Georgia Bulldogs: Georgia Southern Eagles

What we learned in the SEC: Week 13

November, 24, 2013
We saw an overtime win by Mississippi State over Arkansas on Saturday, a last-minute win by Vanderbilt over Tennessee and a shocking win by FCS team Georgia Southern over traditional power Florida. In short, it was just another wacky Saturday in the SEC.

Here are five things we learned around the league:

Division races going down to the wire: Both the Eastern and Western Division races will go down to the final weekend. Missouri's 24-10 win over Ole Miss means the Tigers can clinch the East -- in its second season in the conference -- by beating Texas A&M Saturday in Columbia. If the Tigers lose, South Carolina will win the division by virtue of its head-to-head win against Mizzou. In the West, Saturday's Iron Bowl will settle the division when Alabama visits Auburn. Right now the unbeaten Crimson Tide have the edge, but the one-loss Tigers would win the tiebreaker if they can upset the Tide.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertJohnny Manziel struggled against LSU on Saturday, just as he did against the Tigers last year.
Miles has Manziel's number: Johnny Manziel has run circles around almost everyone in his two seasons as Texas A&M's quarterback, but the defending Heisman Trophy winner hasn't fared well in two starts against LSU. In Saturday's 34-10 loss to the Tigers, Manziel finished 16-for-41 for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Les Miles' Tigers have limited Manziel to a 21.5 Total QBR in two games, and Saturday's loss was the first time he did not complete at least 50 percent of his passes.

Vandy's rabbit's foot still working: Vanderbilt backup quarterback Patton Robinette faked a jump pass to freeze a defender and ran for the game-winning touchdown against rival Tennessee with 16 seconds to play. This after Tennessee nearly stopped Commodores quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels on fourth-and-inches, only to have the initial call that he was stopped short overturned on replay. Vandy now has back-to-back wins over its in-state rival for the first time since a run of six consecutive wins over the Volunteers from 1920 to '26. The Commodores (7-4, 4-4 SEC) have won four of their last five games after sitting at 3-3 early in the season.

Murray's starting streak could end: Georgia laid a vicious 59-17 beating on Kentucky a week after a devastating loss at Auburn, but an injury to Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray put a damper on senior night. He injured his left knee in the second quarter and did not return, and coach Mark Richt said afterward that the SEC's all-time leading passer is unlikely to play Saturday against Georgia Tech. Murray has started every game of his college career so far -- he matched David Greene's school record for career starts by a non-kicker (52) -- but the Bulldogs might have to rely on backup Hutson Mason against the rival Yellow Jackets.

More mayhem for Florida: Will Muschamp's job status at Florida already seemed to be in jeopardy -- despite recent assurances to the contrary from his bosses -- even before Saturday's 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern. But the Gators fell to 4-7 with Saturday's defeat -- the program's first to a current FCS program since losing against Villanova in 1946 -- even though Georgia Southern didn't complete any of its three passes. The Eagles ran for 429 yards and held off a final Florida drive to pull the upset. That doesn't bode well for the embattled coaching staff. Florida will fail to play in a bowl game for the first time since 1990 -- Steve Spurrier's first season in Gainesville when the Gators were ineligible to go to a bowl because they were on probation.

Film study: Georgia vs. Georgia Southern 

November, 19, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Let’s take a look at three key plays from Georgia’s 45-14 win against Georgia Southern on Saturday -- and what they mean moving forward for the Bulldogs.

Fourth-down stop

Radi Nabulsi/

3 Up, 3 Down: UGA 45, Ga. Southern 14 

November, 18, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- A three-touchdown third quarter helped No. 5 Georgia take over against Georgia Southern on Saturday, turning a close game into a 45-14 blowout.

The Bulldogs (10-1) surrendered 302 rushing yards in the first of back-to-back doses of run-heavy option offense, but that practice will come in handy next week when the difficulty level increases against Georgia Tech (6-5) and its flexbone.

Let’s recap some of the highs and lows of Saturday’s victory:

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia piled up the yards in a much easier second half to pull away for a 45-14 victory against Georgia Southern.

It was over when: Georgia scored a touchdown on its first two possessions of the second half -- on touchdown passes from Aaron Murray to Chris Conley and Tavarres King -- to push a 17-7 halftime deficit to a comfortable 31-7 advantage.

Game ball goes to: Mike Bobo and Todd Grantham. Georgia’s coordinators helped turn Saturday’s game into a rout after an ugly first half. Bobo recognized that Georgia Southern’s defense had no chance of stopping Murray and the Bulldogs’ passing game, and he turned them loose in a 21-point third quarter. Grantham’s defense adjusted to Georgia Southern’s running game admirably, allowing just 31 rushing yards in the third quarter as the Bulldogs took control.

Stat of the game: 302. Georgia Southern’s flexbone offense gave Georgia’s defense all kinds of early problems, racking up 149 rushing yards on 29 carries in the first half. The Bulldogs tightened up afterward, although the Eagles finished with 302 total rushing yards. Of their 153 second-half rushing yards, 122 came in the fourth quarter after Georgia had already put away the win.

Turning point: Georgia led 10-7 with 1:12 left in the first half when Georgia Southern left guard Trevor McBurnett was flagged for a chop block that canceled out Dominique Swope’srun to the Georgia 5. Alex Hanks was instead forced to attempt a 39-yard field goal -- which he missed -- and Georgia drove 78 yards, scoring on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Murray to Malcolm Mitchell with 4 seconds left, to go up 17-7 at halftime.

What it means: No. 5 Georgia (10-1) bounced back from a slow start and got valuable practice for defending Georgia Tech’s highly similar flexbone rushing attack next Saturday.

Key stats: Georgia Southern vs. Georgia 

November, 16, 2012
Editor’s note: Each week, the good folks at ESPN Stats and Information will help us take a look inside the numbers that matter prior to Georgia’s games. We’ll share some of their data here on the blog every Friday this fall.

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. ET
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.

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Game breakdown: Ga. Southern vs. UGA

November, 16, 2012
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
WSB-TV (Atlanta)/ESPN3

Records: Georgia 9-1 (7-1 SEC), Georgia Southern 8-2 (6-2 SoCon)

Last week: Georgia beat Auburn 38-0, Georgia Southern beat Howard 69-26

[+] EnlargeJenkins
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesJohn Jenkins will be key for UGA this weekend.
What’s the Story?: After clinching the SEC East title last week for the second straight season, Georgia has a pair of out-of-division games against untraditional offensive teams -- Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, both of which feature run-heavy option attacks -- to complete the regular season. Containing those offenses will be a headache for the Bulldogs, who only recently started to peak on defense after struggling for most of the first half of the season.

Five headlines: Check out our recap of this week’s biggest storylines from Thursday.

Players to watch:
1. John Jenkins: The massive defensive lineman and his cohorts up front -- throw in Kwame Geathers, Garrison Smith, Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew -- handle their business against Eagles offensive linemen who are consistently diving at their knees, that will make it much easier for the defensive playmakers to tackle Georgia Southern’s ballcarriers. This will be a game built for a quick and powerful lineman like Jenkins.

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Five storylines: Georgia Southern vs. UGA 

November, 15, 2012
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:

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Option offense might mean more rotating

November, 15, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- When an option offense is clicking, it has the ability to rack up enormous play totals.

[+] EnlargeJenkins
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesExpect John Jenkins and his defensive linemates to be rotated liberally during the next two games against triple-option offenses.
Look no further than Georgia Tech’s whopping 92 plays from its 2010 game against Georgia for evidence.

And for that reason, Georgia’s defensive coaching staff must at least be wary of the possible need to rotate players more liberally than usual in Saturday’s game against Georgia Southern (8-2), as taking on blocks down after down can be a fatiguing process if the defense is struggling to get stops.

“We kind of go by the game, but we traditionally roll our defensive linemen anyway, so we’re going to work to keep those guys fresh and play them that way,” Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said.

“Your rotations happen more often [against the option]," he added. "We kind of have a rotation with our guys to try to keep them fresh. It’s just because of the amount of plays that they can get that it happens a little more often.”

Georgia Southern’s and the highly similar Georgia Tech flexbone offense that the Bulldogs (9-1) will face the following week are content to chip away with short option runs over and over until eventually breaking a big play on the ground.

It doesn’t always produce a huge play total -- at 66.6 plays per game, Georgia Southern is actually averaging fewer plays than Georgia’s 67.4 this season -- but it’s always a distinct possibility. Georgia Tech is averaging 68.75 plays against Georgia -- with its offensive play count ranging between 51 in 2009 and 92 the next season -- in four meetings since Paul Johnson brought his unique rushing attack to the Flats.

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Mark Richt and his No. 5 Georgia team (9-1, 7-1 SEC) have already clinched the SEC East title. But before playing in the conference title game on Dec. 1, they first must contend with back-to-back option rushing attacks from Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.

The Bulldogs’ coach used his time Wednesday on the SEC’s weekly teleconference to discuss the challenges in preparing for and defending the Eagles’ and Yellow Jackets’ flexbone offenses. He also continued his practice of refusing to discuss the Bulldogs’ BCS championship hopes so as not to appear that he is overlooking upcoming opponents.

1. Practice changes
Richt’s coaching staff has changed its practice routine this week, sending the team out in full pads each day -- instead of the normal practice of Tuesday and Wednesday only -- in order to prepare for the cut blocking it will face from Georgia Southern’s offensive personnel. So far the results have been mixed.

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No 'Amen Corner' for SEC powers

November, 14, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- There is no "Amen Corner" on an SEC football schedule anymore -- certainly not among the teams competing for the conference championship or BCS bowl bids.

[+] EnlargeMark Richt
Jeff Vest/Icon SMIThe Bulldogs finish the regular season with two nonconference games before preparing for the SEC title game.
Former Auburn coach Pat Dye used to describe the Tigers' annual season-ending games against Florida, Georgia and Alabama as "Amen Corner" because -- like the famed golf holes at Augusta National that have determined many a Masters champion -- championships were often won and lost there.

Nobody closes with such a demanding schedule anymore, however. With many of the conference's heavyweights preparing to face their biggest rivals next weekend, most opted to squeeze in an FCS opponent this Saturday -- the equivalent of inserting a 300-yard par-4 in between Holes 11 and 12 at Augusta.

No. 5 Georgia (9-1) is certainly no different, with Georgia Southern (8-2) visiting Sanford Stadium on Saturday, although Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is not expecting a cakewalk against an Eagles team ranked sixth in the FCS.

"We normally play them about every four years. That's been the routine, and every time they show up, I kind of wish we didn't set it up," Richt joked. "They're just a very good football team, one that causes all kind of problems for us, especially defensively, to try to defend their running game."

In each of the last three meetings between Georgia and its lower-division counterpart from Statesboro, the teams played in the first game of the season. The Bulldogs will take on the Eagles and their unusual flexbone rushing attack on Saturday with a highly similar Georgia Tech offense awaiting the following weekend -- as will be the case when Georgia Southern is next scheduled to visit Athens in November 2016.

Not that the Bulldogs exactly look forward to the challenge.

(Read full post)

Scouting report: Georgia Southern 

November, 13, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s every-four-years series with Georgia Southern continues Saturday, with the lower-division Eagles ready to serve as a thorn in the Bulldogs’ side yet again.

Georgia (9-1) is a perfect 4-0 against the FCS powerhouse Eagles (8-2), but Georgia Southern is known for making the Bulldogs work for the victory. In fact, they scored 28 and 21 points in two games (2004 and 2008) against Georgia since Mark Richt became the Bulldogs’ coach.

The Bulldogs are taking this game more seriously than their average matchup against an FCS opponent, practicing in full pads on a rainy Monday evening in order to begin preparing for the cut-blocking element to the Eagles’ flexbone rushing attack.

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UGA defense realigns for Eagles' offense 

November, 13, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Todd Grantham didn’t even need to hear an entire question about Georgia Southern’s offensive capabilities before bluntly tossing out a statistic.

“They had 370 on Alabama last year,” Grantham said, shortly after his Georgia defense posted its first shutout of the season against Auburn, 38-0.

[+] EnlargeTodd Grantham
Kevin Liles/US PresswireTodd Grantham's defense is on a roll, but the Bulldogs must make a radical shift the next two games to defend against the flexbone rushing attacks of Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech.
The Georgia defensive coordinator’s math was slightly off -- Georgia Southern finished with 341 yards of total offense last season at Alabama -- but that did not reduce his greater point. The Eagles hung big numbers on an Alabama defense that was not only the best in college football last season, but one of the sport’s best in at least the last decade, and his team can’t afford to look beyond this Saturday’s opponent, which is ranked sixth in the FCS polls.

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Todd Gurley Headed To The NFL
ESPN Scouts Inc.'s Kevin Weidl breaks down where he expects Georgia running back Todd Gurley to land in the NFL draft.


Saturday, 12/20
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Friday, 12/26
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Thursday, 1/1
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