Saturday’s game between Georgia Southern and Georgia State in the Georgia Dome will be the biggest rivalry game in the state — between two teams that have never played each other, anyway.
The Georgia Southern athletics website has called for a “whiteout,” asking Eagles fans to wear white to the game. When asked on Twitter if Georgia Southern had sold out of its allotment of tickets for the Georgia State game, Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein recently replied, “Yes and we are getting more. #PaulsonNorth.”
“I know our students and alums are fired up about it,” first-year head coach Willie Fritz said. “I think it’s neat. That’s the power of Eagle Nation.”
Looking at both fan bases, the foundation for a rivalry is clearly there.
What about on the field?
“Oh yeah, definitely,” Eagles linebacker Edwin Jackson said. “They’re Georgia State and we’re Georgia Southern. Even before I came here, back home I’d say, ‘I’m going to GSU.’ They’d say, ‘Oh, Georgia State?’ I’d look at them and I’d say, ‘No. Georgia Southern University.’ They don’t understand what we have here. When we go up to Atlanta, back to my hometown, I’ll let them know exactly what I mean.”
Much was made of Georgia State’s invitation to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference in 2012 — a year before Georgia Southern would receive its invitation — by fans of the Eagles. However, it’s not something the players take personally.
“We’re here now. That’s over and done with. We’re in the same conference and we haven’t played each other yet,” Jackson said. “This is going to set the tone. This is the first tally. They’re fired up for this game just like we are.”
What about the game?
With last week’s bye, many Georgia Southern players were able to watch Georgia State’s game on Saturday against South Alabama, a 30-27 loss.
The Panthers (1-6, 0-4 Sun Belt) don’t have a pretty record, but the Eagles saw first-hand how competitive Georgia State has been this season.
“You can’t take any team lightly any week,” Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida said. “They’re not a bad team at all. They’re talented and disciplined, and they’ve been close each week. We’ve got to bring our A game, because they can come out and beat us.”
Georgia Southern (5-2, 4-0) boasts the nation’s most powerful running attack, leading the country in total yards (2,604) and yards per game (372), but Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle is No. 12 in the nation with 2,066 passing yards.
Three of Georgia State’s four Sun Belt losses came by three points.
The game starts at 2 p.m. on the Georgia Southern Radio Network and ESPN3.