ATHENS — The Georgia Bulldogs were chased indoors by heavy thunderstorms and lightning Tuesday afternoon. Coach Kirby Smart said the Bulldogs got in only about one-third of what was planned as a full-contact outdoor practice when lightning detectors sent the team running for cover inside the Payne Indoor Athletic Center.
That made for relatively cramped quarters for all 105 players as the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs moved toward completing their preparations for Saturday’s game against No. 11 Oregon. Georgia has just one indoor field compared with two outside, one of which is just 70 yards long.
“We wanted to be outside all day today; unfortunately, we got sent in with lightning,” Smart said. “… But when we went inside, it was no issue. We transition easy in there and we had red-area (drills) today, and that made it even easier because … we don’t need to use as much of the field. So, to have to end in the indoor was fine.”
Tuesday’s altered practice plan came one day after Smart pronounced that the Bulldogs “certainly are not completely ready for Oregon. We shouldn’t be. We have other things to do to get ready. We’ve got a lot of situational football to get ready for.”
Meanwhile, 2,700 miles away in Eugene, Ore., Georgia’s opponent also is wrapping up preparations. Because it’s on a quarter system and doesn’t start classes until Sept. 27, Oregon has not been limited by the NCAA’s 20-hour maximum participation rule that goes into effect once school is in session. UGA, in contrast, started classes Aug. 17, so it has been restricted by the 20-hour rule for two weeks now.
Coach Dan Lanning’s Ducks took advantage of the extra prep time as long as they could. But Lanning said Tuesday they now are paring down on their workload in anticipation of Saturday’s game.
“Our guys have been practicing really well,” Lanning told reporters at Oregon’s Media Day on Tuesday. “We’re working on kind of getting our legs back after fall camp. We’re trying to be conscientious of what we’ve been doing with our guys out on the field but also making sure that we’re game ready.”
Coaches and players from both programs are extremely motivated to play this game. It’s considered one of the top matchups for college football’s Week 1 lineup. That slate also includes No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (7:30 p.m., ABC), No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas (3:30 p.m., ESPN) and No. 7 Utah at unranked Florida (7 p.m., ESPN).
“It is awesome to play these kinds of games,” Smart said of playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. “Obviously, (Oregon is) a well-respected program, a well-liked program. The recruits love the infatuation with the uniforms and Nike and what all of that stuff means. It is a big stage to be on. I am sure it is mutual for them. It is an opportunity to increase your national exposure and your national recruiting.”
Said Georgia safety Christopher Smith, a senior from Atlanta: “It’s super exciting any time you get to go out there and step on the field and show what you’ve been working on all offseason. We’ve built and worked to get to this point. The job’s not done; the hay’s not in the barn. We’ve got to keep putting in the work. But I can’t wait to go out there and play another team.”
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