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Georgia Bulldogs v. Florida Atlantic Owls: Too Much Information

It seems like only yesterday I was previewing this game, yet here it is, the day before the Georgia Bulldogs’ nighttime showdown with the Florida Atlantic Owls between the hedges. Though FAU probably doesn’t deserve such thorough treatment, I am contractually obligated to offer you a pregame breakdown that provides you not with a dollop of data, nor with a modicum of minutiae, but, instead, with Too Much Information, so sit back, sip on a Malcome in the Middle, hum a few bars of "The Tiger Hotel," and find out whether the Owls are, in fact, what they seem:

Odds and Ends

You want to see some old man football? How ‘bout this: Florida Atlantic ranks ninth in the ten-member Sun Belt, and 98th nationally, against the run. The Owls concede 213 yards per game on the ground, as opposed to a Sun Belt runner-up 134.5 yards per outing given up through the air. This will be a good game to run the danged ball. I want to see everyone get some carries. Todd Gurley. Ken Malcome. Keith Marshall. Merritt Hall. Richard Samuel. Branden Smith. Kyle Karempelis. Heisman prankster Herschel Walker. Me. Surprisingly sexy ‘70s Barbra Streisand in less than subtle evening wear. I want every eligible ballcarrier to tote the rock at least once on Saturday. In 1964, the first edition of Vince Dooley’s ‘Dawgs defeated the Florida Gators in a game in which the Georgia quarterback did not complete a single pass; I’d be just fine if that same thing happened again tomorrow night.

With last Saturday’s win over Missouri, Mark Richt’s Bulldog squads improved to 32-12 in night games. The fact that this weekend’s outing also is kicking off after dark raises a question, however: How often has Georgia played a non-conference night game between the hedges against a visiting team from outside what today are considered the major conferences? Yes, I actually ask those sorts of questions.

It’s happened more often than you probably think. During the war years of 1943 and 1944, the Bulldogs played nine straight night games in Sanford Stadium. (I’m not sure precisely why that is, but it may have had something to do with Eastern War Time. From February 1942 to September 1945, areas adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean remained on daylight savings time year-round in order to avoid disorienting time changes for the soldiers and sailors defending the home front against German submarines actively operating off of the East Coast. After the clocks farther inland had “fallen back,” the time in the Classic City was an hour later than it was in Atlanta, and the fact that Athens was considered a part of the battle zone by the military may have influenced kickoff times as a public safety measure.)

During those two wartime seasons, Georgia hosted night games against Daniel Field, Howard, Presbyterian (thrice; twice in 1943 and once in 1944), and Tennessee Tech. Furman came to the Classic City for evening contests in 1947 and 1949, and Chattanooga also appeared between the hedges after dark in the latter season. George Washington---the university, not the president---played a night game in Sanford Stadium in 1951, as did Utah State in 1999 and Georgia Southern in 2000. The ‘Dawgs went 12-0 in those dozen home nightcaps against visiting patsies, with five of the victories coming by shutout and six of the remaining seven seeing the opposition held to seven or fewer points.

FAU is putrid offensively. Through two games, the Owls are averaging a Sun Belt-worst 12 points, have yet to score a rushing touchdown, have come away with points only on half of their league-low six red zone trips, and have only one player managing more than 21 yards per game on the ground. (Running back Damian Fortner and quarterback Graham Wilbert both have accomplished the feat, if you could call it that, of averaging 21 rushing yards per game, and tailback Martese Jackson, after rushing for nearly 100 yards in the opener against Wagner, did not receive a handoff in last weekend’s tilt with Middle Tennessee State.) Out of 124 Division I-A teams, Florida Atlantic has succeeded only in staking out a three-way tie for 114th place in the country in scoring offense, and the Owls turn the ball over an average of three times per game. This is Todd Grantham’s best opportunity to notch a shutout in 2012.

Incidentally, history appears heavily to favor the probability of an FAU goose egg. Unless I have overlooked some forgotten minor opponent from a century ago, the Owls are about to become the seventh squad from the Sunshine State with whom the Bulldogs have crossed paths on the football field. Since Saturday marks the first series meeting between Georgia and Florida Atlantic, it is noteworthy that, in their respective inaugural gridiron clashes with the previous six (Florida in 1904, Stetson in 1934, Miami in 1937, Jacksonville Naval Air Station in 1942, Florida State in 1954, and Central Florida in 1999), the Red and Black were 6-0, with five of the wins coming by shutout.

The Feel Bad Stat of the Week

The Owls rank second in the Sun Belt in scoring defense, surrendering just 17.0 points per game. It’s all I’ve got, really.

The Feel Good Stat of the Week

Thus far this season, the Bulldogs have made nine trips into the red zone, tied for third-most in the SEC. Georgia has scored on eight of those nine drives inside the opposition’s 20 yard line, tied for third-most in the league. The Red and Black have scored seven touchdowns in those nine possessions, tied for third-most in the conference. Despite two straight shaky starts by Aaron Murray and the Athenian offense, the ‘Dawgs are finishing the drill once inside the shadow of the other team’s goalposts.

The Bottom Line

Let’s not kid ourselves: Georgia is 9-0 all-time against current Sun Belt squads, and that ledger includes a 6-0 record under Mark Richt. The Bulldogs have never scored fewer than 38 points against programs presently in that league, and only once have the Athenians conceded more than 17 points to Conference USA’s little brother. This is a night game at home against the worst team the Red and Black will face all autumn. Even if the ‘Dawgs are disinterested and the coaching staff rests a few injured starters, this one will be a blowout purely by virtue of the talent disparity separating the two teams.

My Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 48, Florida Atlantic Owls 6.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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