SEC Football: North Texas vs Georgia Preview

By Zach Virnig
Aaron Murray, SEC Football
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia may have the toughest four game sequence as any team when it comes to college football. The Bulldogs will have played three top 10 opponents in their first four weeks of the season. Georgia is even at 1-1 on the campaign, after a loss to Clemson to get things underway and a big South Carolina win in Week 2, with LSU looming next week after a fresh win over Auburn this Saturday. Put right in the mix of these great opponents is new Conference USA member North Texas for Georgia’s third game Saturday.

Georgia will get North Texas right off a program rebounding win over Ball State last weekend.

North Texas railed off a 34-27 come from behind win against Ball State last Saturday, after the team fell down to 20-3 before the start of the second quarter. North Texas kicker Zach Paul converted on 4-of-4 field goals, while Mean Green second year quarterback Derek Thompson threw for 274 yards and rushed for 72 yards, accounting for a touchdown both as a passer and runner.

Heading into Athens, Thompson will be dependent on his offensive line that gave up the least sacks in the nation in 2012. UNT right guard Cyril Lemon is a big reason why, starting the last 27 games for North Texas. Georgia has already given up six sacks in their first two games, which was  North Texas’ 2012 amount all season. North Texas isn’t short on experience, with eight returning starters on both offense and defense coming into Week 4.

 The Mean Green have been outscored 176-24 in their last four meetings with the SEC, two games each with LSU and Alabama. LSU beat North Texas 41-14 at Tiger Stadium in 2012. North Texas has only won once in its history against the top 25, Georgia comes in at No. 9 in the AP Top 25, and No. 10 in the USA Today poll released Sunday.

In both the Clemson and South Carolina games, the Bulldogs gave up more than 900 yards and 58 points. A message has been sent to offenses to test that inexperienced secondary early and often. The safety position has been the apparent Achilles heel, losing freshman Tray Matthews and Corey Moore for the load of time during fall camp. That glaring weakness and the high octane offenses that Georgia has faced up until this point have left Georgia being ranked in the lower half of each SEC defensive statistical category.

Georgia put their bye week to good use last week, rehabbing various injuries. Starting left tackle Kenarious Gates hurt both his knee and ankle, and running back Keith Marshall banged his knee as well in the South Carolina game. Both wide receiver Jonathan Rumph and tight end Jay Rome missed the previous two games, but are likely to suit up and perform Saturday against North Texas.

The South Carolina game was great timing for wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to emerge, just one week after Malcolm Mitchell was told he was done for the year. Scott-Wesley slipped past South Carolina only two minutes into the fourth quarter, roaming for 85 yards and distancing Georgia’s lead to 11, proving to be the final tally of the ballgame.

The matchup to watch early will deal with Scott-Wesley going up against the No. 1 corner on defense for North Texas, Zac Whitfield. It’s paramount that fifth year senior Aaron Murray takes the same type of chances with his arm that he took overshadowing his counterpart Connor Shaw last time out, throwing for 309 yards and four touchdowns against the Gamecocks.

Georgia is in the drivers seat in the East, so they better use this game as a driving force for better chemistry; they’ve worked to hard to just stub their toe at home to LSU next week. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising for Georgia, with a big layoff to stretch running back Todd Gurley more than a couple of quarters. The Bulldogs need to sharpen the blades of that rushing attack that’s already developed 451 yards.

North Texas kicks off their first season in Conference USA next week with Tulane after they play Georgia. North Texas head coach Dan McCarney has an overall record of 11-16, and his team comes into Athens as 36.5 point underdogs. The Mean Green hasn’t had a winning season in more than a decade.

Georgia covers the spread 52-14.

Zach Virnig is a SEC Writer for Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyVirnig, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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