Georgia braces for 'very dangerous' Georgia Southern squad
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia is 5-0 in its state rivalry against Georgia Southern when the Eagles were a FCS program.
Now the Eagles can try to prove they can compete on even ground with the Bulldogs.
Georgia Southern (7-2) will visit Georgia (7-3) on Saturday as a bowl-eligible Sun Belt Conference team. Georgia Southern's triple-option offense always has been a challenge to defend. Georgia coach Mark Richt said the Eagles now are ''very dangerous, period.''
A loss to Georgia Southern program still perceived by Georgia fans as an in-state little brother would be devastating for Richt, who has felt increased heat following Southeastern Conference losses to Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.
''I'd prefer not to play them because they're that good,'' Richt said of the Eagles. ''I think it's good that we do play them, when you look at the big picture. ... It will challenge our guys, I promise you. I don't know what the fan base thinks about this game, as far as who should win, but I can promise you we'll get tested in this game as much as any.''
Georgia Southern wasn't eligible for a bowl last year, its first as a FBS team, when it was 9-3 and was 8-0 in the Sun Belt. The Eagles can land their first bowl bid this season. Beating Georgia might be a bigger accomplishment.
Georgia Southern coach Willie Fritz says he has tried to approach the game the same as before last week's 45-10 win over Troy. He realizes it's not just another game for his players or for his fans.
''We don't talk about upset or whatever,'' Fritz said. ''We put in the same exact preparation for this game as we did last week. I think the game will hype itself for the players. I'm not naive enough to think it wouldn't.''
Here are some things to know about the sixth all-time meeting between Georgia Southern and Georgia:
GROUNDED: There are only two teams in the nation with a current streak of at least two straight wins while throwing for fewer than 100 yards, according to STATS LLC. Georgia and Georgia Southern are two of those teams. Navy is the third, with three straight wins without passing for 100 yards. This is the first time since wins over Southern Mississippi and Alabama in 1990 that Georgia has won two straight games with fewer than 100 yards passing.
THEUS TRIO: The game will be a reunion for three Theus brothers, including Georgia starting left tackle John Theus and long snapper Nate Theus. Georgia Southern freshman Jeremiah Theus played in one game before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He will seek a medical hardship and is expected to be on the Eagles' sideline. Nate Theus is one year older than John but was held out one year as a redshirt. Nate and John will be recognized with other Georgia seniors in a pregame ceremony.
UGA X IS OFFICIAL: Georgia's new English bulldog mascot ''Que'' will officially replace the retiring Uga IX in a pregame ceremony. Que has served as mascot all season, replacing his 11-year-old grandfather ''Russ.'' Frank ''Sonny'' Seiler's family, based in Savannah, Georgia, has bred the line of English bulldog mascots since Uga I made his debut in 1956.
HOME-RUN HITTER: Eagles junior running back Matt Breida ranks second in the Sun Belt with his average of 138 yards rushing. He is tied for first with 14 touchdowns. ''He's a home-run hitter, without question,'' Fritz said. ''If he gets out there in open space, it's hard to catch him.''
NOT AWED: The Eagles already have proved they can compete with more established teams from the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference. Georgia Southern won at Florida in 2013 and lost close games to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State last year. This year, Georgia Southern opened with a lopsided 44-0 loss at West Virginia. Its only other loss was to Sun Belt rival Appalachian State on Oct. 22.