Tuscaloosa, AL – The third-ranked team in the FBS, the ranked team in the FCS, the Georgia Southern Eagles, this weekend in Tuscaloosa.
Georgia Southern was honored with a vote in the most recent AP poll, becoming just the eighth FCS football program to receive a nod since the votes were permitted to be cast for FCS teams in 2007. The Eagles are 9-1 overall and captured their ninth Southern Conference title with a 31-10 win over Wofford last time out.
"This is a goal our kids had," said head coach Jeff Monken. "They wanted to be Southern Conference champions, and I'm proud of them."
Alabama is also 9-1, and the club bounced back strong from its lone loss of the season to LSU by beating Mississippi State last weekend by a 24-7 final. The Crimson Tide may be the best one-loss team in college football, but they are currently on the outside of the national title picture and won't have a chance to compete in the SEC title game if LSU wins out.
"It's pretty obvious to anyone that watches them play why they are one of the top two teams in the country," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen after his team was handled by Nick Saban's Crimson Tide last week.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Alabama and Georgia Southern on the gridiron.
The Eagles have had little trouble moving the ball and scoring points this season, as they are averaging 37.4 ppg and 433.3 total ypg. They rely heavily on the ground attack and have rushed for 320.4 ypg thus far at a clip of 5.7 ypc. Of the 45 offensive touchdowns that the team has scored thus far, 37 have come on the ground. Jaybo Shaw, the team's QB, has thrown for seven TDs and rushed for 10 more. The leading rusher on the roster is Robert Brown, as he has 834 yards and five TDs to his credit.
Against Wofford last week, GSU posted 401 total yards, 290 of which came on the ground. Shaw had three rushing scores in the tilt to go along with his 111 passing yards and one TD, and he got plenty of help from tailback Dominique Swope, who rushed for 165 yards on 27 carries.
While the GSU offense garners most of the headlines, the team's defense has been strong as well, limiting foes to 17.9 ppg and 322.5 total ypg. The Eagles are permitting just 3.6 yards per rushing attempt and have recorded 13 INTs to date. Their 23 sacks have also helped the cause, though they can improve on getting off the field by preventing fewer third-down conversions. Keep an eye on Laron Scott, as he has broken up 12 passes thus far and has three interceptions.
The Eagles allowed only 278 total yards to Wofford last week, including 86 yards through the air. A pair of fumble recoveries were key to the win.
Alabama is a power running football team that will pound away at the Georgia Southern defensive front. The Tide are gaining 215.3 ypg at a clip of 5.5 ypc, helping them rack up 34.5 ppg. Trent Richardson is the star of Saban's team, and the tailback has run for 1,205 yards and 18 touchdowns thus far while placing second on the roster with 25 receptions. The top receiver is Marquis Maze with 49 catches, but his 565 yards and one touchdown suggest that big plays have been hard to come by. QB AJ McCarron has thrown for 2,026 yards and 10 TDs against only five TDs.
While the Alabama offense has certainly been productive, any conversations about the team should begin and end with the nation's best defense. The Crimson Tide are holding foes to a miniscule 7.1 ppg and 181.4 total ypg, staggering numbers for a team that has played a tough schedule. The fact that opponents are rushing for only 51.9 ypg on an average of 1.8 ypc speaks volumes about the play of the unit. Also noteworthy is that foes are moving the chains on just 26 percent of their third-down conversion attempts.
In last week's win over Mississippi State, Alabama had a rather mediocre day offensively, gaining just 386 total yards en route to 24 points. Fortunately, the defense was as dominant as even, limiting the Bulldogs to nine first downs and 131 total yards on 59 snaps. The run defense was dominant, yielding a mere 12 yards on 29 carries. Alabama made good on just 2-of-11 third-down conversion attempts, but Richardson rushed for 127 yards and a score to pad his stats.