Georgia will encounter its biggest appetizer in Sanford Stadium history Saturday afternoon when the No. 3 Bulldogs host Arkansas State.
The game has a noon kickoff, and once it's over, conversation about Notre Dame's visit on Sept. 21 will consume almost every discussion during news conferences. The tradition-rich Fighting Irish have never ventured to Athens, so the immediate goal of Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs is making sure next week stays in next week.
"We're really not worried about Notre Dame right now," sophomore center Trey Hill told reporters this week. "We're just focused on Arkansas State and dialing in on those guys. They've got a pretty good team."
Said senior defensive lineman David Marshall: "There may be other people who are focusing on other teams, but we're just focusing on one."
Next week's game against Notre Dame is expected to rank among the most expensive tickets in college football this season. The cheapest ticket on StubHub as of Tuesday night was $263.70.
The Bulldogs will host Notre Dame two years after traveling to South Bend and rallying past the Irish 20-19, a win that served as a springboard to Georgia's first Southeastern Conference championship in 12 seasons and a trip to the Rose Bowl.
"We just don't look past today," Smart said. "That's the thing. If you're focused on the day and focused on getting better — when you turn on the tape, you tell your players, 'You be the judge.' We did that last week, and we're doing that again this week, because the tape speaks for itself.
"These guys have a really good football team. I know you're sitting here saying, 'Yeah. Right. Whatever,' but they have a good team with a good quarterback and good wideouts. They've got an explosive defense and all-conference players all over the place. I've got a lot of respect for them."
Smart was asked whether members of his vast support staff were already breaking down video of next week's foe.
"Nobody in our building is going to be working on Notre Dame this week," he said. "That's not our focus. I have too much respect for this team and how they play."
Arkansas State has yet to defeat an SEC team but did beat Ole Miss in 1915, nearly two decades before the league was formed. The biggest modern-era victory by the Red Wolves was their 18-14 upset of Texas A&M at Kyle Field to open the 2008 season.
Texas A&M was a Big 12 member at that time and joined the SEC in 2012.
Georgia will be Arkansas State's seventh SEC opponent in the last seven years. The Red Wolves lost 51-14 at Auburn in 2016 and lost 57-7 at Alabama last season, when they trailed 40-0 at halftime.
The Bulldogs insist there will be no overlooking anybody come Saturday.
"We pride ourselves on working each week as if we were playing in the national championship," junior inside linebacker Nate McBride said. "You can't take away from other teams, because they're good teams."
Smart was asked after Tuesday's practice about visiting locker rooms around the SEC, a question that followed reports that LSU encountered a Texas locker room last Saturday night that didn't have air conditioning.
"They're mostly the old (19)60s and '70s home locker rooms," Smart said. "Some of the places I've been to and the dungeons I've been in — they're not high quality. I'm not picking on other places, because they're not very good here.
"I've been in the visiting one here, and it's not very nice. That's just the way it is."
Odds and ends
Redshirt freshman receiver Tommy Bush has a groin injury that will keep him out another couple of weeks. ... Smart on the positives of noon kickoffs: "The biggest things are the recovery for the players and getting to go home and watch the night games with the kids and my wife."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.