How can a fairly small private school from the FCS with no real - certainly not recent - history of actually competing on the playing field with the University of Georgia be deemed an “enemy?” Because they’re on our schedule. And Pat Sullivan was once their head coach. Pat’s a good guy, but he played for Auburn. I hate Auburn.
Who are they? The Samford Bulldogs.
Dawg Dog: Chris Hatcher (Valdosta State, 1991-1994)
Where them dogs at? Birmingham (actually, Homewood), Alabama.
Famous Alumni: Bobby Bowden (1950-1953 for then Howard College), Cordell Hull (Sec’y of State under FDR, 1933-1944), Fred and Lamont Samford (sic) - Mmm’kay, I made that one up.
What conference do them dogs bark in? The Southern Conference (7-5, 5-3 in 2016).
Why they might be a cupcake: They lost 6-starters on offense, 5 on defense and are an FCS school. Nothing against FCS schools, but any SEC team worth a toot should always handle an FCS school.
Why they might give us indigestion (other than, because “Hey, we’re Georgia. We do irritable bowel syndrome right!”): They have a very good quarterback and their “Dogs” have a recent history of giving that other SEC schools who has the Bulldog mascot a very hard time. And, frankly, after the Nicholls State scare I’ve been taking the purple pill every day since then and twice on Saturday.
Fast Fact: Georgia has only played Samford once, winning the 1943 match 39-0.
Samford will roll into Sanford Stadium on September 16th for an unusual FCS vs. Power 5 team that will actually be broadcast at night (7:30 P.M., SEC Net Alternate). Everyone knows that this year’s home slate has much to be desired, but I’ve got to tip the ol’ cap to the folks who made the spectre of a blazing hot, noon start a much more palatable event by pushing this thing back at least 6 or 7 hours. Wisdom.
What do we know about Samford? Well, they have a very good quarterback in Devlin Hodges (6’ 1”, about 210) who likes to sling the ball around and can tuck it and run when he needs to. In fact, Hodges was the Southern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in ‘16. He threw for 4,088 yards and 36 touchdowns last year, and gained 222 yards on the ground. Hodges reminds me a bit of Aaron Murray: A little bit short for a QB, but maximizes his arm strength and is mobile enough to make plays when things break down. Hodges is on the Walter Payton Award watch list...essentially the FCS’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
Junior wide-receiver Kelvin McKnight (5’ 9”, 188) is Hodges main target. McKnight is on the SoCon’s pre-season 1st team and his 2016 stats are impressive: Seventy receptions for 896 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also is a punt/kickoff return specialist and can be used in sweeps in run situations, much like Isaiah McKenzie.
Samford has some experience in key spots returning on defense. Defensive lineman Ahmad Gooden (6’ 1”, 245), linebacker Shaheed Salmon (6’ 2”, 232) has great size and Senior DB Omar Williams (6’ 1”, 200) all return not only as multi-year starters, but are on the SoCon’s 1st team preseason list.
Lest I forget to channel my inner Vince Dooley...Samford also has a SoCon preseason 2nd-team punter. Austin Bernard (Fayetteville, GA) can kick it from Homewood - straight over Red Mountain - and pin it somewhere in Bessemer.
Samford is ranked 19th in the preseason FCS polls. Last season, they advanced to the FCS playoffs and played eventual FCS National runner-up Youngstown State very tough up in Ohio, eventually losing 38-24. Samford scored 41 points on Mississippi State in a game that became a shoot-out and had to be for the Bizarro Dogs to prevail. In that game, Hodges threw for 468 yards (42/69, 4 tds/3 ints).
This season, despite losing 11 combined starters, they have a very good corps of defensive players and Hodges is an accurate, experienced passer. They are undersized on both lines and grinding against a Georgia team that has, at least on offense, seemingly become gigantic virtually overnight under Sam Pittman will be a problem.
Samford is a pass-first offense. They lost their leading rusher (Larry K’rondis) to graduation. Sophomore Justin Curry (5’ 10”, 205) and Junior Roland Adams (5’ 10” 207) will have to step it up. Both are compact, “scat-back” type runners who can catch it out of the backfield.
Chris Hatcher likes to run a quick, up-tempo offense with a single back set and wants to move the ball and the clock. Georgia’s DB’s are going to have to jam up close to their receivers and limit the quick throws. Devlin Hodges attempted 530 passes, completing 375 in 2016 for a 71% completion percentage. That’s pretty good shootin’, Tex.
I need another Pepcid.
They are going to throw. And when they’re not throwing, they’ll be throwing. Samford is not about to run over our defensive front and fast linebackers. It’s the dink-and-dunk stuff that could give us fits for a while. I expect them to move the ball, and quarterback sacks might be few and far between because of mobility issues.
Will our Dawgs prevail over their Dogs? Absolutely. We might even draw some inspiration by having another night matchup instead of a 92 degree kickoff with 70% relative humidity but the dewpoint temperature of about 80 (that is Miami hot, btw).
This game is right after the Notre Dame matchup. We could be in for a letdown - win or lose the week before in South Bend - but I’m thinking we aren’t going to be punting much on this particular day. Samford will move it some and will probably get some points, too. They’re awfully good at scoring. They just won’t be able to keep up.
DavetheDawg’s prediction: Georgia 54 Samford 20.
Until next time...
P.S. Don't forget about next week's solar eclipse. I'm pretty sure it's the one where the sun passes between the earth and moon...somewhere near Columbia, SC.