UGA Football

Bulldogs excited to begin stretch against ranked teams, beginning with LSU

Smart excited for atmosphere, challenge at LSU

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart briefly previews Saturday’s trip to play at LSU, including a look back at his playing days in 1998.
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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart briefly previews Saturday’s trip to play at LSU, including a look back at his playing days in 1998.

At the midway mark of the season, Georgia’s report card wouldn’t have a perfect grade.

That’s if you ask Bulldogs’ wide receiver Terry Godwin, who thought his team was playing “B- football.” Now, that has to change as Georgia travels to Baton Rouge on Saturday for the first time since 2008 to play LSU (3:30 p.m., CBS).

It begins a stretch of four consecutive games (Florida, Kentucky and Auburn to follow) against ranked teams — three of which are away from Sanford Stadium.

“We haven’t played our best yet,” Godwin said. “We have to play our A+ game, because this is the tough stretch. The meat of the schedule. We have to play Georgia football.”

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart spoke highly of LSU in his Monday press conference, a place where he spent a season as an assistant under Nick Saban. He used the term “atmosphere” on a plethora of occasions as he experienced it both as a coach and player. He even recorded 12 tackles against LSU in 1998.

None of Georgia’s players have played at Tiger Stadium, but they’ve certainly heard of the fan base. Smart called it second-to-none and tight end Isaac Nauta said the team is preparing for situations in which Georgia “can’t hear” while on offense.

It marks one of the biggest road games on Georgia’s schedule, and many fans have made travel plans to Baton Rouge as they did for the Notre Dame and Oklahoma games a season ago. But don’t expect there to be a split crowd as Tiger fans will be reluctant to sell tickets to the opposing fan base.

“It’s supposed to be an electric place,” Nauta said. “They’ve got that home-field advantage, for sure. I’ve heard it’s crazy, and I’m ready for it.”

After getting past LSU’s weapons, including quarterback Joe Burrow, cornerback Greedy Williams, Georgia gets its bye week to allow players to recover. From then on, the caliber of teams won’t change. It’s one ranked team, then another and followed by another.

Georgia hasn’t yet played a four-quarter game or been legitimately tested outside of its own competition in practice, but it will now. Welcome to the heart of the SEC and the difficulties to come with it.

“There’s no time to cry about it. Nobody wants to hear that,” Smart said. “You have to get ready to play. That’s why you come to the SEC, to run the gauntlet of challenging teams.”

Added defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter: “You just want to make sure everyone is healthy. You have some guys that are bruised up and banged up. But, at the same time, you can’t change anything you’ve done.”

Georgia has its questions, and it knows those will be answered in the coming weeks. In order to raise its report card grade by the end of SEC play on Nov. 10, the Bulldogs carry one mentality.

“These atmospheres don’t concern me at all,” Georgia inside linebacker Juwan Taylor said. “We just need to go out there, play ball and have fun.”