by: Alex Welch
The No. 7 ranked Georgia Bulldogs take on the Florida Atlantic Owls Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Athens, Ga. Matt Stewart, Chris Doering and Angela Mallen will be live on the scene at Sanford Stadium covering this matchup for CSS.
It's been mostly smooth sailing for the Bulldogs so far in 2012. After a 45-23 season-opening victory over Buffalo, UGA traveled to Columbia, Mo. to hand Missouri a nice "welcome to the SEC" beatdown.
After heading into halftime down by a single point, Georgia blew the doors off Missouri in the fourth quarter, outscoring one of the newest members to the conference 17-0 in the final frame. The Bulldogs now head back home riding the momentum of their 41-20 road win, looking to keep things rolling against the Sun Belt Conference.
FAU finished with just one victory in 2011, but the Owls have already matched that mark this season with an opening win over Wagner. Quarterback Graham Wilbert currently leads the Sun Belt Conference in passing efficiency (171.8), and the Owls defense as whole ranks tenth nationally in pass yards allowed per game.
Georgia is 30-1 at home against non-conference opponents under head coach Mark Richt, while FAU has lost all six of its SEC matchups in prior years.
Russ, Georgia's current bulldog mascot, will take the title of "Uga IX" in a ceremony before kickoff. Let's look at what to watch for in the first game under his reign.
1) The Bulldogs currently sit on a 12-game regular season winning streak, the second-longest active streak in the nation behind LSU (15 games).
2) Freshman running back Todd Gurley is averaging 9.2 yards per game in his first year at UGA. FAU allowed 302 yards rushing to Middle Tennessee last weekend, so Gurley and the Bulldogs might be able to utilize their strength in this area.
3) Malcolm Mitchell should see some action on offense this week. Richt expressed his interest in getting the sophomore finally involved on both sides of the ball now that he is several weeks removed from an ankle sprain.
4) Despite injuring his groin in practice before the Missouri game, Jarvis Jones put on a clinic against the Tigers, tallying up nine tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. He's now being mentioned among Heisman candidates, and if he puts in another monster performance this weekend, that speculation will only elevate.
5) Georgia was penalized a whopping 12 times for 79 yards against the Tigers. As this issue has reared its head in the past, the Bulldogs need to clean up their play on Saturday.
6) Aaron Murray enters Week 3 with a passer rating of 158.7, six touchdowns and just one interception in 2012. He and his offense started out 0-for-8 on third downs on the road in Missouri, but managed to convert five of the next at after a scoring drive in the third quarter. The Bulldogs could use a strong start out of the gates to avoid similar problems.
7) Linebacker David Hinds leads FAU and the Sun Belt with 10.5 tackles. The senior linebacker has been a force early on for the Owls.
8) Senior wide receiver Byron Hankerson scored a touchdown in each of the Owls first two games. He heads to Athens with eight receptions for 141 yards on the season, averaging 17.6 yards per catch.
9) Graham Wilbert has thrown for 386 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. He only has 10 incompletions in 45 pass attempts in 2012.
10) Saturday will be the five-year anniversary of FAU's last victory over a BCS automatic qualifying school. The Owls took down Minnesota 42-39 in 2007.