Sep 28, 2013 12:31 AM by AP
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Not so long ago they were raw freshmen, both wearing red and black, battling each other for the same prize.
Starting quarterback of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Of course, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger wound up taking different paths.
Murray guided Georgia back to national prominence and became the most prolific passer in school history. Mettenberger ran into legal troubles, left Athens in disgrace, and wound up as the starter for Southeastern Conference rival LSU.
On Saturday, these former teammates will go against each other for the first time when No. 9 Georgia (2-1, 1-0 SEC) hosts the No. 6 Tigers (4-0, 1-0) in a crucial SEC contest.
"It's going to be weird to see him on the other sideline wearing an LSU uniform," Murray said.
The game is especially significant for Mettenberger, considering he grew up not far from Athens dreaming of playing for the Bulldogs, only to get kicked off the team after he pleaded guilty to sexual battery for an incident at a bar.
His mother, Tammy, still works in football operations at Georgia.
"He's going to be crazy hyped for this game," Bulldogs linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "He's going to come in with a mission."
Actually, Mettenberger can't wait for it to be over. He's worried about what his mom his going through, though Georgia coach Mark Richt made things easier by giving her the week off.
"There's just so much put into this game that has nothing with the game," Mettenberger said.
Murray remembers battling with Mettenberger when both were contending for the starting job during spring practice in 2010.
"There were fireworks every day at practice," Murray said. "He'd go out and make a throw, I'd go out and make a throw. It was back and forth, back and forth. It really pushed both of us to become better quarterbacks."
No matter what, one of them was probably destined to play elsewhere.
"You could be talking to him right now," Murray told a group of Georgia reporters this week. "I doubt both of us would've stayed."
Murray has led the Bulldogs to a pair of division titles, while becoming the first quarterback in SEC history to have three straight 3,000-yard seasons and just the second to reach triple figures in touchdown passes. He's got 102, trailing only 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel (114) on the career list.
Mettenberger struggled a bit in his first season as LSU's starter, but he's blossomed as a senior under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Already, he's thrown for 10 touchdowns and 1,026 yards - more than any Tigers quarterback through the first four games of a season.
"Those guys have achieved the success they wanted to achieve coming out of high school," said Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch, who is good friends with both. "They knew it would not be at the same school. One of them would have to go. I'm just glad they both got to do it in the SEC."
Along with Mettenberger's return to Georgia, here are five things to watch for when the Bulldogs host LSU:
BATTLE TESTED: Georgia is just the fourth team in the BCS era to play three Top 10 teams in its first four games. The Bulldogs have endured some growing pains on defense, having to go with three freshmen starters, but all those tough games have prepared them well for LSU. If Georgia can beat the Tigers, it will be in good position to run the table for a third straight trip to the SEC title game.
HILL ON WHEELS: Following his second brush with the law in two years, LSU running back Jeremy Hill's social life has limited to spending time with teammates in the football building. Hill said he appreciates their support and is working hard not let them down. So far, it's showing. Hill rushed for a career-high 184 yards against Auburn last week and scored three TDs.
PRESSURING THE QB: Georgia must take advantage of every chance to put pressure on Mettenberger. If he's able to get comfortable in the pocket, it could be a very long day for the Bulldogs. Freshman outside linebacker Leonard Floyd had a couple of sacks last week against North Texas.
DYNAMIC DUO: Mettenberger doesn't have a go-to receiver. He's got two - Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. All 10 of Mettenberger's TD passes this season have gone to that pair; Landry has six and Beckham four. The duo has combined to haul in 44 catches for 753 yards, while nine other Tigers have totaled 16 catches for 284 yards.
DOGS IN BALANCE: Georgia has shown remarkable offensive balance while ranking among the nation's leaders with 574 yards per game. The Bulldogs are averaging 213.3 yards on the ground and 360.7 through the air, and a lot of players are getting in on the act. Three receivers have 10 receptions each. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back.