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Calm before the storm

UGA hosts North Texas before 5 straight SEC games

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray directs his offense before a snap in Saturday’s win against South Carolina. Murray and the Bulldogs play North Texas this Saturday before getting into the heart of their SEC schedule the following week. (Reuters)

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray directs his offense before a snap in Saturday’s win against South Carolina. Murray and the Bulldogs play North Texas this Saturday before getting into the heart of their SEC schedule the following week. (Reuters)

ATHENS — Asked if he planned to rest some of his starters for Saturday’s game against North Texas, Mark Richt didn’t have to reach very far back for examples why that won’t be the case.

Georgia’s head coach pointed to Michigan’s game against the Akron Zips Saturday and North Texas’ s game at Ohio the week before that. The No. 11 Wolverines needed a goal-line stop as time expired to beat the Zips 28-24. North Texas took Ohio to the brink the previous week before finally going down 27-21 on Sept. 7.

“I don’t know what (Michigan’s) mindset was going into the game but I know what it was when the game was over,” Richt said. “Everybody’s just got to understand that we must focus very, very hard on improving, we need to focus very hard on our game plan and everybody needs to line up and get ready to play ball because all it takes is …”

Richt didn’t finish that last sentence, but he had made his point. The college football road is littered with major powers that were tripped up by mid-majors and less.

And North Texas, which is getting $975,000 for its trip to Sanford Stadium, would like nothing better than to knock off a Top 10 team and bolster its athletics budget the same weekend. The Mean Green (2-1) are feeling pretty good about themselves as this point. They rallied from a 20-3 deficit for a 34-27 home win over Ball State Saturday in Denton, Texas. And they’re definitely looking for an event to hang their hat on. After competing in the Sun Belt Conference for the past 12 years, North Texas made the move to join Conference USA in July.

“I was very impressed with their quarterback (Derek Thompson),” Richt said. “He’s not a giant guy, not a real big guy. But he’s a great competitor, he runs the ball better than you think, he throws it well. I mean, he’s a guy who has a great feel for the game.”

Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 218-pound senior, passed for 274 yards and rushed 72 yards, in the Saturday’s win. Richt also complimented running back Brandin Byrd (35 carries for 166 yards with two touchdowns) and the Mean Green’s receiving corps. Kicker Zach Paul had four field goals and safety Laraimie Lee forced two fumbles in the game.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are coming off a well-needed bye week. Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC) — remained No. 9 in Sunday’s new Associated Press Poll and No. 10 in the USA Today/Coaches — played a pair of top-10 opponents to open the season, losing to then-No. 8 Clemson and beating then No. 6 South Carolina. Tailbacks Todd Gurley (thigh) and Keith Marshall (knee) were both beat up in those games, as was left tackle Kenarious Gates (ankle, knee).

Richt reiterated that he expects both Marshall and Gates, who were unable to finish the South Carolina game, to be able to play against North Texas.

The following week, the Bulldogs will face their third top-10 opponent in the season’s first four games when No. 6 LSU (7th in coaches poll) comes to town. But, again, Richt said Georgia won’t be tempted to look ahead.

“Again, you watch your film from the game before; you remember what happened at Clemson; you look at the things we need to improve on,” Richt said. “You keep working.”