The last 100 tickets to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium were sold this week, pretty much eliminating the only real suspense concerning the meeting with Idaho State. Georgia’s streak of sold-out games continues at 62.
But it’ll be interesting to see how many thousands of those sold-out seats will be empty when the Bulldogs and Bengals take the field. There’ve been pockets of seats going unused all season, and not just in the student section. On the heels of a disappointing loss to Florida that put the Dogs officially out of the SEC East race, and with a less than compelling match-up against an FCS (formerly 1-AA) jabroni opponent, the stands could look quite spotty Saturday, even with the 1980 national champions being honored at halftime.
The Bengals, of course, will get their $525,000 for being Georgia’s designated breather, and barring a complete implosion by the Dogs, Georgia will get another win to count toward becoming bowl-eligible.
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity acknowledged earlier this week to The Macon Telegraph that, “I think you’re gonna have a certain percentage of fans that might not come” to Saturday’s game. But, he said, “We only have six home games this year, so it’s not like you have a glut of home games. So it more or less turns into a weekend to tailgate, to be around their friends. I think that’s so much a part of college football.”
Granted, but aside from some hurry-up Saturday morning tailgating fun compressed into a brief window by the early kickoff and the chance to enjoy a beautiful day in the prettiest college stadium in the country, what will the fans get?
Hopefully, a chance to see the Dogs do more than go through the motions against a lesser opponent, as Georgia teams have been known to do over the years. Said Mark Richt about this game, “We think about winning the rest of our games starting with Idaho State. There’s honor in that. We have fans that have paid their money for their season tickets. We’ve got people that still love the Dogs and want to see them do well.”
I’m not too worried about the Dogs getting upset by the Bengals. Richt said he’d remind his players of James Madison beating Virginia Tech and Jacksonville State toppling Mississippi this season. And everyone always remembers Applachian State over Michigan a couple of years ago. But Idaho State likely would get whipped by any of those FCS schools. They’re 1-7 and rank last in virtually every statistic kept by the minor-league Big Sky Conference. OK, they do have the nation’s leading punter, but that’s getting into Vince Dooley “best long snappah” territory. Basically, it’s virtually impossible to imagine a scenario where the Dogs lose this game.
Is just winning enough, though? As Richt noted, fans have paid their money, and they didn’t get a discount for a no-name opponent.
I’d hope that the UGA coaches challenge the Bulldogs to a lot more than just not overlook Idaho State.
Sure, this is a chance to empty the bench and let the subs get some playing time, but not until the starters have made a statement that every game counts.
Anything less than a shutout should be considered a failure on the part of Todd Grantham’s defense.
And while Richt generally is known for taking his foot off the accelerator when his teams get a comfortable lead, the general tenor of this season would seem to require a different approach this week: Go all out and see just how many points Georgia can rack up. It’s not like running up the score is going to hurt the feelings of the Bengals, who will be enjoying a rare opportunity to play in one of college football’s storied stadiums, in addition to the big payday.
No, breaking the 60-point mark against Idaho State wouldn’t make up for the Dogs’ earlier poor performances or turn this into anything other than a mediocre season at best.
But at least it would give the fans something to cheer and show that there’s still Bulldog pride Between the Hedges, no matter how the season has gone.
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