Georgia Bulldogs no stranger to top-10 foes

Georgia Bulldogs no stranger to top-10 foes

September 27th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray shouts instructions against Clemson on Aug. 31.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. - The Georgia Bulldogs have had some high snaps and missed tackles this season, but there is no concern about big-game experience entering Saturday's showdown with LSU.

Georgia will be playing its third top-10 opponent in four games when the No. 6 Tigers invade Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 9 after beginning the season at No. 5, opened with a 38-35 loss at No. 8 Clemson on Aug. 31 and rebounded the next week with a 41-30 win over No. 6 South Carolina.

The reprieves in Georgia's opening gauntlet were an open date on Sept. 14 and last week's 45-21 win over North Texas.

"It's crazy, but it's fun," Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said this week. "It makes preparing every week fun, and it makes game days fun. When you drive through campus to the stadium, it was a lot more fun before South Carolina compared to last weekend.

"There is more of a buzz. It's lively in Athens right now, and it's fun to be a part of it."

The Bulldogs have three top-10 foes in the first four games for the first time ever, and this week's result will have a sizable impact on the team from a national standpoint. Beating LSU would give the Bulldogs two victories over top-10 teams, something they haven't accomplished in a regular season since 1976, when they defeated No. 10 Alabama and No. 10 Florida on their way to a Sugar Bowl date against eventual national champion Pittsburgh. A loss, however, would saddle Georgia with a 2-2 record before October's arrival.

"You know it's going to be a competitive game, and that makes it fun," outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "You're going to want to play as hard as you can, but it also [stinks], because if you make a mistake, it could decide the fate of you going to the SEC championship or the national championship and you're sitting and watching other teams play."

Said junior receiver Michael Bennett: "We don't want to be 2-2. We don't want to be 1-1 in the SEC. We don't want to be behind the 8-ball. We've got to control our destiny."

Georgia would still be in control of its SEC East destiny with a loss Saturday, because of the win over South Carolina. The Bulldogs must lose two conference games to give the Gamecocks a chance, and the Bulldogs could be solid favorites the rest of the way, especially with Florida recently losing quarterback Jeff Driskel and defensive lineman Dominique Easley to season-ending injuries.

"If we get this win this Saturday, I definitely feel like we would control our own fate," Jenkins said. "If we beat LSU, that would boost us up in the polls, and people would realize that we're a title worthy team."

CBS is televising the LSU-Georgia game for an eighth consecutive time, with three of their matchups having occurred in SEC championship pairings, and ESPN's "College Game Day" is setting up shop at Georgia for the first time since the 2008 loss to Alabama. The Bulldogs have not fared well with the "Game Day" crew around, losing five consecutive times and going 3-12 overall.

"When you start worrying about those outside distractions, you're not going to have success," defensive lineman Garrison Smith said. "You've got to have tunnel-vision focus. The hype behind this game won't help you win it."

As for Georgia's coaches, they don't view this week any differently from the next several Saturdays.

"Obviously it's a big game and a top-10 game, but when you play in this league, they're all really like that," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "They're all big. Next week is going to be big. When you play in an SEC stadium, they all feel like a national championship game.

"They all feel like they're life or death, whether 'Game Day' is there or not."

Bulldogs get No. 17

Georgia picked up the 17th commitment for its 2014 signing class Thursday, receiving a nonbinding pledge from Keyon Brown of Wauchula, Fla. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Brown is rated by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 5 weakside defensive end and the No. 89 prospect overall.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.