The No. 2 Bulldogs will get a chance to do some advance scouting for Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
Georgia (1-0), still stinging a bit from dropping a notch in the polls despite an easy opening win, faces a Tebow-like quarterback in Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour. Last season, the 6-foot-3, 229-pounder passed for 3,652 yards and 27 touchdowns, while running for 1,122 yards and 19 TDs.
The Chippewas are even pitching him as a potential Heisman candidate this season, putting up his picture on a 30-by-60-foot billboard at the Detroit Tigers’ baseball stadium.
"His statistics are really pretty staggering," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Any school that would spend $50,000 on a billboard knows it has a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. He’s that."
Well, that might be a stretch, considering LeFevour puts up his numbers largely against teams from the Mid-American Conference. But he does bring the same sort of style as Florida’s Tebow, who shattered the quarterback mold when he threw for 32 touchdowns and ran for 23 more, becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman.
"Everyone talked about how amazing Tebow was, but LeFevour threw for 3,600 yards and ran for 1,100 yards last season," Richt said. "The productivity of this guy is unbelievable."
Even so, Georgia remains an overwhelming 23«-point favorite against the Chippewas (1-0), who haven’t beaten a ranked team in 17 years. LeFevour may be a dangerous weapon, but he doesn’t have nearly as much talent around him as the Bulldogs will send out between the hedges.
Central Michigan coach Butch Jones, whose team is going for its third straight MAC championship, joked that he’s switching things up for the Bulldogs.
"We’re going to the wing-T. We’re going to put a couple of wideouts at the quarterback position and run option all day long," he said facetiously.
Even with season-ending injuries to two key linemen — offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant went out in the preseason and defensive tackle Jeff Owens tore up a knee in last week’s 45-21 victory over Georgia Southern — the Bulldogs are still fully stocked to make a run at their first national championship since 1980.
"It crosses your mind for a moment," Richt said, "then you realize, ‘You know what? The game is not going to stop. The season is not going to stop.’"
The offensive line gets a boost in depth with the return of sophomore Clint Boling, who was suspended for the opener after making 11 starts as a freshman. Corvey Irvin will take over Owens’ spot and honor his friend by switching to his jersey number, 95.
"It hurt me not to see Jeff out there, because Jeff was the No. 1 guy. He was our leader," Irvin said. But "it gave me a chance to step up and be the leader now, to fill his shoes, take over where he left off, and just see if I can’t control the defense."
Georgia actually started the year at No. 1 in both major polls, but Southern Cal’s impressive win at Virginia propelled the Trojans into the top spot. The voters were less impressed with the Bulldogs’ triumph over a local school from the former Division I-AA, and they’re unlikely to give extra credit for a similar performance against Central Michigan.
But strength of schedule shouldn’t be an issue after this week. Georgia has one of the toughest slates in the country, including non-conference games against No. 15 Arizona State and Georgia Tech, plus a Southeastern Conference lineup that’s more brutal that usual: the annual games against No. 5 Florida, No. 9 Auburn, No. 24 South Carolina and Tennessee, plus No. 7 LSU and No. 13 Alabama.
"It’s exciting to be number one," running back Knowshon Moreno said. "At the same time, when you’re out on the field the rankings don’t really matter."
Georgia raced to a 38-0 lead midway through the third quarter against Georgia Southern, but backed off the rest of the way. Richt was impressed with the way his team started, but wants his players — even if they’re backups getting a chance for extended time — to keep a foot on the pedal all the way through.
"Once it hit 38-0, there was a mental shift that wasn’t healthy, and it showed," Richt said. "We were outscored 21-7 from that point. That shouldn’t have happened. The defense, especially, knows that wasn’t Georgia football from start to finish."
Jones knows his team is a huge underdog, but he’s not conceding anything to the Big Dawg. The coach pointed to Bowling Green, a fellow MAC school, knocking off then-No. 25 Pitt a week ago.
And, of course, everyone still remembers what Appalachian State did to Michigan.
"Anybody can beat anybody," Jones said. "Part of building a program and a mentality is you go into every game believing you’re going to win. I wouldn’t expect anything but that. Our kids have been through the wars a little bit. With every great challenge also lies an opportunity.
"So, yeah, we’re going to believe we can win."