Opposition Research: Murray State
No. 3 Georgia opens the home portion of its schedule Saturday afternoon (4 p.m., ESPN2) against FCS Murray State in a contest that should allow Kirby Smart to empty his bench.
It's the first meeting between the Bulldogs and the Racers, who are coached by Mitch Stewart. A former quarterback at Valdosta State, Stewart was recruited to the Blazers by none other than Kirby Smart.
As we continue our weekly series previewing each of Georgia's 12 regular-season games, we touch base with Blake Bernier, sports editor for the Murray Ledger and Times.
Obviously Georgia is a different animal than Pikeville, but if there’s one area in which Murray State could have some success, where would it be?
Bernier: "If you look at the matchup, the Racers are going to be dominated at every position. I think the special teams might be the only area where it’s at least even to an extent, but we may not see much of the Georgia guys to compare on Saturday. If the Racers are going to have any success offensively, it will be because of Preston Rice and his mobility as a quarterback. But again I don’t think the Racers will have much success at all against the speed and power of the Bulldogs.
Head coach Mitch Stewart said he believes the area where they will be more successful is effort and energy. They may get beat, but they will be the team giving the most effort on Saturday."
Murray State played Kentucky last year, and Louisville the season before that. Besides the financial gain of playing FBS teams, what does the program accomplish by stepping up in class?
Bernier: "Stewart said the biggest thing for this program is the money, but if you have to look further, then it’s about these players getting to showcase their talent against some of the top players in the country. This allows them to build confidence as the season continues.
I know last year, guys that sacked Terry Wilson were amped up as the OVC conference schedule started, and part of that was because they knew if they could wrangle in Wilson, they could find a way to bring down anyone at the QB position in the OVC. Same goes for running backs. Benny Snell posed a big challenge, and the guys gained confidence for the rest of the year by making plays on him."
How much do the players enjoy those kind of opportunities?
Bernier: "A lot of these guys are treating this like a homecoming of sorts. Plenty of the guys have family in the area and those that don't are still having family fly in for this game. Again, for them it’s about being able to play against the best in the nation, and having the chance to prove they were overlooked or under-scouted. They're all walking with a chip on their shoulder."
Who are some players Georgia fans need to keep their eyes on?
Bernier: "Preston Rice at quarterback is a guy who can make plays with his feet. Brian Sanchiuos is a Murray State basketball player converting to tight end, and although he’s playing limited snaps, his size can cause matchup issues in the red zone, even against a team like Georgia. Kendrick Catis, at his linebacker spot, will be asked to do a lot on Saturday against the potent ground game of the Bulldogs. I’m not sure he can chase Swift down, but I think he'll at least be able to string him out a few times, and force a shorter gain if Swift tries for the edge."
How do you see the game breaking down?
Bernier: "I’m a realist and know the Racers aren’t going to win this game. It won’t be close, but I think they will put up a fight and at least keep it within four scores headed to halftime. The Bulldogs will air it out in the first quarter and get a couple of TDs, and after that, they'll get to the ground game and finish with around 300 yards on the ground. Approximate final score 63-10. (Hoping for a garbage time TD like they got last year at UK)"