ATHENS — It’s another big-game week for Georgia.
Not just because of the local interest in the homecoming of LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the former Bulldog who played at Oconee County High School and grew up in the area.
ESPN’s College GameDay is on its way. The morning preview show will originate from Athens for the first time since 2008.
CBS will air the top-10 matchup nationally between No. 9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) and No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0) at 3:30 p.m.
“Being through it before a little bit is probably going to be helpful,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. “Three out of four games have been that way. We’ve had more games like that than not like it. ... So hopefully we’ll understand how important every single detail of the game is going to be. We’ll practice with that kind of purpose and hopefully see those results.”
Georgia is about to play its third top-10 team after losing to then No. 8 Clemson 38-35 on Aug. 31 and beating then No. 6 South Carolina 41-30 on Sept. 7.
This matchup, of course, has the unique twist of the return of Mettenberger, who was dismissed from Georgia in 2010 weeks after a spring break arrest near Valdosta in 2010.
“I don’t know anybody else who’s had to go back and play the team that they got kicked off of,” Mettenberger said in July. “It could be easy for myself to go out there and want to throw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns. You can’t force that. You’ve just got to play within yourself and … just trust the coach that he’ll call the right play at the right time.”
Mettenberger’s mother, Tammy, is an administrative assistant in the football office. She will have this week off from work, Richt said.
“We’ve been knowing Zach since he’s a very young kid. We all really like Zach and want the best for him but we just don’t want him to win the game this weekend. That’s the about the only thing that is different than normal is we’re just competing against him this week.”
Tammy Mettenberger has turned down requests for interviews leading up to the game.
LSU said last week that Zach Mettenberger wouldn’t be available for any phone interviews with out of town reporters this week, but he’ll meet with local media in Baton Rouge.
Bulldogs tight end Arthur Lynch remains good friends with Mettenberger.
Mettenberger said two of his LSU teammates stayed with Lynch this summer when they visited.
Lynch said he keeps in touch daily with Mettenberger and didn’t plan to stop that this week.
“Nah, I’ll probably talk to him every day and give him some grief,” Lynch said.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Mettenberger competed for the starting job for the Bulldogs in the spring of 2010.
They now rank 1-2 in the SEC in passing efficiency Murray is fifth in the nation in passing yards per game at 346.7 and leads an
offense that ranks sixth in the nation in yards per game with 574.
Mettenberger is the trigger man for an LSU offense that is tied for 16th nationally at 43.3 points per game.
Richt said he won’t bring up the Mettenberger story line with the team.
“We’re not going to be worried so much that he’s Zach Mettenberger as much as he’s 6-foot-5, 230-whatever he is and can sling it,” he said.
We just want to do the best we can to defend him and defend their offense, but I’m not going to get into anything other than he’s an opponent that we’re trying to defeat.”
Notes: Tight end Jay Rome re-injured an ankle on Saturday against North Texas, but isn’t ruled out yet for Saturday’s game. “I don’t even know if he rolled it again,” Richt said. “He may have re-sprained it, I don’t know.
We’ll just see how he does tomorrow. We’re not counting him out for the game.” ... The site on campus for the GameDay set hasn’t been finalized, but Georgia officials thought Myers Quad where it was held in 2008 could be the choice again. ... Richt shot down any thought of a blackout again like the last time GameDay was here. “Yeah, we’re not going to do a blackout.” ...
Georgia is a three-point favorite.