ATHENS, Ga. - The Georgia Bulldogs have outscored Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State by a combined 125 points this football season.
Georgia led the Commodores 21-0 after three possessions in Nashville, scored 35 second-quarter points against Murray State and racked up 656 yards against the Red Wolves. The Bulldogs have proven they can dominate opponents, but can they play a four-quarter game should Notre Dame provide one this Saturday night?
"It's hard to answer that question," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said this past Saturday after the 55-0 win over Arkansas State. "You would like to say yes, but then we would be asking ourselves a lot more questions with the teams we've played. I don't worry about that as much as I worry about the physical conditioning, because there is really only one way to simulate the physical play of a four-quarter game, and that's to play it."
Notre Dame has yet to visit Sanford Stadium, making this week's matchup between the No. 3 Bulldogs and No. 7 Fighting Irish among the most anticipated Georgia has hosted. ESPN's "College GameDay" will broadcast Saturday from Georgia's campus, marking the show's first trip to Athens since Georgia's thrilling 44-41 win over LSU in 2013.
The Irish, who tuned up with Saturday's 66-14 shellacking of New Mexico after beating Louisville 35-17 in their Sept. 2 opener, are no strangers to the spotlight.
"It's why our players want to come to Notre Dame," Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday on a teleconference. "It's like a Broadway show. You're always on stage. They know all their games are broadcast on NBC or CBS or ESPN or ABC.
"They want that. They relish that opportunity, and this game is why they come to Notre Dame. They don't see it as pressure. They see it as a privilege."
The programs met two years ago in South Bend, Indiana, with the Bulldogs pulling out a 20-19 triumph in the second game of Smart's second season in charge.
"This validates what we knew coming in - that this would be a spectacular home-and-home series," Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. "It should be a wonderful week for Athens, the University of Georgia and Notre Dame as well."
Georgia played in several big games last season but lost its final two, falling to Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title matchup and to Texas in the Sugar Bowl. Smart said the only way to know how this year's Bulldogs can handle a big stage is to play on one.
"You want your guys relaxed and ready to play," Smart said. "Sometimes hyping things up and making games larger than life can get you in trouble. We've played in a lot of big games, so our guys are not going to be intimidated by that."
Notre Dame was among the participants in last season's four-team playoff, as was Georgia in 2017. This week's game will be the lone CBS prime-time telecast this season, and it's the first time the Bulldogs have been televised by that network in prime time since it started showing marquee Southeastern Conference matchups in 1996.
"It's always good to play a top team in the country and a storied program," Georgia senior receiver Lawrence Cager said. "They've got a great team, and we've got a great team, so it's going to be a great matchup under the lights. I'm ready to do it."
Said senior safety J.R. Reed: "It's one game at a time. The standard doesn't change, and what we do doesn't change. These are nameless, faceless opponents."
Odds and ends
Georgia opened as a 12.5-point favorite over the Irish, and the line quickly jumped to 14. Cager on why he preferred his block on James Cook's touchdown run Saturday more than he liked his own scoring reception: "I liked the block better, because it was a pancake. I might get a little dinner for that one." Georgia has landed a 2021 commitment from David Daniel, an athlete prospect from the Atlanta suburb of Woodstock who is ranked No. 41 overall nationally by 247Sports.com.