Start Time: 7 p.m. EST, Saturday, Nov. 21
Location: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia
Streaming: WatchESPN.com/WatchESPN App
Records: GSU (7-2, 5-1 Sun Belt), UGA (7-3, 5-3 SEC)
Weather: 50 degrees at kickoff, no wind, cloudy
Betting Line: Georgia -13, Over/Under of 50.5
If you're a fan of Georgia Southern there's a good chance you live in Georgia, and if you live in Georgia there's a good chance you know a lot about UGA football simply through osmosis. The Bulldogs get more column inches, more air time and more rack space than any other sports team in this state, for better or worse, which is why it's always an exciting game for Georgia Southern fans.
The story this season is the louder-than-ever calls for UGA to end the Mark Richt era, even if he is a nice guy with a nice F-150.
Georgia's offense has been sluggish to the point that Richt started third-string quarterback Faton Bauta in the Florida game because why not. It didn't work, and the Bulldogs lost three games in a four-game stretch before taking the last two against Kentucky and Auburn.
Georgia's defense has played well, ranking fourth in the SEC in total defense and allowing just 139.6 ground yards per game, so the Eagles might have trouble running through Georgia's ass like shit through a tin horn.
Georgia did give up 213 ground yards against Auburn last week and won't see anything like the Fritzkreig the rest of the year.
The key matchup for the entire game will be how Georgia's defensive front looks against Georgia Southern's O-line. The Eagles ran all over seven teams on the schedule, which is why they lead the country in rushing yards per game at 379 and four players have rushed for at least 557 yards and six touchdowns.
The Bulldogs will look to emulate both sets of Mountaineers the Eagles have faced. West Virginia spent the whole game in Southerns' backfield, disrupting any attempt at an offensive threat. Georgia Southern resorted to passing in the second half, to disastrous results (three third-quarter interceptions). Final score? 44-0.
Appalachian State made defensive adjustments after Southern ran in an early touchdown, and the Eagles wouldn't score again until garbage time.
Georgia's offense gets plenty of criticism, but quarterback Grayson Lambert isn't bad on paper. He's got 10 touchdown throws to two interceptions, completes nearly 2/3rds of his passes with just under eight yards per attempt. And while Sony Michel is no Nick Chubb he's still a good running back.
A key for the Eagles will be utilizing an interception-happy defense (14 on the year) to gain a few extra possessions and stay in the game.
Georgia Southern Outlook
If there's one wow stat from this entire season it's that. Georgia Southern held possession for nearly three full quarters of last week's game against Troy. You know what that means: A tired defense, frustrated offense sitting on the bench and lots of chances for the Eagles to score on a missed assignment.
If the TOP number is anywhere that one the Eagles can walk out of Sanford Stadium with a win.
Oh, and Georgia Southern absolutely, positively MUST have its possessions end in touchdowns, field goals and punts. There are other ways for drives to end that we won't mention here.
For the first time all season, the Eagles also displayed a passing threat last week. Kevin Ellison hit a wide-open James Dean for a touchdown. Favian Upshaw hit BJ Johnson for a big gain that should have been a score, and a third time Ellison overthrew Derek Keaton. All three times the receiver was insanely, ridiculously open in the center of the field. All you need is a few of those to keep the defense honest.
That said, Troy's defense ain't Georgia's defense.
Johnson is GSU's leading receiver, played in his first game back from injury against Troy and seemed to make an immediate impact, which could signal a trend. One more offensive stat: The Eagles have converted 11 straight fourth down tries. Look for them to keep trying.
Southern's defense, led by safeties Matt Dobson and Antonio Glover along with linebacker Ironhead Gallon, has quietly put together a strong season as well. The unit ranks second in the Sun Belt in points allowed (22.8) and yards (343.9) per game, is third in pass yards allowed (1,856 total) and first in rush yards allowed (1,239 total).
UGA's team is filled with bigger, taller players that will try the Eagle defense in many ways. Look for a couple of long passes early where Lambert will try and use the height advantage at receiver to turn in a big gain.
Prediction: This one could get interesting. Georgia and Georgia Southern have met five times, with the Dogs winning by at least 20 points each time. This go around, the spread sits at just 13, meaning a lot of folks think it will be closer than ever before.
If the Eagles really do pull this thing off we're likely looking at a "two-coacher:" Georgia's coach is fired, Georgia Southern's takes a promotion to Brand Name University.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. All I'm going to say is take the points and the Eagles. We'll see you Saturday night.