ATHENS — The ongoing chatter from Georgia about last week’s win over Florida has reached an appreciative audience in Alabama, where Troy’s players hope the Bulldogs will be distracted today and vulnerable for an upset.
Even better for Troy: No. 10 Georgia also may be tempted to look ahead to next week’s visit from Auburn.
Meanwhile, the Trojans from Troy may hope no one in Athens has noticed their six-game winning streak.
Georgia players say they recognize it could be dangerous to play a nonconference game against a hot team the week between Southeastern Conference rivalry games against Florida and Auburn.
"I’m sure people will say it is," said Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"Troy is a big-time football team. They’ve got some players and they can really go. It’s up to us to make sure we are really taking care of business and getting ready and we come out with some fire and some emotion and we play hard."
Troy (6-2) is 0-2 against the SEC but was not shut down while losing 46-26 to Arkansas and 59-31 to Florida. The Trojans crushed Oklahoma State 41-23 two weeks after Georgia beat the Cowboys 35-14.
"They’re a good football team," Stafford said.
"They put it to Oklahoma State, better than we did. They are playing well. We’re definitely in for a big test."
The Trojans, already 0-2 against SEC teams, are familiar with the underdog role they’ll assume today against Georgia (6-2).
"We never have nothing to lose," said linebacker Marcus Richardson. "When we play teams like Georgia and Florida, it’s always ‘Little ol’ Troy."’
Richardson could be wrong about having nothing to lose. Troy still must play top Sun Belt rivals Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic as it tries to win the conference’s spot in the New Orleans Bowl, so the Trojans must guard against losing quarterback Omar Haugabook to an injury.
Haugabook left last week’s 27-0 win at Arkansas State in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury which threatens his status against Georgia. A more severe hamstring injury could force Haugabook to miss the Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic games.
Haugabook ranks ninth in the nation in total offense. He has passed for 12 touchdowns and rushed for eight and provides the Trojans’ best chance for an upset today — even if they don’t believe beating Georgia would be an upset.
"To me, if we beat them, I wouldn’t see it as an upset," said linebacker Boris Lee, a sophomore from Clinch County and one of 28 Troy players from the state of Georgia.
"I would see it as two great teams playing and one team falls," Lee said. "I don’t think it would be a huge upset, and if we win I wouldn’t be surprised."
Added Haugabook: "No game is an upset. Oklahoma State wasn’t an upset. We believed we could win, just like this game."
Troy is 1-12 against Top 25 teams, including a 2004 win over No. 17 Missouri.
The Trojans received 13 votes in this week’s Top 25 and could move into the poll by beating Georgia.
"We could make a huge impact on our future and our situation," coach Larry Blakeney said when asked about the value of a win over Georgia.
Haugabook said he had difficulty walking after the Arkansas State or running early this week. Still, he said he would play against Georgia.
"The goal is to go out there and try to win as many as we can," Haugabook said. "Why sit out a big game?"
Blakeney said he would play freshman quarterbacks Tanner Jones and Jamie Hampton if Haugabook is held out.
"We’ve got to be careful with Omar," Blakeney said. "As good as the other guys are, they’re not Omar yet. He’s the master of the offense and he’s got the full complement of everything we do and he’s a major, major part of it. I hope we can get him ready but if we don’t we’ll play the other two guys and move on."
Blakeney said playing Haugabook at less than full speed would be "a huge risk."
"We can’t make a stupid decision here," said Blakeney, who early in the week ruled the quarterback as doubtful.
Georgia faced a similar situation last week with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who played but was obviously limited by a sore shoulder.
"Haugabook is very much like Tebow in how much he means to their offense," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who noted each quarterback is a strong passer who also ranks among his team’s top rushers.
"We will definitely be preparing for (Haugabook)," Richt said.
Georgia moved up 10 spots in the Top 25 with its 42-30 win over Florida. Richt’s go-ahead for a big celebration after the Bulldogs’ first touchdown has been a popular discussion this week in Athens and across the SEC.
Richt apologized after his entire team joined the on-field celebration. He said he only wanted the 11 players on the field to be involved.
The question for today: Is Georgia still celebrating?
"We know as much as last week made a difference, this week can make as big a difference," Richt said. "They may just forget all about us this week if we don’t take care of business."