- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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NO. 6 (FCS) GEORGIA SOUTHERN AT NO. 5 (FBS) GEORGIA
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
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
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.
2. Alec Ogletree: As with Jenkins, Ogletree is perfectly suited to defend this kind of offense. His speed and sideline-to-sideline tackling ability helped him lead Georgia with 11 tackles last season against Georgia Tech’s flexbone. Expect to hear his name called throughout Saturday’s game, as well.
3. Todd Gurley: The Bulldogs’ quick-strike offense has not racked up as many plays as it did a season ago because of a substantial increase in big plays. But it can still do the defense a big favor by controlling the clock a bit more on Saturday. If that is Georgia’s mindset, expect Gurley -- who with 973 yards is just 27 away from becoming the second Bulldogs true freshman ever to rush for 1,000, along with Herschel Walker -- to play a major role.
1. Jerick McKinnon: The junior quarterback was named the Southern Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week after totaling five touchdowns -- three rushing and two passing -- and rushing for 198 yards in last Saturday’s win against Howard. McKinnon (156 rushes for 1,053 yards) is one of two Eagles who are averaging 100 rushing yards per game, but as the quarterback, he’s the guy that makes their option offense work.
2. Dominique Swope: Swope (134-827, 14 TDs in eight games) is the other 100-yard rusher, carrying an average of 103.4 rushing yards per game into Saturday’s contest. The fullback rushed four times for 98 yards against Howard and broke an 82-yard touchdown run last season against Alabama.
3. Brent Russell: The FCS All-America defensive lineman sat out against Howard following an arrest and coach Jeff Monken has not confirmed that he will play this weekend, although Russell returned to practice this week. Russell grew up near Athens and played at Madison County High School, so he could be even more of a handful playing before a “home” crowd of sorts.
Georgia’s defensive front vs. Georgia Southern’s offensive line
Bulldogs fans are no doubt growing weary of reading stories about the challenge that the Eagles’ option attack will present. But it is without question the story of this game and next week’s game against Georgia Tech. If Georgia’s defensive personnel handles its assignments correctly, dodges the cut blocks and puts the clamps on the Eagles’ flexbone running game, the Bulldogs will run away for an comfortable win. But that’s easier said than done.
By the Numbers
Check out some of the key figures for this week’s game offered by ESPN Stats and Information
On Deck: Georgia hosts rival Georgia Tech (5-5) next Saturday. Georgia Southern’s regular season ends Saturday and it will learn its postseason fate on Sunday during the FCS playoffs selection show, which will air at 1:30 p.m. on ESPNU.