STATESBORO, Ga. --- Playing football teams outside your region often brings a curious mixture of confidence and uncertainty.
Georgia Southern travels up the east coast to Williamsburg, Va., with the assurance that second-seeded William & Mary knows as little about the Eagles as they know about the Tribe.
The teams meet in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at 1:30 p.m. today.
The winner advances to the quarterfinals next Saturday against the winner of the Wofford-Jacksonville State game.
"I'm confident our guys are going to play hard, and they'll give it everything they've got," Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. "Beyond that, I don't know anything else."
Many followers of the FCS say the Colonial Athletic Conference is the strongest of the division's 14 conferences and William & Mary (8-3) tied for the CAA regular-season title.
The Tribe was ranked No. 1 in the nation in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 poll on Nov. 8 and gave North Carolina a scare, leading 17-7 in the fourth quarter, before surrendering two touchdowns in the final 8 minutes and 32 seconds.
But how does that translate to playing the 8-4 Eagles, who have won four in a row and often confuse opponents with an unconventional triple-option offense?
"GSU really knows their offense inside and out," William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "They have a good variety of things they do, and they mix it up and come at you in different directions."
Just a week earlier, against South Carolina State's FCS-leading rushing defense, the Eagles produced more rushing yards (80) on their first drive than the Bulldogs had surrendered per game (70.4) all season.
Georgia Southern finished with 323 rushing yards while playing with backup quarterback Jerick McKinnon the final three quarters after starter Jaybo Shaw was hurt after a blow to the chest and chin.
Shaw practiced throughout the week and, after the team's final practice Thursday, said he will start today.
"Over the years, we've played teams that didn't face the option all year long and defended us very well," Monken said. "Iowa (in the Orange Bowl last season when Monken was an assistant at Georgia Tech) had a good scheme and good players, and they just beat us.
"Other times, teams that haven't faced (the option) before have problems defending it, and it's a real factor," he said. "There's always the unknown."
William & Mary advanced to the semifinals last season before losing to eventual champion Villanova, 13-12.
This season, the Tribe finished the regular season with a 41-3 victory over Richmond two weeks ago and received a first-round bye.