No. 1 Georgia handed out a travel itinerary for the first time this season as the Bulldogs begin marching toward their first road game of the season on Saturday at Auburn.
All-SEC wide receiver Ladd McConkey hasn’t played this season due to a back injury. He could be on hand for the first time this season to assist quarterback Carson Beck in his first career start away from Athens.
“You’ve got to practice. You’ve got to be able to practice. How he does in those things will determine whether or not he’s able to play. He had kind of a two-week advised shutdown,” head coach Kirby Smart said on Monday.
Smart hasn’t coached against Hugh Freeze, in his first season at Auburn, since 2016 in Freeze’s final season at Ole Miss. While film reveals some of the offensive concepts are the same, Smart doesn’t see the same scheme with the Tigers using multiple quarterbacks.
“People evolve. They’ve evolved,” Smart said. “They’re really hard to defend. There are so many options to it.”
Georgia beat UAB to stay perfect this season. SEC play begins on Saturday and Smart knows many of his players are being measured in a road game for the first time in their current roles.
“Road SEC tests are always difficult. There’s no way around it,” Smart said. “It’s always a test of focus, endurance, composure — all the qualities you need to be a good team.”
Part of going on the road in the conference is being willing to simplify the game plan to counter crowd noise to control those variables. What that looks like, Smart said they’ll know when they get to Auburn.
Georgia has used crowd noise since spring practice not to simulate the decibel level in away games but to force players to communicate precisely while executing assignment football.
Beck has never started a game on the road with Georgia, which relied on two-time national champion Stetson Bennett the previous two seasons.
Is Beck ready to win on the road in the SEC?
“I think that’s something that we’re going to find out. I don’t think you know. He’s been through some ups and downs. He’s certainly been against good defenses, like Auburn has … he goes against our guys. It’s different when it’s live. So you’ve got to find out how he responds to that.”
Experience in the Bulldogs’ system gives Smart a bit of ease about how Beck will react and communicate.
“You only get good at these situational football things by playing football. This is his first chance to do it on the road,” Smart said.