ATHENS, Ga. — Lame sportswriters and cheesy football coaches can thank Appalachian State for providing new material so they can try to make a powerhouse program’s meeting with a Division I-AA team seem more compelling.
They can point to Appalachian State’s shocking win over fifth-ranked Michigan to open the season and remind us to "Remember the Mountaineers." But make no mistake, Georgia’s 1 p.m. opponent today — Western Carolina — is no Appalachian State.
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The Catamounts’ rival Mountaineers have won back-to-back Division I-AA championships, 15 straight games and became the first I-AA team to ever beat a ranked Division I-A team with their 34-32 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
Conversely, Western Carolina has lost 11 straight games — including a 52-6 season-opening loss at Alabama and a 62-0 loss at Florida to conclude last season.
As Georgia coach Mark Richt put it this week, "They have struggled to this point. I think it’s obvious to everyone that that’s the case." Translation: There is absolutely no way the Catamounts stand a chance in this game.
Richt is too polite to put it that way, but the statistics bear it out. In Western Carolina’s seven previous meetings with SEC teams, the Catamounts have been outscored 383-12.
SEC teams have already faced four programs that are either Division I-AA or are transitioning from that level this year (Western Kentucky). The average score in those four SEC wins? 48-9.
Expect a similar outcome today at Sanford Stadium.
"Georgia is a tremendously physical football team — they’re fast, they’re big, they’re strong. Really they’re a lot more physical on film than Alabama," Western Carolina coach Kent Briggs said. "I think this is gonna be a tremendous challenge for us physically."
That’s a bad sign for Western Carolina, considering Alabama outgained the Catamounts 575-247 and led comfortably the entire game.
Today will be more about Georgia trying to establish momentum heading into a stretch of five consecutive SEC games, beginning with a visit to Alabama next weekend. The Bulldogs are eager to begin making up for a sluggish performance in last weekend’s 16-12 loss to South Carolina.
"I’m glad we don’t have an open date. That’d have been awful," Richt said. "It’s after a loss you wish you played baseball or basketball or something like that so you can go back and get that taste out of your mouth a little bit sooner than having to wait a week. But hopefully we can get back on the winning track this week."
Count on it.
Contact David Ching at 706-571-8571