NOTE: This is part of our series ranking Georgia's most important games in 2012, beginning with the least important, and continuing on to ... drum roll, and booming voice ... the MOST IMPORTANT. :
The criteria for ranking the games follows this basic criteria: Their role in shaping the ultimate success (or not) of the season, but with consideration given to rivalry, context of season, and caliber of opponent.
No. 12 was Florida Atlantic.
Next up is ...
11. GEORGIA SOUTHERN
THE BASICS LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in SoCon
RETURNING OFFENSIVE STARTERS: 8
RETURNING DEFENSIVE STARTERS: 7
WHEN: Nov. 17 (Georgia’s 11th game)
HOW THINGS WILL LOOK THEN: Georgia will be finished with SEC play and will in all likelihood know whether it will be in the SEC championship game. (The only East teams with conference games the final two weeks are Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.) This will b the regular-season finale for Georgia Southern.
LEVEL OF IMPORTANCE:: Not very high, although in one regard it could be vital. Georgia arranged the schedule so that it plays Georgia Southern right before Georgia Tech, meaning it gets a prep week against the triple option. (The last time the teams played, in 2008, Georgia Southern wasn’t running the triple option.) To take the contrarian view, one might say having this game so late will only create headaches, since the GSU offense usually makes this a game for awhile: At this point Georgia would rather use the chance to rest up some guys and heal some injuries.
MORE ABOUT GEORGIA SOUTHERN:: The Eagles will be working in a new quarterback, but their top tailbacks from last year are back. (Dominique Swope and Robert Brown combined for 1,960 rushing yards in 2011). Last year, you will recall, Georgia Southern hung in there for a bit against eventual national champion Alabama, losing 45-21. Offensive coordinator Brent Davis is a Georgia grad, who lettered in 1996.
WHO TO WATCH: Swope was the freshman of the year in the Southern Conference. He’s an alum of Buford High School, where he was teammates with current Georgia offensive linemen Dallas Lee and Kolton Houston. There will be a lot of players familiar with each other because of the in-state situation, but there’s another odd connection: Georgia Southern cornerback Javonte Martin: was teammates with Georgia QB Aaron Murray at Plant High School in Tampa.
LAST TIME THEY PLAYED: Georgia won, 45-21, to improve to 4-0 all-time against the Eagles.
THIS TIME: It’s so late in the season, it’s hard to say right now whether Georgia might have any key injuries or anything else affecting the team. But you’d still have to expect a game that will be close for a bit, and a bit of headache for the defense, but ultimately a Georgia win.