ATHENS, Ga. -- Might this finally be the game where Georgia gets a breather?
With slumping FCS opponent Appalachian State (2-7) visiting Athens today at 12:30 p.m., Georgia (5-3) is a favorite to win big -- something it hasn't done yet this season. But with a showdown with longtime rival Auburn on deck next week, the best thing the Bulldogs can do is get this one over early.
Let's take a look at five key factors entering today's game:
Get the reserves in, for crying out loud: Two snaps. That's all Hutson Mason has played this season. But that's what happens when every game your team plays is still in doubt in the third quarter -- and often deep into the fourth. If Georgia's backup quarterback is able to replace (a healthy) Aaron Murray sometime in the third quarter, this game probably has gone in the right direction for the Bulldogs. Injuries have been a major issue throughout the season -- Georgia probably will play without receiver Chris Conley and tight end Arthur Lynch today -- so the best thing the Bulldogs can do is put this thing away and preserve the starters for Auburn next Saturday.
Murray still chasing history: Murray still sits one touchdown pass away from Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record of 114 touchdown passes. Murray went 16-for-25 for 258 yards and a touchdown last week against Florida to pull within a touchdown of Wuerffel's mark. He already has set the conference's career records for total offense (12,591 yards) and passing yards (12,287).
Memories of Michigan: The only memory casual college football fans likely have of Appalachian State is the Mountaineers' 34-32 win over No. 5 Michigan to open the 2007 season. But that's actually one of seven wins Appalachian State has earned against FBS opposition since the Southern Conference reclassified to Division I-AA (now FCS) in 1982. We should point out here that the Mountaineers' other six wins against FBS teams all came against Wake Forest, most recently in 2000. Overall, Appalachian State is 7-32-1 against FBS teams since 1982.
The Gurley factor: Georgia tailback Todd Gurley did not appear to be at 100 percent last week against Florida -- nor did he appear to be at 100 percent this week in practice -- but he still accounted for 187 yards and two touchdowns against the Gators. It's extremely evident that Georgia's offense functions much more efficiently when he's in the lineup, however. Georgia is 4-1 in the games where Gurley has played and averaged 526 yards of total offense. It is 1-2 when he hasn't played (with the one win coming in overtime at Tennessee) and averaged 369.7 yards of offense in those games.
Defense coming around? In four of the first six games, Georgia's defense faced offenses that currently rank among the national top 40 in total offense, and the results were not pretty for the young Bulldogs. Four times, Georgia surrendered at least 400 yards of total offense. But in each of the last three games, Georgia has held its opponent below 400 yards. And here's the crazy part: Only one opponent all season, Tennessee, has accumulated more yards against UGA than its current season average. The Volunteers picked up 404 yards against Georgia and are averaging 359.1 yards per game this season. However, Georgia still ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense at 31.6 points allowed per game. With all of that in mind, Appalachian State comes in averaging 21.8 points per game and 414.2 yards per game.