakout pass-catching day from the sophomore transfer, Demetris Robertson? Would love to see Robertson catch six or seven balls with one of those coming on a deep pattern that he ran so well in his freshman season at California. And of course, people like Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Tyler Simmons also enjoying productive receiving games.
*** And Georgia’s four-headed running attack of D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, Brian Herrien and James Cook rolling up about 300 yards on the ground against the Blue Raider defense with at least two of those guys topping the 100-yard mark. And maybe, that 60 or 70-yard touchdown run we haven’t yet seen from one of these tailbacks.
*** Rodrigo “Hot Rod” Blankenship continuing to look like the All-America place-kicker he has evolved into by staying perfect on his kickoffs for touchbacks and field goal attempts … if indeed he has to try any field goals Saturday. And freshman punter Jake Camarda continuing to boom ’em high and deep while also showing an improved touch in being able to kick the opponents dead inside their own 20.
*** But, all in all, just another brilliant showing by these 2018 Bulldogs, one that will make Vince Dooley’s powerful 1968 Bulldogs and his 1978 Bulldogs, which will both be honored by UGA this weekend, most proud of their alma mater’s performance.