Georgia eased the memory of an overtime loss to its No. 1 rival Florida by beating up on a Football Championship Subdivision team in what amounted to a live scrimmage Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Now the Bulldogs can focus their undivided attention on maybe the best team in the nation, Auburn.
The Bulldogs came out of the 55-7 rout with the two most important things – a lopsided win and no major injuries. Although Georgia started slowly, it regained its momentum and gave its partisan fans a wake-up call.
With the new scheduling emphasis on home games against opponents willing to take a bruised eye for a fat paycheck, you can expect more of these showcases for the reserves in the future.
Idaho State came to town at a good time for the Bulldogs. Georgia needed a jolt of confidence after losing yet again to the Gators.
Georgia has also played 10 straight weeks with another game next Saturday, so the front-line performers needed a break from the weekly grind and they spent most of the second half lounging on the sideline.
But the mini-vacation ends with the Tigers and Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton rotating to the top of the scouting report.
Georgia took advantage of the break in the Southeastern Conference schedule to fatten up its defensive statistics.
The Bulldogs allowed just 151 yards and eight first downs. They gave up just 2 of 13 third-down conversions – a common problem for the team all season.
Georgia also forced three interceptions, two of which were run back for touchdowns and won the turnover battle 3-0.
To say Idaho State struggled would be kind. The Bengals are 1-8 for a reason and they accomplished next to nothing on offense.
Idaho State didn’t get past midfield until a late touchdown drive. Georgia also wasn’t shy about using its bench early and often as 25 players made tackles and nobody had more than four.
In the first quarter, Georgia looked like it was suffering from more jet lag than the Rocky Mountains natives of Idaho State.
Georgia’s first drive of the game stalled at the Idaho State 20-yard line when it couldn’t convert a third-and-2.
Quarterback Aaron Murray was sacked on the Bulldogs’ second series, which ended with a punt. Murray missed two open receivers as Georgia’s third possession skidded to a halt at the Idaho State 35-yard line.
Settling for two field goals and a 6-0 lead didn’t sit well with the Sanford Stadium crowd, which fueled some frigid grumbling from the fans.
Georgia eventually found its rhythm, but this is two straight weeks when the offense stumbled out of the starting blocks. The Bulldogs can’t afford to do that at Auburn.
If the tourists from Pocatello, Idaho, wanted to see the SEC atmosphere first-hand on Saturday, they didn’t get much.
Cold, moist weather and a sloppy start meant that the Georgia fans’ hands spent more time in their pockets than clapping.
Georgia cured its initial bumbling and built a comfortable lead and gave the Bulldog Nation something to cheer about by halftime. Then the stands steadily emptied after the starters sat down.
At times in the second half, the stadium was so quiet you could hear the cheerleaders chant.
The last thing Georgia coach Mark Richt would have wanted out of the Idaho State game was suspense and he got his wish. The outcome was never in doubt. The team provided highlight-worthy plays, which sent the fans home happy.
But a game without drama is boring to watch.
This game came around because Georgia wanted the income from an extra home date and cash-strapped Idaho State needed the $525,000 guaranteed payday. Idaho State coach John Zamberlin best summed up the purpose for the mismatch.
"It is what it is," Zamberlin said. "We played this game for the revenue."
Georgia (5-5, 3-4 in the SEC) visits Auburn (10-0, 6-0) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry.
• Roger Clarkson is a sports writer for the Banner-Herald. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.