The Big Five – Georgia Southern

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The Big Five – Georgia Southern

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Georgia Southern football (Photo courtesy of GATAOneMoreTime - screen capture)
Georgia Southern football
(Photo courtesy of GATAOneMoreTime – screen capture)
[su_spacer size=”40″] Now that they’ve polished off the Auburn Tigers for a second straight season and avenged the grueling “Immaculate Deflection” loss to Auburn two years ago at Jordan Hare Stadium, the Georgia Bulldogs will return between the hedges Saturday (7 p.m.-ESPNU) to face an upset-minded Georgia Southern team.
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Following the 20-13 win at Auburn, Mark Richt’s Bulldogs will enter the 2015 home finale with a 7-3 season mark and a final 5-3 SEC ledger. Meanwhile, the Eagles of second-year head coach Willie Fritz come to town sporting a 7-2 season worksheet and a 5-1 record in the Sun Belt Conference.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia Southern opened the season with a disappointing 44-0 loss at West Virginia but then reeled off consecutive wins over Western Michigan (43-17), The Citadel (48-13), Idaho (44-20), Louisiana-Monroe (51-31) and New Mexico State (56-26) before then being upended at Appalachian State, by 31-13. The Eagles then rebounded to claw Texas State (37-13) and this past Saturday, rolled over Troy, 45-10. So, there’s one common opponent for the Bulldogs and Eagles as Georgia whacked Louisiana-Monroe by 51-14 back in the Sept. 5 season opener.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia Southern returned five offensive starters and eight defensive regulars from the 2014 team that went 9-3 overall and a perfect 8-0 in winning the Sun Belt regular-season title. In the Eagles’ first season as an FBS member, then first-year coach Fritz was named the conference’s coach of the year but the Eagles were unable to go to a bowl due to it being Georgia Southern’s first season after leaving the FCS level. But, with their seven wins already this year, the Eagles have now become bowl-eligible.
[su_spacer size=”40″] With its option offense, Georgia Southern still thrives on running the football and the Eagles are rushing for nearly 385 yards per game. They are led by junior running back Matt Breida (5-11, 190) who had run for 1,158 yards, a 9.5-average per carry, and 13 touchdowns entering the Saturday battle against Troy and then added 84 yards in that easy victory. Last season, Breida romped for 1,485 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to earning All-Sun Belt honors. Running backs Wesley Fields (6-0, 195, Fr.) and L.A. Ramsby (5-11, 210, Soph.) as well as junior quarterback Kevin Ellison (6-0, 195) are also dangerous running threats in the Eagles’ attack.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Eagles don’t throw it often but when they do, Ellison looks to wide receivers BJ Johnson (6-1, 212, Jr.) and Myles Campbell (5-6, 170, Soph.).
[su_spacer size=”40″] Defensively, senior linebacker Antwione Williams (6-3, 245) is GSU’s leading tackler and the Eagles also get good production from junior linebacker Ironhead Gallon (5-11, 210) and senior safety Antonio Glover (6-1, 200). The GSU defense is allowing only 146 yards rushing per game but is giving up 210-plus passing yards per contest.
[su_spacer size=”40″] So, question is, can Georgia Southern come to Athens and pull off a huge upset of the Bulldogs? Remember, the Eagles went to Florida just two years ago and pulled off a stunner over the Gators and, last season, lost to N.C. State by just one point and two weeks later dropped a heartbreaker to Georgia Tech at game’s end, by 42-38.
[su_spacer size=”40″] So, yes, the Eagles are very capable of notching their first-ever win over UGA and, if they’re to do so, here are the Big Five factors GSU must accomplish on Saturday:
[su_spacer size=”40″] 1. Get that running game in high gear and control the clock
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Georgia offense can’t score if it doesn’t have the football so take it right at the Bulldogs’ defense and win time of possession in a big way.
[su_spacer size=”40″] 2. Frustrate the Georgia running attack
[su_spacer size=”40″] This goes hand in hand with factor No. 1. Win a stalemate with the Bulldogs’ offensive line up front and shut down the running lanes of Sony Michel, Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas, thereby getting the ball back to your ball-control offense.
[su_spacer size=”40″] 3. Get after the Bulldog quarterbacks
[su_spacer size=”40″] Whether it’s Lambert or Ramsey taking the snaps, don’t let the Georgia QB get comfortable in the pocket and sting your secondary with a deep pass.
[su_spacer size=”40″] 4. Come out of the gate fast
[su_spacer size=”40″] Eagles, you simply can’t get, say, a couple of touchdowns behind in the early going. Play nose-to-nose with the Dawgs from the start and keep it a close ball game heading into halftime.
[su_spacer size=”40″] 5. Above all, know you can play with the instate Big Brother
[su_spacer size=”40″] Think back about how this program beat the Florida Gators and took other major college teams down to the proverbial wire and just know you can do the same between the Sanford Stadium hedges on Saturday.
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[su_spacer size=”40″] Make sure to check out Bulldawg Illustrated’s latest print edition: Two Damn Good Dogs, digital issue available for free online. CLICK HERE.
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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.