- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- No. 5 Georgia (9-1) completed its conference schedule last week with a 38-0 thumping of Auburn that clinched back-to-back SEC East titles. Now the Bulldogs must face Georgia Southern (8-2) and Georgia Tech (5-5) to wrap up the regular season before playing in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1.
First up is Georgia Southern, the No. 6 team in the FCS, which will visit Athens on Saturday in what has become an every-four-years occurrence. The Bulldogs are 4-0 against the Eagles thus far.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest UGA-related storylines as we move closer to kickoff:
1. Changing gears on defense
The most intriguing storyline of this matchup, by far, is Georgia’s resurgent defense against an Eagles offense that leads the FCS in rushing at 401.2 yards per game. The typical game week against a lower-division opponent might equal a light week of practice for the Bulldogs, but spooked by the need to prepare for the Eagles’ flexbone rushing attack, Georgia’s coaches have had their team participate in full-pads practices all week.
2. Gurley pursuing history
With 973 rushing yards, Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley sits only 27 away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark this season. Gurley is already second on Georgia’s all-time rushing list for true freshmen, trailing only Herschel Walker’s legendary 1980 season -- in which he rushed for 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns.
3. Seeking double digits
If Georgia manages to win Saturday, it would notch its 10th victory of the season. That would be the 20th time in school history that the Bulldogs earned double-digit wins and the eighth time in Mark Richt’s 12 seasons as head coach. Georgia went 10-4 last season, so this could be the first time since 2007-08 that the Bulldogs won 10 games or more in back-to-back seasons.
4. Keep up the pressure
The Eagles have a solid defense by FCS standards, but Georgia’s offense ranks among the most productive units in the upper division. The Bulldogs could assist their defense by generating more of their customary big plays -- only two FBS teams have more than Georgia’s 34 plays that covered 30-plus yards this season -- to build a comfortable early lead. Georgia Southern’s ground attack is not constructed to play from too far behind.
5. Home-state ties
Nearly every team Georgia plays has a number of native Georgians on its roster, but that is especially the case with Georgia Southern: 77 of its 89 players hail from the Peach State. That group includes starters from Athens and the surrounding areas like A-back and kick returner Darreion Robinson (Bishop) -- whose brother Dunta Robinson is a starting cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons -- defensive lineman Brent Russell (Comer) and cornerback Valdon Cooper (Elberton).