Athens — Georgia coach Kirby Smart had a quick and long list of answers when asked this week if there was anything he liked about playing early games.
“My family afterwards,” said Smart, who will lead the No. 3 Bulldogs (2-0) against Arkansas State i(1-1) In a game that will kick off at noon Saturday at Sanford Stadium. “I get to see them. I get more time with recruits on the back end. The biggest thing is the recovery for the players and for me because the next game is the most furthest off. And getting to go home and watch the night games with my kids and my wife is probably the most enjoyable thing for me.”
That’s a little different take than the one offered by Alabama and coach Nick Saban this week. He went on another one of his trademark rants after the Crimson Tide’s 62-10 win over New Mexico State this past Saturday. Saban was unhappy that much of the student body in attendance left the game early.
"We expect our players to compete for 60 minutes of the game," Saban said. "I'm not satisfied with the way some of our players competed in the fourth quarter–the second team guys and all that. I'd like to see them get supported, just like some of the people that are fun to watch."
This Saturday, the No 2-ranked Crimson Tide (2-0) plays host to Southern Miss in a game that will kick off at 11 a.m. local time Tuscaloosa. Saban complained not only about having to play that early, but also about the Crimson Tide and other elite Power-5 programs such as Georgia having to schedule such inferior opponents.
The University of Alabama then doubled down on Saban’s remarks on Monday when school president Stuart Bell and athletic director Greg Byrne issued a joint statement complaining about television slotting the Crimson Tide for the early kickoff.
“We are disappointed that our home game against Southern Miss has been selected as a daytime kickoff at home,” the statement said. “We realize we’ve played more nonconference day games at home in September than any other SEC team since 2014. There have been a number of conversations with our conference office, and they also recognize the challenges these kick times present for our student-athletes and fans.”
Television networks choose what games will kick off when based on their weekly and monthly selections. Generally the most competitively-intriguing matchups will get the “primetime” slots, which generally are considered the 3:30 p.m. or any night kickoff.
It was 95 degrees for what was a 3 p.m. kickoff for Alabama last weekend. Georgia’s game against FCS opponent Murray State was conducted in similarly oppressive conditions this past Saturday. Smart insisted the Bulldogs thrive in those conditions.
“It’s money in the bank for us because we put a lot of sweat in the offseason and also in the preseason in that kind of heat,” Smart said. “Our guys are used to it. It probably would have been a lot tougher had it been a four-quarter game.”
But most of Georgia fans, like Alabama’s, had left the stadium by halftime. The Bulldogs were ahead 42-7 at the time and eventually won 63-17.
Smart insists crowd participation is the least of his concerns for Saturday’s matchup against Arkansas Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs’ coach has been warning anybody who will listen that he’s expecting a competitive contest against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves (1-1) feature the most sophisticated offensive attack the Bulldogs have encountered so far.
That Georgia will have to defend it early in the day is immaterial.
“It’s going to be a real test,” Smart said of the Red Wolves, who are averaging 36.5 points a game. “They have great wideouts at all positions, great tight ends, and they are really athletic and they’ve given people major problems with matchups. … It’s going to be interesting to see because they’ve got a guy that can spin it, and they’ve got a guy on the perimeter that can catch it, and they have experience doing it in big games and in big stadiums."
Georgia’s run of early games will end next week when No. 8 Notre Dame visits Sanford Stadium for an 8 p.m. kickoff (CBS).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution