Georgia’s Smart preps No. 3 Bulldogs for big-game atmosphere

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              FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2016, file photo, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, left, and South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp meet on the field before an NCAA college football game in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina has made constant improvement since bottoming out at the end of the Steve Spurrier era. But lose to Georgia on a high stakes SEC opener for both teams and the Gamecocks will likely spend another season in the national shadows. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt, File)
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Georgia coach Kirby Smart is not worried about the loud, raucous atmosphere his team faces this week at No. 24 South Carolina.

After spending plenty of time talking to the third-ranked Bulldogs about how to properly handle their first big test and Southeastern Conference opener, Smart believes they’re ready.

“You either control it or it controls you,” Smart said. “I’m a big believer in you control it by what you do.”

Georgia (1-0) has won its past three games and four of the last five over the Gamecocks (1-0). He understands his players have heard a lot of outside noise about not losing focus and feeling overwhelmed by the sold-out crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium. He’s prepped his players on how to stay poised despite distractions.

“You just try to show examples of people that have played in tough environments and struggled and made bad decisions, and guys that have played in tough environments and never been affected by the environment,” he said.

Sounds simple. But it can be difficult.

Smart understands nothing will come easy against the improved Gamecocks, who feature one of the premiere playmakers in the SEC in receiver Deebo Samuel.

Samuel missed the Georgia game last year, a 24-10 Bulldogs victory, with a broken leg that cost him 10 games in 2017.

A healthy Samuel returned for South Carolina and picked up where he left off with seven catches, including a one-handed grab for a touchdown late in the 49-15 win over Coastal Carolina. He also had two kickoff returns for 45 yards and an 11-yard run.

“He’s probably the most underrated player in all of college football, because I don’t know that everybody in the country knows what the SEC knows about Deebo Samuel,” Smart said. “I mean the guy is phenomenal.”

Samuel did face the Bulldogs two years ago and was hard to contain with four catches for 90 yards.

Samuel said it was hard to sleep the night before the opener because he was so anxious about playing.

“It has been 11 months not being able to play against another opponent. I was just glad I was able to get back out there and play,” he said.

He’s ready to keep that going.