ATHENS, Ga. — The college football calendar is approaching the second Saturday in November, and the Georgia Bulldogs are still looking for an opportunity to celebrate inside Sanford Stadium as No. 9 Auburn comes to town.
Georgia has played just three home games to this point and prevailed once, surviving Nicholls State of the Championship Subdivision, 26-24, on Sept. 10. The Bulldogs hosted Tennessee and Vanderbilt last month and got swept in gut-wrenching fashion, losing 34-31 to the Volunteers on a Hail Mary as time expired and falling 17-16 to the Commodores despite outgaining them by 250 yards.
"I don't think there is a certain reason on why we just lose or struggle at home," sophomore outside linebacker D'Andre Walker said this week. "At the same time, you can't think about that. You just have to go out there and play. We still have two more home games after Auburn, so we just want to go out there and play well."
Georgia closes its regular season with visits from Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs are 10-point underdogs Saturday, the largest spread they've faced at home since being 14-point underdogs against Tennessee in 1996. That was Peyton Manning's junior season as Volunteers quarterback, and he threw for 371 yards in leading them to a 29-17 triumph.
Defeating Auburn would help Georgia avoid its first winless season at home against Southeastern Conference opposition since 1962, when the Bulldogs tied Kentucky (7-7) and were thumped by Georgia Tech (37-6). They have not lost all of their home league games since 1957, when they played only two and fell to Vanderbilt (9-6) and Alabama (14-13).
This is already the deepest Georgia has gone into a season without defeating a Bowl Subdivision foe at home since 1962.
The Bulldogs are 5-4 overall, having won true league road games against Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky but also losing badly at Ole Miss. They are 1-1 in neutral-site contests, opening with a victory over North Carolina in Atlanta and losing their annual matchup with Florida in Jacksonville.
"I don't think it's anything about home or away," Bulldogs first-year coach Kirby Smart said. "I think it's the demeanor in which you approach these games. I think it's important that we try to keep a routine for a game, and whether it's home or away, we try to keep the same routine in making sure the players have the same amount of free time or rest time or focus time — trying to keep that consistent from a home game to a road game.
"Sometimes it's not. Sometimes on the road game, you get away from things more. You get isolated more. As far as that goes, I think the crowd obviously is a difference and the momentum of the crowd is big at home. I think that helps."
Georgia played one of its better games against Tennessee and took a 31-28 lead with 10 seconds remaining on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Eason to Riley Ridley. The Bulldogs had 35 more yards than the Volunteers, who moved into the top 10 following that triumph, and Georgia's 421-171 yardage advantage over Vanderbilt is its largest of the season.
Auburn outgained the Commodores by just 45 yards in last Saturday's 23-16 win.
"I don't know why it's happened," junior nose tackle John Atkins said. "We prepare every week the same. Every week we try to run the ball and stop the run, so we try to play the same everywhere we go. Even though the record doesn't show it, we have a lot of players improving."
Said senior snapper Trent Frix: "We want to defend our home field, and we're going to do the best that we can to do that. It's just been one of those things this year."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.