ATHENS, Ga. — If there was ever a game where No. 5 Georgia might be tempted to look ahead, Saturday’s non-conference matchup against UMass would certainly seem to be it.
The Bulldogs are coming off an impressive three-game stretch with wins over Florida, Kentucky and Auburn to sew up the SEC East, and now face UMass and next week’s regular season against Georgia Tech before turning their attention to the Crimson Tide.
A spot in the College Football Playoff will be on the line, assuming of course, Georgia (9-1) can win its final two contests.
UMass (4-7) doesn’t figure to put up much of a fight. The Bulldog are favored by 45 points and are giving up 40 points per game.
Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart understands focus could be an issue.
“I think that’s leadership. I think we’ll find out a lot about our team this week because it’s never about who we’re playing,” Smart said. “I mean for you guys it’s about who we’re playing. But I’ve told you all every week that it’s not about Florida, it’s not about Kentucky. It’s not really about them. It’s just about how we work, because we worry about us. That way when you get to this week, it’s not different.”
The Minutemen are coming off a 35-16 loss at Foxborough Stadium to BYU, and earlier this year dropped a trio of games to Boston College (63-24), Georgia Southern (34-13) and FIU (63-24) by huge scores.
Nevertheless, Georgia players know the right things to say.
“It isn’t tough at all. It is the next game for us, the next opponent,” linebacker Juwan Taylor said. “We approach every week the same so there is nothing different about preparing for this game. Every week is the same for us, we prepare the same way for every opponent, no matter who we play.”
Even kicker Rodrigo Blankenship sang the same company tune.
“We are just going into this week with the same mindset that we had last week against Auburn. We don’t want to take anybody on our schedule for granted on any given Saturday. Anything can happen in this country,” Blankenship said. “We are going in with a mindset of being as serious as we can be and we need to have the same level of focus and concentration on details that we had last week. Hopefully, that will allow us to perform our best if not better than we did last week.”
However, not all players toed the company line with their responses about the game.
Wide receiver Tyler Simmons gave a little wink when asked if some of the team’s younger players were perhaps anticipating getting an opportunity for extra playing time.
“I’ve heard the buzz a little bit about young guys being excited to play,” Simmons said. “… I know they look forward to it a lot. … It’s just good to have a chance to see them play.”