GAME NOTES: Seeking a second straight appearance in the SEC Championship Game,
the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs head to Alabama to take on the Auburn Tigers
on Saturday night.
Georgia has reached the SEC Championship Game four times previously, all under
current head coach Mark Richt, and at 6-1 in conference play will earn its
second straight trip with a win in this contest. The Bulldogs, who have won
three consecutive games following their lone loss of the season -- 35-7 at
South Carolina on Oct. 6 -- have only bouts with FCS foe Georgia Southern and
ACC rival Georgia Tech left in the regular season. Last week, UGA took care of
visiting Ole Miss in a 37-10 final.
Auburn is at the opposite end of the success spectrum, as the team is a dismal
2-7 on the year, and has yet to win an SEC game (0-6). The Tigers put the
brakes on a five-game slide last weekend when they stepped out of conference
to entertain New Mexico State, whipping the Aggies in a 42-7 final. Auburn's
only two wins this season have come against NMSU, and in overtime versus ULM
back in mid-September. AU is 2-3 at home this season.
The Georgia-Auburn series is the seventh-most played rivalry in FBS history,
and the Tigers own a narrow 54-53-8 advantage despite dropping five of the
last six meetings. The Bulldogs easily won last year's matchup, 45-7.
With a poised signal-caller at the controls, the Georgia offense has been
highly productive this season in averaging 36.8 points and 468.2 total yards
per game. Aaron Murray is completing nearly 65 percent of his passes for an
average of 272 ypg, and he has thrown 21 TDs against only seven interceptions.
A total of four players have caught at least 24 passes, with Tavarres King (27
rec., 551 yards, six TDs) now the top guy in the receiving corps after both
Michael Bennett (24 rec., 345 yards, four TDs) and just recently, Marlon Brown
(27 rec., 469 yards, four TDs), were lost for the remainder of the season due
Todd Gurley spearheads the UGA rushing attack with 857 yards and 10 TDs, while
Keith Marshall adds 520 yards and five scores. Both average in excess of six
yards per attempt.
The strength of the Georgia defense is its ability to curtail the opposition's
passing attack (197.3 ypg, 10 TDs), as the Bulldogs have logged 19 turnovers
and 20 sacks. Amarlo Herrera and Shawn Williams both have 61 tackles on the
year, and Jarvis Jones has made a significant impact along the line of
scrimmage with 15 TFL and 8.5 sacks.
Ole Miss actually led 10-0 last week in Athens, but the Bulldogs came to life
about five minutes into the second quarter and scored the next 37 points en
route to the relatively easy victory. Murray threw for 384 yards and four TDs,
hitting 21-of-28 passes, and while he was sacked five times he did not throw
an interception. Brown made his final collegiate game a good one as he
finished with 113 yards and one TD receiving, while Gurley rumbled his way to
117 yards on 18 carries.
As for the Rebels, they finished with just 46 net rushing yards and only 234
yards total, and they were guilty of three turnovers, converted just 2-of-13
third-down tries and were on the field for fewer than 25 minutes. The Bulldogs
were credited with four sacks, and Alec Ogletree led the way with 11 total
tackles. His stat line also included a pick and a sack.
Despite Auburn's struggles this season, coach Richt knows his team is going to
have to fight tooth and nail to come out victorious this week.
"We know they've got great players. We know that they have outstanding
coaches, and we have a lot of respect for them. We know that the rival game
certainly brings the best out of both teams, so we're expecting quite a
challenge and quite a battle."
Ranking near the bottom of the SEC in nearly every major statistical category,
it's no wonder Auburn has yet to win a conference game and is in the midst of
one its worst seasons ever. The Tigers generate just 305.2 ypg in putting up a
mere 19.2 ppg, and their effort in the passing game has resulted in just seven
scoring strikes and a scant 161.8 ypg. The run has produced 11 trips to the
end zone, but the team averages just 3.9 ypc. Four different guys have
attempted a pass this season, with sophomore Kiehl Frazier connecting on just
62-of-115 attempts for 753 yards with two TDs and eight interceptions. Despite
the inefficiency of his quarterbacks, Emory Blake has 39 receptions for 609
yards and three scores. Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb have combined for 1,159
yards and 10 TDs on the ground, and each averages better than 5.5 ypc.
The Auburn defense allows roughly 200 ypg rushing, and foes have scored 17 of
their 30 TDs that way. From a pass defense perspective, the Tigers give up
229.4 ypg, and they've come up with only one interception. The unit has posted
18 sacks, with Corey Lemonier being credited with five of them. Daren Bates
and Demetruce McNeal both have more than 80 tackles this year, with the former
owning the team's lone pick.
Auburn exploded in the second half of last week's clash with New Mexico State
by turning a 7-0 halftime lead into a 42-7 rout. Both Mason and McCalebb went
over 100 yards rushing in the game, and they combined for three TDs. The
aerial attack saw first-time starter Jonathan Wallace complete 9-of-16 passes
for 164 yards, one TD and an interception, with Blake making the most of his
four catches by turning them into 78 yards. Auburn finished with a season-high
475 yards of total offense.
Defensively, the Tigers allowed just 83 net rushing yards and only one
meaningless fourth-quarter TD. The Aggies lost a pair of fumbles and gave up
four sacks, one of which went to McNeal, who led the team with 10 total stops
and he also forced and recovered a fumble while breaking up two passes.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is hopeful his team will use the recent win over
NMSU as a stepping stone to closing the season on a high note.
"Obviously, it was great to get a win today. That is just as simple as I can
put it. I am very proud of our team because again I feel like they have worked
every week. I feel like again today, they deserved it." he continued, "We have
a great SEC game coming up next weekend, and it is going to be extremely
tough, but we will take some things that we did a little better this week than
last week, and we will try to build on those, and we will continue to work
every day in practice and try to improve."
Georgia is clearly the better team in this matchup, and it shouldn't take long
for the Bulldogs to impose their will. Expect Richt's club to prevail rather
comfortably, setting it up for a shot at top-ranked Alabama, should the
Crimson Tide get past No. 15 Texas A&M this Saturday, in the SEC title tilt