Georgia vs. Georgia Southern: The Manic-Depressive Preview prepares for a family reunion

Mike Zarrilli

It's not as well known as Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, but the Georgia-Georgia Southern rivalry still gets some people in this state pretty heated up. That is, when they can be bothered to pay attention.

The Bulldogs have clinched a second straight SEC East title by blowing Auburn's doors off, and they now have only two out-of-conference games to occupy their time between now and their date in the Georgia Dome. As you'll see, though, some Georgia fans will have a hard time occupying their time with thoughts of anything other than an SEC title. Today our Manic-Depressive Previewers attempt — in fits and starts — to break down the Georgia Southern game.

Manic Doug: OK, dude, let's talk Alabama. I know you're going to tell me they don't have any weaknesses, but we've obviously seen one or two exposed the last couple weeks, because their defense has allowed big yardage to both LSU and Texas A&M. I think their secondary is going to be vulnerable to —

Depressive Doug: Whoa, whoa, hang on there, sport. Aren't you skipping over something?

MD: Well . . . fine, if you'd rather do it that way.

DD: I would, thanks.

MD: So Alabama's offense versus the Georgia D. I know their offensive line is among the best in the country, if not the best, but if anyone can get around that and create disruptions in the Bama backfield, it's —

DD: No, no, man, I didn't mean that. I meant we've got two games between now and the SEC championship that we have to worry about. You're not just gonna gloss right over those, are you?

MD: Honestly? . . . That was kind of the plan, yes.

DD: Come on, focus. Georgia Southern's this week. They may be an FCS team, but they're a good FCS team, and they've been pesky for us in the past. So don't take this one for gr —

MD: You'd say that if we were playing a high school for the deaf, though. "Oh, don't take this one for granted, MD, when you lose your hearing, it heightens the other senses, so their quarterback will be able to sense the vibrations of Jarvis Jones' footsteps and escape when we provide pressure in the backfield. We may not get a sack all day."

DD: I would never say a thing like that.

MD: Really? Here's you before the Ole Miss game: "Oh no, we've just beaten Florida, now we're due for a hangover, we're gonna lose to a surprisingly good Ole Miss team." Boom, we shrug off a slow start and beat them by four touchdowns. Now here's you before Auburn: "Ohhh nooo, Auburn's dangerous, they need an SEC win, we're gonna sleepwalk through the first half and this is gonna be a close game." Boom, we're up by 28 at halftime and end up shutting them out. So why should I believe anything you have to say about this game?

DD: Um . . . because we've just clinched the SEC East and now we're too focused on the conference championship game to worry about a late-season gimme?

MD: You know what, so what if we are? We opened against Southern in 2004 and 2008, and in both years we started off with a top-five ranking and national-championship hype. We didn't play our best game either time, not by a long shot, but we won by 20 in 2004 and by 24 four years later. So why should I think this one will be anything other than a blowout?

DD: Well, for starters, Southern is a lot better than they were in 2008. They've ditched the wide-open passing attack they were trying to run under Chris Hatcher that year and have gotten back to their triple-option roots, and they've been pretty successful at it: They're No. 1 in rushing in Division I-AA with more than four hundred rushing yards per game . . .

MD: Against I-AA defenses. Meanwhile, they're next-to-last in passing, and their leading receiver only has seven catches for the entire season. So all we have to do is trust our secondary in man-to-man coverage and put eight or nine guys in the box, and we're good to go. Why do you insist on making this complicated?

DD: Number one, because I saw Southern stroll into Tuscaloosa last season and score more points against that national-championship-winning Crimson Tide defense than any team did all season. Number two, because I've seen how prone we are to playing down to the level of our competition. Remember earlier this year, when we went up to Lexington and played a godawful Kentucky team and had to sweat out a five-point win? Or the first month of the season, when we were getting run all over the field by Buffalo and FAU? Hell, last year we had to clinch the East title against Kentucky, at home, and we were trailing them at halftime. Don't get me wrong, I think we'll win this weekend, but it's going to be an extremely aggravating 60 minutes before we accomplish that.

MD: So you think they'll be able to run on us. In spite of all the talent we have on defense.

DD: Yes, because we'll let them. Now, I don't think they'll be able to stop us, but their offense is geared for long drives that burn a ton of clock and wear out the opposing defense, and that spells a close game in the first half — I mean, in 2004 we were only leading 13-7 at halftime. I think we'll be ahead by maybe only 10 points at halftime, and once we put on another score or two in the third quarter Richt will start pulling starters to keep people fresh for Georgia Tech and the SEC title game. So that means some more points for GSU in garbage time, and that means a thoroughly unimpressive Georgia victory by a score of, oh, 44-27.

MD: You see a defense that's looking for a chance to take a breather — I see a defense that's been playing with its hair on fire ever since the Florida game. We've only allowed 19 points in our last three games total — you seriously think we're going to hand over more than that in a single game against a lower-division opponent? Nahh, son. I think we come out with guns blazing, shut 'em out in the first half and roll up a bunch of points — and yeah, we'll probably put the backups in sooner rather than later, which will give the Eagles a chance to put up some points, but it won't be anywhere near enough. Dawgs roll, 52-13.

DD: Well, those two predictions average out to . . . Dawgs 48, Eagles 20, so that's still a pretty good day. And thank you for actually being willing to focus on the game at hand for five minutes, by the way. That was awfully big of you.

MD: Well, I guess I can wait to talk about Alabama until next week. If I have to.

DD: Ummm . . . nnnno, Georgia Tech is next week. We won't get to the SEC Championship Game until the week after that.

MD: YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYTHING FUN.

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