The Deep South's oldest rivalry will have its 109th meeting this weekend when the 15th-ranked Auburn Tigers (7-2, 5-1) travel to Athens to face the ninth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (7-1, 5-1) in a key SEC showdown between divisions.
Auburn is looking to remain in the hunt for return trip to Atlanta while a win by the Bulldogs puts them in the SEC Championship game for the third time in four seasons.
The key to Georgia's offense begins with senior quarterback D.J. Shockley. In his first year as the starter, the 6-1, 206-pounder has been outstanding for the Bulldogs in 2005. Leading the SEC in passing efficiency at 155.97, Shockley has thrown for 1,538 yards and 12 touchdowns this season with just four interceptions.
Despite being bothered by a knee injury that kept him out of the Florida game, Shockley is expected to be back and close to full speed for Saturday night's game.
When Shockley isn't throwing the ball he's handing it to one of a trio of talented backs. Sophomore Thomas Brown (5-8, 183) leads the Bulldogs in rushing at 69.4 yards per game and has two touchdowns. Backups Danny Ware (6-1, 216, So.) and Kregg Lumpkin (6-1, 211, So.) have also been solid this season, combining for nearly 500 yards and two touchdowns as well. Fullback Brannan Southerland (6-0, 235, Rfr.) has carried the ball 11 times for 10 yards this season, but has two touchdowns and has been a good blocker.
D.J. Shockley is the catalyst for the Georgia offense.
At wide receiver senior Bryan McClendon (5-11, 184) leads the team in catches with 22 and yards with 320, but freshman Mohamed Massaquoi has been the go-to guy for the Bulldogs in recent games. Third on the team with 18 catches for 239 yards and one touchdown, the 6-2, 180-pounder made his first career start against Arkansas and responded with three catches for 40 yards. Big-play threats Sean Bailey (6-1, 175, Jr.) and Kenneth Harris (6-3, 210, Rfr.) give the Bulldogs a solid receiving corps capable of the big play.
Perhaps the most dangerous weapon for Georgia on offense is the tight end position where Leonard Pope and Martrez Milner roam the field looking to make big plays. Perhaps the top tight end in the country, the 6-7, 250 Pope is second on the team in receptions with 19 and has 298 yards and one touchdown. Not too shabby himself, the 6-4, 250 Milner has 10 catches for 252 yards and two scores. Both will be a tough matchup for the Tigers in the play-action pass game of Georgia.
Up front the Bulldogs feature the biggest and most experienced line the Tigers will see this season. Anchored by huge senior Max Jean-Gilles (6-4, 340) at guard, Georgia's line has a combined 149 career starts and helps pave the way for the SEC's second-rated offense. Rounding out the starting lineup up front are tackles Daniel Inman (6-7, 328, Jr.) and Dennis Roland (6-9, 309, Sr.) along with guard Nick Jones (6-3, 285, Jr.) and center Russ Tanner (6-4, 297, Sr.).
Defensively, the strength lies in the front four and in particular at end where junior Quentin Moses has been dominating opponents. The 6-5, 248 pass rusher has eight sacks this season and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Fellow starting end Will Thompson (6-3, 254, Sr.) has added three sacks with seven tackles for a loss. Top reserve Charles Johnson (6-2, 264, So.) is second on the team with four sacks and has six tackles for a loss.
In the middle, if healthy, both Kedric Golston (6-4, 292, Sr.) and Gerald Anderson (6-2, 315, Sr.) are two of the best in the league, but both have battled injuries this season and that's where Georgia's depth shows up. Ray Gant (6-2, 277, Jr.) may get the start in place of Golston this week, who is returning from an elbow injury. Darrius Swain (6-2, 330, Sr.) and freshman Jeff Owens (6-3, 280) have all shown the ability to get the job done for the Bulldogs this season when called upon.
At linebacker the Bulldogs are hoping for a return to the lineup for strongside linebacker Brandon Miller. The starter in the first seven games until a high ankle sprain caused him to miss the Florida game, the 6-4, 238 sophomore has 29 tackles this season. If he can't go then junior Danny Verdun-Wheeler (6-2, 245) will get the call. Verdun-Wheeler is fourth on the team with 43 tackles. Starting in the middle is junior Tony Taylor (6-1, 238) while Jarvis Jackson (6-2, 208, Jr.) starts on the weak side. Jackson is third on the team with 44 tackles.
In the secondary is perhaps Georgia's best player in senior free safety Greg Blue. A powerful hitter who has improved against the pass, the 6-2, 214-pounder leads the team with 62 tackles. Rover Tra Battle (5-11, 167, Jr.) is second on the team with 50 tackles. Corners Tim Jennings (5-8, 178, Sr.) and DeMario Minter (6-0, 198, Sr.) give the Bulldogs perhaps the top pair in the league.
In the kicking game both punter Gordon Ely-Kelso (6-2, 234, Sr.) and kicker Brandon Coutu (6-0, 197, So.) are among the best in the conference. This season Ely-Kelso is averaging 43.2 yards per punt and an even 40 yards net punting. Coutu is 17-22 on field goals this season and has only missed three times inside 50 yards this year.