Auburn leads the all-times series 47-39-1 and has won the last nine meetings between the two schools. The last Auburn win came in 1987 when Aundray Bruce intercepted three passes in Auburn's 20-10 victory in Atlanta.
Both Auburn and Georgia Tech come into the game reeling after losses to open the season. The Tigers fell at home 23-0 to USC in a game featuring two preseason Top 10 teams. The Yellow Jackets, traveling to BYU, fell 24-13 after leading much of the first half. Looking to get into the win column, both teams should be up for the second of two non-conference games before opening league play.
Following an off-season filled with academic problems that left his troops razor thin on both sides of the ball, Coach Chan Gailey brings a youthful Yellow Jacket team into Saturday's game led by true freshman quarterback Reggie Ball. A clone of former All-ACC Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton, the smallish Ball (listed at 5-11, 192) is a leader on the field and can create plays with his feet or with his arm.
In his first game as a collegian, a start against the Cougars last Thursday, Ball completed 15-24 passes for 147 yards with one interception. He also ran the ball five times for 39 yards with a run of 33 yards early in the game that set up a Georgia Tech scoring opportunity. Respectable numbers for a true freshman, Ball handled the offense well and wasn't asked too many plays. That will probably again be the plan this week when the Tigers come to town. Expect Ball to try to get the ball into the hands of his wide receiver corps early and let them make plays.
Reggie Ball - (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)
The wide receiver group is led by athletic senior Jonathan Smith (5-10, 189). Ball's go-to receiver from the outset, he caught a career-high nine passes for 121 yards and was open on just about every play at BYU. The Tigers will need to know where Smith is at all times on Saturday in order to keep Tech's passing game in check. Physical Nate Curry (5-10, 190, Jr.) is also a player capable of making the big play. He caught just one pass for eight yards against BYU.
In the backfield former walk-on P.J. Daniels (5-10, 205, So.) did an admirable job against the Cougars with 57 yards on 16 carries with a long of just nine yards. A bruiser wholikes to run between the tackles, he's not a big-play threat, but can grind out some yards. Daniels is backed up by sophomores Chris Woods (5-10, 190) and Ajenavi Eziemefe (6-1, 225).
At fullback junior Jimmy Dixon (6-1, 215) handles the duties, which are limited in Gailey's pro-style offense.
The tight end position for the Yellow Jackets is like another offensive linemen with big John Paul Foschi the starter. He is backed up by Darius Williams. Foschi (6-4, 270) and Williams (6-6, 260) combine to form the largest tight end duo the Tigers will see this side of Fayetteville, Ark.
Up front All-ACC center Hugh Reilly is the bellcow of the group. The 6-4, 285-pound senior has started every game the last three seasons. He is joined up front by left tackle Nat Dorsey (6-6, 330, Jr.), left guard Andy Tidwell-Neal (6-4, 310, Jr.), right guard Brad Honeycutt (6-4, 305, So.) and right tackle Kyle Wallace (6-6, 290, Jr.).
Defensively, Georgia Tech is led by the play of a solid linebacker corps. Seniors Keyaron Fox (6-3, 220) and Daryl Smith (6-2, 235) have been mainstays for the Yellow Jackets on defense since their freshman seasons. Tech's leading tackler two out of the last three seasons, Smith has 260 career tackles, 12 sacks and three interceptions. Fox was Tech's third-leading tackler in 2002 and was second in tackles as a sophomore. Rounding out the position is junior Ather Brown, who has been hampered by injuries each of the past two seasons. The top backup at linebacker is junior Tabugbo Anyansi, who was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school three years ago.
Up front is where the problems lie for the Yellow Jackets. Athletic, but small, the Georgia Tech front four will have their hands full trying to slow down an Auburn running back that will likely be featured after being shut out by the USC Trojans in the opener. At one end Eric Henderson (6-3, 265) is a solid player who earned freshman All-American honors last season. At the other end is playmaker Gerris Wilkinson, who had two sacks against BYU. At just 6-3, 230, he could have trouble against Auburn's bigger offensive tackles in the running game. The backups at end are true freshman Joe Anoai (6-3, 250) and junior Chirod Williams (6-4, 235).
The middle doesn't look much better with true freshman Mansfield Wrotto (6-3, 300) the starter at one tackle and Travis Parker (6-5, 275, So.) on the other side. Both struggled to get a pass rush last week against the BYU Cougars, something that could be a big problem if it happens again this week. The backups are both undersized with Omar Billy at 6-2, 270 and redshirt freshman Brad Brezina measuring in at 6-2, 275.
While the line isn't big, that's not the case in the secondary where the Yellow Jackets are a physical group. At the safety spots James Butler (6-3, 210, Jr.) and Dawan Landry (6-2, 215, So.) roam the field to clean up anything coming through the front line. Against BYU, Butler had a career-high 13 tackles and his first interception. At cornerback athletic Reuben Houston (6-0, 195, So.), a former standout tailback in high school, is still learning the position, but has the ability to make plays. On the other side steady Jonathan Cox (5-10, 190, Sr.) makes his home. They are backed up by freshman Kenny Scott (6-1, 180) from Daytona Beach, Fla., and junior Nathan Burton (6-2, 200).
In the kicking game the Yellow Jackets had to replace talented kicker Luke Manget Taking over is senior Dan Burnett, who backed up Manget each of the last three seasons. In limited action the last three seasons Burnett was 8-8 in extra points, but 0-4 in field goals. Against BYU he made his only PAT and was a perfect 2-2 in field goal opportunities. The punter is Hal Higgins, who had three kicks for a 41.7 yard average in the opener. Smith will handle both the punt and kickoff return duties.
The game will be televised by ABC with kickoff set for shortly ater 2:30 p.m. CDT.