ATHENS — Georgia sophomore Lewis Cine wasn’t trying to be prophetic Monday when he talked about what “a weird year” 2020 has been for a college football player. Unfortunately, though, he was.
The Bulldogs’ last game of the 2020 season against Vanderbilt was called off late Monday afternoon. The SEC office said the cancellation was necessary because of “the Vanderbilt football squad size and position availability falling below roster minimum requirements.”
The league declared the game a no-contest and said “the action is consistent with SEC COVID-19 protocols.”
The plug was pulled was just hours after coach Kirby Smart and several players told media how excited they were to have one more game to play no matter who the opponent was.
“It’s been very odd and weird for us,” said Cine, a starting safety for the Bulldogs. “The goal is supposed to be we play week to week to week. But (this year) sometimes games have gotten canceled, of course, and that has pushed the season further and further out. Of course, that’s not something we want, but you’ve got to adapt to it.”
Georgia is exploring the possibility of schedule another opponent. Miami and Colorado State are among teams were left with a sudden opening for this weekend. But UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity would not discuss specific possibilities.
“We are doing our due diligence,” he said, declining further comment.
Unless they can find another opponent, the No. 9-ranked Bulldogs regular season will end at 7-2. Also, Georgia’s 23 seniors will miss out a second time to be honored with Senior Day. Georgia is expected to receive a bid Sunday from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. That will be the fourth consecutive season Smart’s team has played in a News Year’s Day Six bowl or better in the postseason.
This was the second cancellation of SEC games set to be made up on Dec. 19.
Vanderbilt (0-9) was supposed play in Athens two weekends ago but canceled the day before Dec. 5 contest due to COVID-19 and other issues that left it short on personnel. The game was rescheduled for this Saturday, and it will be one of several conference games to be played ahead of the SEC Championship between Alabama and Florida in Atlanta.
Smart, speaking with media on his weekly video conference call at noon Monday, seemed adamant when he said, “we are optimistic that Vandy is going to be able to play.”
“That is not my expertise or my job to know exactly where they are; I am focused on us and where we are,” Smart said at the time. “But we are optimistic we are going to be able to play. They were able to play last week against Tennessee, and we are looking forward to getting our seniors out there for one last home game. That’s really all we can control.”
Later in the afternoon, reports began to emerge that the Commodores had encountered more COVID-19 issues and opt-outs. They remained short-handed last week but played host to Tennessee in Nashville. It showed as the Vols rolled 42-17.
In the meantime, Vanderbilt reportedly has settled on a new head coach. Reports out of Nashville Monday have the Commodores striking a deal with Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea. Lea reportedly will remain with the No. 2-ranked Fighting Irish until they complete the season, which could include an appearance in the College Football Playoffs.
Georgia, coming off a 49-14 victory over No. 25 Missouri this past Saturday, opened as a 40-point favorite against the Commodores. That line had moved back into the 35-point range as of Monday. The Bulldogs were a 36.5-point favorite when Vandy was originally scheduled to come.
At the time, Smart said just completing a season scheduled for 10 games would be a victory in itself.
“You play football to play the game; everybody loses sight of that,” Smart said. “There’s only one national champion last I checked. … What you have is an opportunity to play the game and go out there and compete against somebody.”
This is the first time in the last four years of Smart’s five-year reign as Georgia’s coach that the Bulldogs have been completely out of the championship picture for both the SEC and national titles. Georgia played in the conference title game each of the last three years, winning it and playing in the Rose Bowl in 2017.
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