Georgia Preview

With an overtime upset by UNLV still fresh in many minds, the Sun Devils have an opportunity for redemption this week on a national stage. The third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs are also hoping to win over some disillusioned media members that continue to drop them in the polls with each passing week. Saturday's contest is the first of a four game stretch that will likely define the season for ASU.

2008 Record: 3-0 (1-0 SEC)

Head Coach: Mark Richt

Last Week: Georgia prevailed in a defensive battle over SEC rival South Carolina, 14-7.

OFFENSE

*Projected Starters
WR Tony Wilson, SO
WR Kris Durham, JR
LT Kiante Tripp, SO
LG Vince Vance, JR
C Chris Davis, SO
RG Cordy Glenn, FR
RT Clint Boling, SO
TE Tripp Chandler, SR
WR Mohamed Massaquoi, S
R QB Matthew Stafford, JR
TB Knowshon Moreno, SO

Leading the Bulldogs to ten consecutive wins, including four over ranked opponents, is junior quarterback Matthew Stafford. The signal-caller had his share of struggles as a freshman but blossomed in 2007. Stafford passed for 2,523 yards and 19 touchdowns last fall. He has yet to throw an interception this season. Stafford is 46 of 74 passing with 634 yards and four scores in Georgia's first three games. Compared to some of his Pac-10 counterparts, Stafford doesn't put up as gaudy of numbers but the junior is a great manager of the game and his value to the team transcends the stat sheet.

Noticeably absent from the trenches this season is Trinton Sturdivant. The Freshman All-American started all 13 games for Georgia last fall at left tackle and was expected to anchor an offensive line still full of youth. Four of Georgia's five sacks allowed this season came against the Gamecocks a week ago. The young offensive line gave up just 15 sacks total in 2007.

Tailback Knowshon exploded onto the college football scene in 2007 with a brilliant freshman campaign. His 1,334 yards and 14 scores earned him numerous post-season honors, which included First-Team All-SEC, SEC Freshman of the Year, and a consensus Freshman All-American selection.

Consequently, Moreno has already been included on several college football pundits' lists of Heisman Trophy Award candidates. Moreno has already notched seven touchdowns and 306 yards through the Bulldogs' first three contests. As talented of a runner as he is, the shifty sophomore can also catch very well out of the backfield. Moreno averages 32 receiving yards per game, which adds up to a multi-purpose threat for opponents. His primary back-up, redshirt freshman Caleb King, has begun his collegiate career this season with a very respectable 5.9-yard per carry average.

Stafford has connected with a variety of receivers already this season, a number that went as high as ten different receivers catching at least one pass last week at South Carolina. Mohammed Massaquoi moves into a leadership role this season after collecting four touchdowns on 32 catches a year ago. The steady senior is tops on the team with 10 receptions and two scores early into the season.

One of 12 true freshmen playing for the Bulldogs this season, flanker A.J. Green has already provided a few snapshots of what looks to be a promising future in Athens. Green paced the receivers last week at South Carolina with three catches for 60 yards. Tony Wilson, a sophomore, has gotten off to a slow start this season with just one catch in the first three games. Juniors Kris Durham and Michael Moore round out the receivers with a combined 201 yards on 12 receptions.

DEFENSE
*Projected Starters

DE Jeremy Lomax, SR
DT Corvey Irvin, SR
DT Geno Atkins, JR
DE Demarcus Dobbs, SO
SAM Darryl Gamble, SO
MIKE Dannell Ellerbe, SR
WILL Rennie Curran, SO
SS CJ Byrd, SR
FS Reshad Jones, SO
CB Bryan Evans, JR
CB Asher Allen, JR

The Bulldogs have enjoyed a tradition of excellence in the defensive trenches and this season's version is a salty bunch capable of carrying the torch. Jeff Owens, a key senior defensive tackle, was lost at the beginning of the season. Owens' injury may prove to be a big loss for20the Bulldogs but with Geno Atkins still lining up in the middle, Georgia's defensive front still features a standout that can wreak havoc in backfields.

Atkins, a member of the First-Team All-SEC in 2007, has already posted 13 quarterback hurries this season. The junior defensive tackle posted a total of 41 stops and 7.5 sacks last year. Atkins is sure to provide a big test for the ASU offensive line in their quest to keep Rudy Carpenter upright and able to connect with receivers. Senior Corvey Irvin joins Atkins along the interior.

If there is a chink in the defensive armor, perhaps it's at the edges where Georgia lost Sugar Bowl MVP Marcus Howard to the NFL. Demarcus Dobbs has started all three games this year after working his way up the depth chart. Thus far, Dobbs has paced the defensive ends with ten tackles and a half sack. Seniors Jeremy Lomax and Jarius Wynn each have a pair of tackles as well. Roderick Battle, a junior with 15 career starts which include two this season, is averaging one tackle per game this season.

Earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for last week's effort at South Carolina was linebacker Rennie Curran. The sophomore's jarring hit on Mike Davis that caused a fumble on the 1-yard line, which was recovered by teammate Asher Allen, helped preserve the hard fought road victory for the Bulldogs. Curran is the team leader in tackles with 20 stops and two sacks this season.

Dannell Ellerbe returns in the middle after leading the defense with 93 tackles a year ago. The senior was named to the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Watch List and should be up for more post-season honors this fall with his playmaking abilities.

Completing the trifecta at linebacker is an emerging sophomore, Darryl Gamble, who was named as the defense's Biggest Surprise of the Spring in 2008. Gamble's 12 stops are second-most on the team through three games. Fellow sophomore Akeem Dent also figures to see a significant amount of playing time. Dent, who has seven starts already in his young career, has tallied nine tackles this season.

Georgia's secondary, which is giving up an average of 236.3 passing yards per game, is full of experience at the corners. Four juniors and one senior have a combined 41 career starts. Asher Allen has recorded three pass break-ups, tops on the team, and also serves as a special teams standout for the Bulldogs. Juniors Bryan Evans and Prince Miller have 14 stops between them while senior Ramarcus Brown adds experience to the rotation.

The Bulldogs also feature a pair of solid safeties in CJ Byrd and Reshad Jones. Both safeties have 11 tackles a piece in 2008. Jones, another sophomore part of the Bulldogs' talented youth movement, finished with 57 stops last fall and has already notched his first interception this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Blair Walsh, FR
P Brian Mimbs, SR

KR Ramarcus Brown, SR
KR Asher Allen, JR

Place-kicker Blair Walsh is one of three true freshman making a start for Georgia this year. Walsh came to Athens with impressive prep credentials and has delivered thus far for his new team. Walsh has connected on 3 of his 4 field goal attempts this season with his longest make from 52 yards out. His only miss was a 56-yard attempt against Central Michigan. Seven of Brian Mimbs' 12 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line. The senior has already improved upon last year's numbers by posting a 45.2-yard average this season, including a career-best 77 yard punt.

The Bulldogs have fielded four different players on punt returns this year. Asher Allen, Reshad Jones, Logan Gray, and Knowshon Moreno have all seen action. Allen brings in an 18.2-yard average on five returns. In his debut as a returner last week, Moreno returned a punt for 32 yards. Cornerback Ramarcus Brown has fielded all but two kickoff returns this season. Brown averages 22.5 yards per return and his longest kick return to date was for 35 yards.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR ARIZONA STATE

1. Red Zone Efficiency: ASU can't continue to settle for field goals at the same rate they've done in previous big games. 2007 Lou Groza Award winner Thomas Weber is a great fallback option but the Sun Devils are going to need to punch it in more often if they hope to contend for another 10-win season. The lack of a consistent ground game sure doesn't help that cause, but the receivers can help rectify this issue.

2. Put It on Rudy: Quarterback Rudy Carpenter will need to be sharp and steady this Saturday in order to notch the big win. The senior is more than capable but will his supporting cast help him out? It will all start in the trenches with ASU's retooled offensive line. For the most part, Carpenter has had better protection this season but Georgia's front seven will offer up a big test. Although it figures to be a tough task, the ASU backfield must also keep the Bulldogs honest. All in all, it's the fifth-year senior quarterback that makes Arizona State go, which is exactly what Carpenter wants riding on his shoulders.

3. Put Together Four Solid Quarters: It may sound like a given but ASU has been a work-in-progress when it comes to putting forth a complete game on both sides of the ball. Great teams maintain their focus for 60 minutes, especially in big contests such as this. Will the payoff finally come this Saturday? Stay tuned.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR GEORGIA

1. Run, Run, Run: There's no better way to test the ASU defensive depth than to keep the ball in Knowshon Moreno's hands, particularly in the second half. The Sun Devils are still in the process of collecting depth on that side of the ball so sound running attacks will have an opportunity to wear them down. Heat has also been a contributing factor in the past when Arizona State has had earlier kickoffs and could wear down the ASU front four.

2. Put the Pressure Back On ASU: Alluded to above, the Sun Devils have struggled to punch it in the end zone when inside the 20-yard line. On the flip side, Georgia has flourished in the area of the field with Stafford under center. Last year, the Bulldogs finished second in the SEC in red zone efficiency and they're well on their way to claiming the top spot this season. Georgia's offense is 10-for-10 inside the 20s, nine of which have been touchdowns. Seven points on the board puts the pressure right back on ASU to match it, a situation that favors the defensive-minded Bulldogs.

3. "Special" Special Teams: True Freshman Blair Walsh gets another test in hostile territory this week but the true freshman passed last week's test at South Carolina with flying colors by making good on both field goal attempts. The Bulldogs' return game has been relatively pedestrian thus far but perhaps a breakthrough return by Asher Allen, or even another Knowshon Moreno sighting, will be what puts Georgia over the top in a close game.


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