There have been countless big games hosted over the years in the long, storied history of Sanford Stadium, home of the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs.
However, it’s difficult to find one anticipated more than Saturday night’s contest, when No. 7 Notre Dame comes to Athens for the first time.
Not only does the contest feature a matchup of Top 10 teams, but it’s a game that has grabbed the attention of the college football world.
ESPN’s College GameDay will be in attendance while Georgia officials are bracing for record crowds, with some projections calling for as many fans showing up without tickets as will be inside the 95,000-seat-plus Sanford Stadium.
For Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, keeping his team focused is job No. 1.
“We don’t really get into the exterior forces,” Smart said. “What’s going on outside, I mean you can think it’s going to affect our guys, but it’s really not supposed to. We’re really playing the opponent that lines up across from us, and we even talk about playing ourselves more than anything.
“I know our guys will be excited to play. I know it will be an awesome atmosphere. Our fans never fail when it comes to support and being there. It’ll be a record crowd with the additional seats. But after that it’s going to come down to football, and that’s what it always boils down to, who can block and tackle.”
For Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly, it’s an opportunity to rid some recent demons. Despite last season’s trip to the College Football Playoffs, the Irish have not beaten a Top 10 team away from South Bend since beating No. 8 Oklahoma on the road 30-13 in 2012.
However, it’s not the atmosphere that has Kelly concerned. Rather, it’s the talent his Notre Dame squad (2-0) will be facing — on both sides of the ball.
And it all starts with Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm.
“He’s efficient,” Kelly said. “ =He’s unflappable. You can pressure him, and he doesn’t panic. He makes great decisions. He’s sound with the ball.
“Generally, look, when you get down to the really great teams, you’re going to get Trevor Lawrence. You’re going to get, you know, you’re going to get the great quarterbacks that are the reason why they start to separate. Fromm is one of those guys that gets you to start to separate.”
Defensively, Georgia (3-0) has Kelly’s attention, as well.
The Bulldogs have allowed just one touchdown to opposing offenses in three games, although Notre Dame is certainly a step up from the Bulldogs’ three opponents thus far of Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State.
“Again, probably not telling anybody here what you haven’t seen. It is all true. It is all true,” Kelly said. “We have seen some really great defenses over the last three years but haven’t had the kind of depth that they have.”
Smart said his team is ready for the challenge that the Irish will present.
“There’s been a lot of big games and I think that’s what is great for the kids,” Smart said. “You don’t have a ton of Top-10 matchups maybe the caliber of this one, but there’s a lot of Top 25 matches we’ve played in this stadium.
“So, it’s a great opportunity for our program to be on the national stage. It’s a great opportunity.”
—Field Level Media