clearn.png
Saturday December 4th, 2021 5:42AM

No. 1 Georgia’s Smart sees value in Charleston Southern game

By Charles Odum AP Sports Writer
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

ATHENS — As the Southeastern Conference prepares to expand to 16 teams with the additions of Texas and Oklahoma, it may be more difficult for teams such as Georgia to find room on their schedules for such nonconference opponents as Charleston Southern.

That’s tough for Georgia coach Kirby Smart to accept.

Smart says such FCS programs like Charleston Southern, which plays at No. 1 Georgia on Saturday, are boosted by the payouts they receive and “need these games to survive.”

“I think some of these programs are really struggling after talking to some of their athletic directors, talking to some of their coaches pregame,” Smart said. “It funds sometimes 50%, sometimes 45% of their budget to have one of these games.”

The game also is important to Georgia, which is looking to protect its national championship hopes.

Georgia (10-0) already has completed its Southeastern Conference schedule with a perfect 8-0 mark. The Bulldogs close their regular season with nonconference games against Charleston Southern (4-5) and Georgia Tech on Nov. 27 before playing in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 5.

Georgia paid Charleston Southern $500,000 to play in Athens.

Smart said he has mixed feelings about scheduling FCS opponents. He says most fans prefer such high-profile nonconference matchups as Georgia’s 10-3 season-opening win over Clemson.

It would have been more difficult to schedule Saturday’s game if Georgia played nine SEC regular-season games, instead of eight.

“The league is going to get bigger,” Smart said. “There’s going to be more games, and fans want the bigger games. Fans don’t usually want these games. It’s a pulling of two separate ways.”

Charleston Southern coach Autry Denson says the game is a “great opportunity” for his players and for the budget of his school’s athletic department.

“It’s one of those deals where you don’t want to see those opportunities go away,” Denson told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

PLAYING TIME FOR ALL

This could be a week Georgia backups gain experience while Smart protects the health of his starters.

“I hope everybody gets to play, but I don’t control that,” he said. “... The hope is that we go out and play our best game.”

Stetson Bennett is expected to make his eighth start of the season for Georgia after passing and running for touchdowns in last week’s 41-17 win at Tennessee. JT Daniels, who opened the season as the starter, could play behind Bennett.

BIG CROWD NO CONCERN

Charleston Southern regularly plays before fewer than 4,000 fans in its home games. The Buccaneers’ biggest crowd this season was 39,218 at East Carolina.

There should be more than 92,000 fans at Sanford Stadium on Saturday. Denson, the former Notre Dame running back, says he is not worried about how his players will react.

“Our guys are going to follow leadership,” Denson said. “I was raised in these games. They’re going to follow my lead.”

Besides, says Denson, “at the end of the day the fans can’t go on the field.”

FLU BUG

Smart said Georgia had seven or eight players recovering from a flu virus, including some who became sick after the Tennessee game. He said some coaches also had the bug, though up to 85% of the team had been given the flu vaccine shot.

SENIOR DAY II

This may be the first of two senior days for some Georgia players.

The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to student-athletes due to the coronavirus pandemic, so some seniors have the option to return in 2022. One of those players is Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who is 7-0 as a starter this season.

Smart doesn’t want to rush those decisions. He is encouraging players to participate in the pregame ceremony even if they ultimately return for another season.

“We’re going to honor those that choose to walk and a lot of them may decide to come back,” Smart said. “A lot of them have an extra year of eligibility, but we’re not crossing that bridge yet. So, we’re going to have them walk and then make the decision. If they walk twice, great, then they have a special opportunity.”

Smart said Wednesday he expects 28 to 30 seniors to be honored before the game, including 16 or 17 who are considering taking advantage of the extra year.

25 THE CHARM?

Charleston Southern is 0-24 all-time against FBS teams. They came close to the elusive win over a FBS team in a 31-28 loss at East Carolina on Sept. 25.

  • Associated Categories: Sports
  • Associated Tags: Georgia football
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Girls basketball: No. 1 Lady Indians open with impressive win over Lady Falcons; Branch boys win
It’s been eight months since the Lumpkin County girls walked off the court after a heartbreaking last-second semifinal loss to Cross Creek in the Class 3A playoffs...
9:47PM ( 3 hours ago )
Updated
Girls basketball: Gaither leads Cherokee Bluff past Commerce; Chestatee wins
Timber Gaither scored 19 points to lead Cherokee Bluff to the season-opening win over Commerce, 49-38, on the road Thursday.
8:37PM ( 4 hours ago )
Updated
Falcons' thin offense has Patterson inactive vs. Patriots
Running back Cordarrelle Patterson is inactive for Atlanta against the New England Patriots on Thursday night, taking one of the Falcons' most productive players away from an already depleted offense.
7:16PM ( 6 hours ago )
Sports
Georgia’s Anderson released on bond 1 week after rape charge
Georgia outside linebacker Adam Anderson was released from the Athens-Clarke County jail on $25,000 bond Wednesday, one week after being charged with rape...
By Charles Odum AP Sports Writer
9:48PM ( 1 day ago )
Bennett, No. 1 Georgia rout Vols after slow start
Stetson Bennett ran for a touchdown and threw for another as top-ranked Georgia remained perfect, wrapping up its Southeastern Conference schedule by routing Tennessee 41-17 Saturday...
By Teresa M. Walker AP Sports Writer
7:50PM ( 5 days ago )
No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama gearing up for final challenges
Top-ranked Georgia and No. 2 Alabama appear headed for a showdown in the Southeastern Conference title game...
By Gary B Graves AP Sports Writer
9:22PM ( 1 week ago )
Dogs still No. 1; Oregon, Ohio St., Cincy all move up
No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Cincinnati all moved up one spot behind No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Alabama in the second College Football Playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday night...
By Ralph D. Russo AP College Sports Writer
5:20AM ( 1 week ago )
CFB: Everything Kirby had to say at Monday's presser
University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart spoke to the media on Monday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
1:55PM ( 1 week ago )