Bulldogs Beat

Cupcake city: Bulldogs see advantage in playing non-power opponent at end of season

What’s it like playing non-power conference teams? There’s two ways of looking at it, Smart says

Kirby Smart spoke with media Monday afternoon ahead of Saturday's game against the Massachusetts Minutemen.
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Kirby Smart spoke with media Monday afternoon ahead of Saturday's game against the Massachusetts Minutemen.

A few Georgia players have a sweet tooth.

Tyler Simmons is a fan of AirHeads Xtremes and Rodrigo Blankenship will stop by the gas station on Thursday nights to grab a package of AirHeads Bites to eat before going to bed.

But what about cupcakes?

“I like my mom’s lemon cake,” Georgia linebacker Juwan Taylor said, who also likes to pair it with strawberry or butter pecan ice cream. He said people call him an “old man” for favoring butter pecan, but likes it nonetheless.

Blankenship agreed, he will go for a lemon cupcake when given the chance.

As a team, Georgia will get its own cupcake specially delivered from Amherst: the Massachusetts Minutemen football team.

It will be a common theme across the SEC as 12 of 14 teams are set to face-off against a mid-to-lower tier FBS or FCS program.

Georgia’s cupcake was pretty expensive, as well.

The Bulldogs paid UMass $1.5 million to travel to Athens Saturday, according to an open records request obtained by The Telegraph in April 2016. The contract also included a home-on-home basketball tilt, and UMass leads the so-called series with a 1-0 tally after beating Georgia’s basketball team 72-62 on December 16, 2017.

“I’ve spoken on this before as far as playing non-Power 5 teams,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, in reference to favoring a nine-game conference schedule. “I think it’s important that you play quality opponents, but I also think, having coached at lower division levels, it’s important to their programs to be able to finance their programs. Some of these programs financially can’t sustain without it.”

UMass makes the 980-mile trip to Athens with a 4-7 record. The Minutemen have played one Power 5 team, Boston College, this season and lost 55-21. It did, however beat a Group of 5 team, UConn (1-9), by a 22-17 tally in Storrs, Conn.

The temptation for complacency is evident as Georgia is a 43.5-point betting favorite and based on those odds, could lull a Sanford Stadium crowd to sleep by the second quarter. Georgia, however, didn’t do so in the two other times it welcomed “bye-week teams,” in the words of Smart, to Athens. Instead, it trounced Austin Peay and Middle Tennessee by a combined score of 94-7.

New cupcake, same plan.

“We prepare the same way for every opponent — there’s no difference,” Georgia linebacker Juwan Taylor said.

As coaches voice reasons for change and fan bases anticipate games against upper-echelon opponents, these games could be soon ending. The changes have begun for Georgia as home-on-home series are scheduled against Clemson and Texas from 2028-30.

Georgia’s trip to Notre Dame last season serves as the basis of excitement for future trips.

“You get to play some incredible talents and incredible teams across the country and from different conferences,” Blankenship said. “It brings new challenges that we might not normally be preparing for, so I think it is going to be awesome to have such big historic programs like Georgia, Texas and Clemson to meet and cross paths.”

It starts next season with home contests against Notre Dame and Texas A&M (the first time the Bulldogs have faced off against the newest cross-divisional opponent). Then, Georgia is also planned for a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in 2020 (Virginia), 2022 (Oregon) and 2024 (Clemson).

But first, it’s the cupcake. Based on the UMass’ school colors, a red-velvet base with cream cheese icing could be the best fit.