The Tigers (3-1, 0-1 SEC), under the direction of first-year coach Hugh Freeze, already have played on the road twice themselves. They fell to Texas A&M 27-10 in College Station last Saturday.
But traditionally, Auburn is a whole different animal at Jordan-Hare Stadium, considered one of the toughest venues in the SEC.
“Road SEC tests are always difficult; there is no way around it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “I think any conference when you go on the road in it, it’s always a test. It’s a test of focus, patience, endurance, composure, all the qualities you need to be a good team. So, we get our first one.”
More importantly, Georgia gets its first SEC road test under quarterback Carson Beck. The redshirt junior from Jacksonville had to wait until this -- his fourth year in Athens -- to earn the job of QB1 for the Bulldogs. So far, at least, his work in that role has been good.
But Beck knows playing on The Plains in the nationally-televised SEC game of the week is a different level of challenge altogether. He was asked after the UAB game if he felt he was ready for it.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Beck said after throwing for 337 yards and 3 TDs in the 49-21 win over the Blazers. “SEC games are what we live for, especially on the road. It will be a little different with the travel and all that, but it will come down to preparation.”
Which brings us back to those speakers. It is not unusual – in fact, it’s quite common -- for Power 5 teams to crank up artificial crowd noise and/or music as they prepare to play games against opponents in hostile environments. Georgia has done it forever.
But the Bulldogs took it to another level after they opened the William and Porter Payne Indoor Athletic Center in 2017. Nicknamed the “House of Payne” by the players, that goes double for their eardrums when it comes to the state-of-the-art sound system inside the $30.5 million facility.
“Coach turns it up in there as loud as you can turn it up,” junior linebacker Jamon “Pop” Dumas-Johnson said Monday, shaking his head. “He makes it so loud in there that, when the game comes, it’s easier. It’s lower on game days because our ears have been blasted out Monday through Thursday.”
It doesn’t happen just when Georgia is getting ready to play an opponent on the road. The Bulldogs pump in noise pretty much every week all year.
“He throws it at us periodically,” tight end Brock Bowers said of Smart. “We do it in camp, too. He just does it randomly. He’ll just say, ‘crank it up!’”
Last week, when Smart yelled “crank it up,”, the speakers apparently had enough. They went on the fritz. They blew out.
“May have just been old age,” Smart cracked.
Not that the players minded. It can get old.
“They don’t necessarily like it because people get a headache,” Smart said. “But we’ve done it since the first day of camp. We did it for practices in the spring. We do it all the time.”
And it’s not just for road games. When Georgia plays at home at Sanford Stadium, P.A. announcer Brook Whitmire works up the crowd with a long, drawn-out cry of “it’s thiiiiiirrrrrd down!”
“Communication is everything,” Dumas-Johnson said of playing defense. “You’ve got to dial in on that. Coach Schu (Glenn Schumann) showed us a video Friday night of Ray Lewis talking about how important communication is and alerting the guy next to you about what the offense may be doing.”
Likewise, it might be doubly important for offenses on the SEC road. Average attendance in the SEC was 76,667 last year. Capacity is 88,043 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, making it the 11th largest on-campus stadium in the country.
And it’s definitely one of the loudest, especially when it’s Georgia or Alabama playing in there. Saturday is the 128th renewal the series known as the Deep South’s Old Rivalry. It has been played every year but three since the schools founded their respective football programs in 1892.
The game has been a solid sellout since tickets went on sale this summer. Even after the Tigers lost last week, tickets are being sold on the secondary market for more than $300 apiece.
“It will be one hell of an environment,” said Smart, who has participated in more games at Jordan-Hare more than any other stadium other than Alabama’s Bryant-Denny and Sanford. “They do an incredible job with their fan base.”
Beck insists he’ll he ready for it.
“On the road in the SEC against Auburn, we’re excited about that,” he said. “It’s another chance for us to find our identity.”
Beck certainly has been solid at home. Heading into the season’s fifth game, he has completed 72.7% of his passes for 1,184 yards and 6 touchdowns with one interception. He has been sacked four times.
The Bulldogs are confident in the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder’s ability to replicate his play on the road.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Bowers said. “I mean, we’ve already played four games as a unit and he’s done fine. Just adding that element of crowd noise shouldn’t throw us off too much. We should be fine, as long as we prepare the right way, anticipate checks and stuff like that before it happens.”
Said Smart: “That’s something that we’re going to find out. I don’t think you know. I think he’s been through some ups and downs. He’s certainly been against good defenses like Auburn has. He goes against our guys. But it’s different when it’s live. So , ou gotta find out how he responds to that. I’m very confident in Carson’s ability.”
The Bulldogs vow to have Beck ready, even if they have to blow out another set speakers doing it.
Georgia-Kentucky kick off time set
Georgia will host Kentucky on Oct. 7 wIth a 7 p.m. kick off in Athens, the SEC announced Monday. The game will be televised by ESPN.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC