Game Time: 6:30 p.m. CT / 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
How to watch online: www.secsports.com/watch
In 2016, both the Samford Bulldogs and the Georgia Bulldogs finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. This year both teams are off to a 2-0 start. The Battle of the Bulldogs has taken place once before in 1943, a game that Georgia won 39-0. Saturday night is homecoming for No. 13 Georgia, and Samford is bringing a high-powered offense to town.
Earlier this week I spoke with Kevin Blackwell, the in-stadium voice of the Samford Bulldogs, to give us an idea of what to expect on Saturday.
Samford offense vs. Georgia defense
Georgia fans need to know the name Devlin Hodges. The junior QB at Samford lugs around 205 pounds on an athletic 6-foot-1 frame. Through two games, Hodges has 558 passing yards with a completion percentage of 64.8 percent. He also gets it done with his legs, having racked up 83 rushing yards on the season.
Hodges accounts for eight of Samford’s 11 touchdowns so far this year. It should come as no surprise that he was named to the preseason watch list for the Walter Payton Award (given annually to the top player in all of NCAA Division I-FCS football).
Hodges has a go-to target in junior wideout Kelvin McKnight. McKnight, who averages 121 receiving yards per game, runs crisp routes, has great hands and will be the guy Hodges looks to when Samford needs a big play. Can he sustain that success against an SEC defense? He did in 2016 against Mississippi State. He had 13 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown against those Bulldogs. We’ll see a lot of quick throws from the pistol formation, and Georgia’s defense will have their hands full with what Samford fans know as the “Hatch Attack” (The nickname comes from Samford head coach Chris Hatcher).
On the other hand, Georgia’s defense has given up only two touchdowns this season. They’ve allowed an average of 275 total yards per game, but they have forced their opponents to kick field goals. Did I mention their 16 tackles for loss and four sacks? They like to get in the backfield and when they do, it makes for a long night. Expect them to put pressure on Hodges early and often.
Georgia offense vs. Samford defense
Samford’s defense has given up a lot of points this year. Through two games, they look like more of a “bend-don’t-break” unit, but they’re athletic and they’re opportunistic. Senior linebacker Shaheed Salmon leads the team with 23 tackles and he will have to be at his best if Samford has any chance of slowing down Georgia’s offense. Junior defensive lineman Ahmad Gooden is right behind him with 18 tackles, 3.5 TFL and three sacks. Gooden will be a key piece to stopping Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who each average 80 rushing yards per game.
Good luck with that.
Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm was thrown into the fire when Jacob Eason went down with a knee injury in Week 1, but he has led his team to a 2-0 record. He’s thrown for 284 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Against Notre Dame he muffed an exchange with his center and overthrew some open receivers, but the former five-star recruit has a group of talented receivers around him.
Senior wideout Javon Wims is 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 lbs. Wims has 116 receiving yards and one touchdown on the year, but he will have a size advantage over anyone who attempts to guard him on Saturday. Samford has a talented secondary, but containing him will be a tall order.
Georgia hasn’t allowed much in the kick return game this year. If you want a precise number, they’ve allowed 99 return yards. Kick returns have been a strength for Samford, with junior Darius Harvey racking up 235 yards in two games. Harvey can flip the field in a heartbeat and Samford will need him to do that on Saturday night to give his offensive teammates the shortest field possible.
There are several intriguing storylines that accompany this game. Kirby Smart got his first college coaching job at Valdosta State in 2000. He made $8,000 a year. The guy who hired him? Samford head coach Chris Hatcher. Both of Kirby Smart’s parents graduated from Samford, where his dad was a starting center for the football team. Georgia plays its home games in Sanford Stadium, which sounds a lot like Samford Stadium.
Samford isn’t intimidated by SEC teams, but they’ll be playing a night game in front of a rowdy crowd. I believe they’ll keep it close for a half, but the Bulldogs of Georgia will pull away comfortably in the end.
Georgia 52, Samford 20