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UGA linebacker Channing Tindall (41) tackles USC player. The University of Georgia football team beat South Carolina 40-13 on Sept. 18, 2021, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

As Georgia continues to prepare for its top-25 road matchup with Auburn, head coach Kirby Smart and linebacker Channing Tindall met with the media to discuss this week’s preparation on Tuesday.

First hostile road test

The Bulldogs have been the road team twice this season. First, they were designated as the road team for their neutral site win over Clemson in Week 1, then they went to Nashville in Week 4 to take on Vanderbilt.

In both games, Georgia fans were able to show up in large numbers, diminishing the effects of being on the road. Against Auburn, more Georgia players than usual will face an extremely hostile crowd for the first time.

“You used to have 25% of your team that had not been on the road,” Smart said. “And you know now we're at probably 50% that hasn't been on a true road game and that kind of environment because of COVID last year, so you're seeing the impact of that.”

Smart added that those players are likely to have mistakes, but it will be important for the Bulldogs to respond to those mistakes in a positive manner.

The Bulldogs’ mentality for their matchup with the Tigers is like any other game. Tindall mentioned that while road trips to stadiums like Jordan-Hare are difficult, the best thing he and his teammates can do is lock in and play to their strengths.

“It definitely gets rowdy in that stadium,” Tindall said. “Look around you can feel the ground shake a little bit down there at Auburn. But just like just being there, like you said, I’ve played at different away games and what not and you just got to lock in. Our biggest strength is ourselves.”

Preparing in adverse conditions

The last few days in Athens have not been kind to Georgia’s practice schedule. Rainy weather has caused the Bulldogs to mostly practice in their indoor practice facilities, although Smart said the rain held off just enough for practice to be held outside on Tuesday.

“It’s messy outside, but we actually got to go outside for a little bit so that was good,” Smart said. “It was wet, but it wasn't unbearable.”

Smart added that they haven’t been able to practice outside as much as they would like, since he likes to have a good mix between indoor and outdoor practices. The biggest reason for wanting to practice outside is the softer grass surface compared to the turf the Bulldogs play on indoors.

Smart mentioned that it's hard for some of the players like Tykee Smith and Darnell Washington who have been recovering from lingering foot injuries to constantly practice on a harder turf surface.

“The problem with [playing] inside of the turf wears on your legs a little harder so you don't like being on turf every day,” Smart said.

Remaining humble on defense

Georgia is coming off its second straight shutout of an SEC opponent. The Bulldogs’ defense ranks first in the nation in scoring defense by a large margin, only allowing an average of 4.6 points per game. The next closest team is allowing 11.6 points per game on average.

While it is important to build off the momentum that the Georgia defense has created, Tindall said the Bulldogs must remain focused on the task at hand.

“We don't focus on defensive rankings, we just try to be the best,” Tindall said. “We know like when you start paying attention to what your ranking is or not that's when you start to maybe get a big head or maybe fall, like it's not paying attention to the goal at hand.”

The defense will be tested this week by Bo Nix, Tank Bigsby and wide receivers like former Georgia player Demetrius Robertson who all have shown explosive potential through five games.

“You can't just look out for Bo Nix, you have to look out for everybody,” Tindall said. “They have really good wide receivers as well. D-Rob just transferred there that we all know really well. We just have to say like do our jobs and not be Superman. Stick to our job like playing each gap, and it'll take care of itself.”