ATHENS, Ga. — As of Tuesday afternoon, there were about 100 tickets left for Georgia’s game Saturday against Idaho State. It figures to be the 41st straight sellout at Sanford Stadium, but every seat being filled might be a bigger upset than Idaho State winning the game.
There are a couple reasons for that: Georgia’s losing record and the loss to Florida has sucked some air out of the fan base. But Idaho State, an FBS team from 2,000 miles away, doesn’t bring a lot of cache’.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have a date with No. 2 Auburn a week later. And Idaho State is the team that has to fly across the country and back for essentially just a paycheck.
So fans, coaches and even players on both sides can be forgiven for wondering: What’s the point of this game?
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“I guess we could use this game as a momentum game, I guess,” Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings said.
And no, getting a win against any team would not erase any of the hurt feelings from the loss to Florida.
“I guess the only thing that would make us feel better about that game is beating (No. 2) Auburn,” Commings said. “We don’t ever want to lose to Florida. I don’t think anything’s going to make us feel better about it until we beat them next year.”
The matchup with Idaho State was scheduled by the previous UGA athletics director, Damon Evans, as part of his effort to brand Georgia nationally. Next year, New Mexico State is visiting Nov. 5.
But Evans’ replacement, Greg McGarity, already has canceled a series with Oregon, and he made clear that his preference for non-BCS league opponents is proximity.
“I think that would be the first priority a regional team,” McGarity said. “Which may allow visiting fans to attend, and people may be more familiar with a regional opponent.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt put it another way.
“We feel like if we can get in the SEC championship game that spreads the brand enough,” Richt said. “What more do you need?”
If Saturday’s opponent were from Georgia, or a neighboring state, it could help with turnout. Instead, the school will be counting on Bulldogs fans to make the trek for a 12:30 p.m. game.
After a deflating loss to their rival, McGarity granted that could be difficult.
“I think you’re going to have a certain percentage of fans that might not come,” McGarity said. “I know the game’s the main focus. But we only have six home games this year, so it’s not like you have a glut of home games.
“So it more or less turns into a weekend to tailgate, to be around their friends. I think that’s so much a part of college football.”
Richt said he would speak to his players later this week about the recent spate of upsets by FCS teams. Virginia Tech was felled by James Madison, and Mississippi by Jacksonville State.
What he probably won’t tell them is that Idaho State is 1-7 and at the bottom of the Big Sky Conference. By comparison, Jacksonville State is unbeaten and James Madison is 4-4.
“We’re still fighting for our season,” Georgia defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. “I think the guys still have that spark. We’re out of the SEC race But we still have a season to finish. We still have a bowl game to look ahead. You try to get eligible for that.