Auburn Coach Impressed By Georgia's Talent

Auburn, Ala.--The Georgia Bulldogs come to Auburn Saturday for the 108th renewal of the Deep South's oldest football rivalry.

In a series that doesn't need any more fuel for the fire than it already has, this year's edition has national implications, as two top five teams will take the field Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in front of a national television audience on CBS.

"This is a good football team coming here," Tommy Tuberville says of the Bulldogs. "It's going to be a great atmosphere for college football. It's one that you look forward to coaching or playing in if you're on this level.

"It should be a fun time and it's a great rivalry. It has been for many, many years and will continue to be that. We're going into it looking at it as another opportunity for us to play on national television to see if we can improve."

Auburn enters the game at 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the league. Its last loss was on Nov. 15, 2003 to Georgia in Athens.

"Last year they dominated us on both sides of the line of scrimmage," Tuberville says of the 26-7 defeat. "We didn't play very well and they had a lot to do with that. But this is not a revenge game or anything like that. We're to the end of the season and for us it's kind of a round robin. If we keep winning we have an opportunity to get to the Orange Bowl."

Georgia is 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the league. While Auburn already has the Western Division crown wrapped up, Georgia needs some help to win the East as it lost to Tennessee on Oct. 9. Since then, the Bulldogs have been winners of four straight. They haven't lost a road game since falling to LSU on Sept. 20 of 2003.

Several key Georgia players are questionable for Saturday's game. Quarterback David Greene has missed some practice this week and will not practice Tuesday. He is battling an illness but should be ready to play Saturday.

"We're going to practice for David Greene and (D.J.) Shockley," Tuberville says. "We have for the past three years and we understand what both of them can do. I would imagine that we'll see a lot of both because they've played Shockley quite a bit this year. He's played well and he's much improved. And David is David Greene. He's Mr. Consistent. He's been the most consistent quarterback in this league in probably the history of this league by looking at his stats."

Last Saturday against Kentucky, Greene set the NCAA record for wins by a starting quarterback with 40.

Starting tailback Danny Ware is suffering from a sprained knee and ankle, and his status for the game is still up in the air. His backup, Thomas Brown, has played well this season and has 601 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Tuberville says that there shouldn't be much of a difference if Ware is unavailable.

"Just watching Brown, he's very elusive, very quick and can make plays," Auburn's head coach says. "He does great on his cutbacks and he has great vision. He's a young guy that will continue to get better. This is a guy who's played a lot. It's not like he hasn't played so I don't see a dramatic dropoff."

One player who has become a big part of the Georgia offense in recent weeks is tight end Leonard Pope. After only three receptions in the first five games, he has 15 receptions and five touchdowns in the last four games.

"A big tight end like that, who can catch the football, is a major factor," Tuberville says. "We had Robert Johnson a couple of years ago with the same size and athletic ability. It was a major factor for us playing against people who blitzed because for one thing he's a big target.

"He's become a factor in their offense and he's become a favorite receiver for David," he adds. "He's got two guys on the outside (Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson) that have caught 42 passes each so obviously he has a feel for those guys. Now you've got a tight end and that makes them so much tougher to defend."

Tuberville adds that with the addition of Ware, Brown and Pope, the Georgia offense this year is better and tougher to scheme against than in the past.

"They're more play action pass this year," he says. "David does a good job of showing the football, giving it or pulling it back and throwing the short post, fade route or quick passes. It's been very effective. He has a quick release and he's very accurate with the football. That's one thing that's brought them to another level in what they've done offensively. And they've also been able to run the ball more effectively."

Defensively, free safety Thomas Davis, one of the better players on the squad, has been suffering from a knee and ankle sprain. Davis practiced Monday, but says he is nowhere close to 100 percent.

Without Davis, the Bulldogs would still have plenty of talent on defense, led by end David Pollack and middle linebacker Odell Thurman.

Defensive end David Pollack, an All-American, makes a sack vs. Tennessee.

"Their defense has a lot of speed," Tuberville says. "David Pollack is their big play maker. You can tell the other players play up to his level of intensity. He's great off the football and he gives your offensive linemen a little bit of trouble. All that said and done, he's well coached. They do a good job of technique and fundamentals. They're not just an athletic defense. They're a well-coached, athletic defense, which makes a lot of difference."

With a bye week following Auburn's game at Ole Miss, the Tigers are in their second week of preparation for Georgia. Tuberville says that his team will spend the rest of this week fine-tuning the plan.

"We've got a great game plan," he says. "We've got it all intact. The next three days we'll try to brush up on it and try to make sure we know the finer points of what we're doing and make sure it's ingrained in all of our players. We're going to keep them fresh and ready to go on Saturday because we're going to need everything we can possibly muster to win this game."

Auburn leads the all-time series 51-48-8.

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