ORONO — Georgia Southern is ranked third in the national poll, and seeded third in the NCAA Football Championship Sub-Division (FCS) playoffs.

Georgia Southern (10-2) also lost 24-17 on Oct. 29 to Appalachian State — a team the University of Maine beat 34-12 in the playoffs last Saturday.

So there is hope for the 13th-ranked and unseeded Black Bears (9-3), who travel to Statesboro, Ga. to play the Eagles at 2 p.m. Saturday, in the FCS quarterfinals.

But before those hopes get too high, look at what Georgia Southern did in its last two games, a 45-21 loss to national Division I power Alabama, and a 55-48 win over Old Dominion in the playoffs last Saturday.

“They had over 600 yards of offense against ODU,” Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said, “and they rushed for over 300 yards against Alabama.

“Those are things that get your attention.”

Georgia Southern runs a triple-option running attack — handoff to running back up the middle; or fake handoff and quarterback runs; or quarterback pitches the ball to another running back.

“We have not seen this style of play since we played Rhode Island in ’08,” said Cosgrove, noting that Rhode Island then changed its offense after that year.”

Teams that are not used to facing such an offense often struggle against it — i.e., Alabama and Old Dominion.

Fellow Southern Conference teams, like Appalachian State, are used to preparing for the Eagles’ (and other conference teams’) triple-option.

At least Maine will have some confidence going in, after shutting down a potent Appalachian State offense to only 12 points and three yards rushing.

“We just really tuned in on defense,” Cosgrove said. “Our guys’ pursuit of the ball … We prevented their cutbacks … just played with great confidence.”

* * *

Maine has never won a quarterfinal game … and the Black Bears have never been this healthy for one, either.

In 2001, Maine beat McNeese State in the first round, but lost running back Royston English and free safety Dave Cusano to injury in the game. The Black Bears lost in the quarterfinals, 56-28 to Northern Iowa. Maine could not generate a run game, and gave up some big pass plays.

In 2002, Maine lost leader and starting quarterback Jake Eaton and others to injury at the end of the season. The Black Bears won its first playoff game, but was overwhelmed by Georgia Southern 31-7 in the quarters.

“Back in ’02, we were pretty much decimated,” Cosgrove said. “I like our health right now. And the fact that we’re coming off a great win.”

* * *

The winner of Saturday’s game in Statesboro will play in the semifinals Dec. 17 against the winner of Saturday’s game between second-seeded North Dakota State (11-1) and unseeded Lehigh (11-1). Lehigh beat Colonial Athletic Association winner Towson 40-38 last Saturday.

* * *

Think that Old Dominion is happy with head coach Bob Wilder? Wilder, the Madison native and former Maine quarterback and assistant coach, got the Monarchs into the playoffs in his third season, after the school brought football back as a varsity sport. On Monday, ODU awarded Wilder a new 10-year contract.

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Maine hockey is on a modest three-game winning streak, following a sweep of Vermont last weekend in Burlington. The Black Bears (6-6-2, 5-5-1 in Hockey East) play host to Boston University (8-5-1, 6-4-1) Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

* * *

The Maine men’s basketball team beat Rhode Island 76-74 in overtime Sunday. Always good to beat an Atlantic-10 team, even if the Rams are struggling at 1-7.

Maine (3-2) has a bit of a road trip coming up – Thursday at Notre Dame, and Saturday at San Diego.

* * *

The Maine women’s basketball team lost two games in the Navy Classic, dropping to 3-5. Navy, directed by former Bowdoin coach Stephanie Pemper, improved to 4-3 with a 73-56 win over the Black Bears.

Maine plays host to James Madison Thursday at 6 p.m. in Memorial Gym.

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