KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:30 ET
SITE: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
SERIES: Georgia leads 3-0 (last meeting, 2002, Georgia 41-10)
RECORDS: New Mexico State 3-5, Georgia 6-2
POLLS: Georgia (No. 18 AP, No. 20 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For New Mexico State: Strike quickly. The speedy WR Taveon Rogers has scored 10 TDs this year and has big-play ability. But if Georgia stacks its defense to stop the Aggies' passing game, RB Kenny Turner could get back on track with some big runs out of the Aggies backfield.
-- For Georgia: Put pressure on the quarterback. Georgia's secondary will be in for a test against a pass-first New Mexico State team that has already thrown for 2,378 yards. The Bulldogs must avoid turnovers against a New Mexico State team that has forced 15.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
New Mexico State has enough balance, for a change, to throw when defenses try to stop the run or run when they try to stop the pass. This is no longer a one- or no-dimensional offense as it was over the past six years when former coach Hal Mumme only threw the ball and in the past two years when the teams of Mumme's successor, Dewayne Walker, simply weren't good enough to throw the ball. The Aggies are rushing for 121 yards a game, throwing for 297.
SS Donyae Coleman is coming off a career game for New Mexico State, but when your safety is racking up tackles like Coleman was against Nevada last Saturday, there is a problem. The Aggies can't stop downhill running games against backs that don't dance around in the backfield. If a running back hits holes quickly, they have problems because the defensive front is better at tracking players down than it is at the point of initial contact. The pass defense has been solid lately, but that may also be the byproduct of teams not needing to throw it much. The Aggies are a bend-but-don't-break-keep-everyone-in-front-of-you defense, which allows for teams that don't make mistakes to move up and down the field on them.
Georgia ranks fourth in the SEC in scoring offense (31.2 ppg) and third in passing offense (238.8 ypg). The Bulldogs will need to find someone to run the ball with RB Richard Samuel out with an ankle injury and RBs Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome all suspended. The remaining backs on the roster are sophomores Brandon Harton and Wes Van Dyk. Georgia is converting 39.2 percent of third downs this season.
Defensively, Georgia leads the SEC with 20 sacks this season, including eight by sophomore LB Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs have held opponents to just 26 percent (28-109) on third-down conversions this season. Georgia ranks third in the SEC in run defense (86.8 ypg) and fifth in pass defense (180.2 ypg).
Aggies: New Mexico State is 0-13 all-time against current members of the SEC. The last meeting came in 2007, when the Aggies lost to Auburn 55-20. But they were down only 21-20 at halftime of that game. ... The Aggies will get about $1 million in payout to play Georgia ... The Aggies play a 13-game schedule this year and getting to the seven games necessary to be bowl eligible is a long shot, but after an postseason absence of 51 years, the fact that it is even in discussion is evidence of the slow but steady rise toward finally snapping the nation's longest bowl drought.... New Mexico State last played in the postseason when it won the 1960 Sun Bowl. ... QB Matt Christian is still nursing the same left shoulder injury he originally sustained in an Oct. 15 win over Idaho. He left that game and hasn't missed a start, but he has been clearly bothered by the injury since -- even if his 432 passing yards against Nevada are no indication he was hurting. Christian's backup is freshman Travaughn Colwell.
Bulldogs: Georgia is going for a seventh straight win after losing its first two games of the season to Boise State and South Carolina. The current six-game winning streak is the longest since the 2007 team won its last seven to finish 11-2 counting the rout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. ... The Bulldogs are beginning a three-game homestand with the game against New Mexico State their first at Sanford Stadium since a 24-10 win over Mississippi State on Oct. 1. Home games against Auburn and Kentucky follow with the traditional season finale against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. ... The Bulldogs have surrendered only six offensive touchdowns in their last six games. One of Florida's two touchdowns last week came on a kickoff return. ... Georgia has outscored New Mexico State 118-23 in the three previous meetings. ... RBs Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome have been suspended for the New Mexico State game for a violation of team policy.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Kenny Turner -- Turner had four-consecutive 100-yard rushing games when he was moved back to the starting running back position earlier this year. Then last week, after earning just about all the attention of Nevada's defensive game plan, he was held to just 13 rushing yards. He did, however, manage to have 70 yards receiving.
SS Donyae Coleman -- The turnover machine (he has intercepted four passes, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles) was a tackling machine Saturday vs. Nevada. His 24 tackles against the Wolf Pack was a career-high and two shy of the school record.
WR Taveon Rogers -- There isn't any player in the WAC doing quite what Rogers has been doing this year. He leads the WAC in kick return average (27.5 per return to go along with two kick return touchdowns) and leads the WAC in all-purpose yards by nearly 50 yards per game.
QB Aaron Murray -- Murray has passed for 1,822 yards this season with 18 TDs and eight interceptions. With Georgia limited in the run game due to injuries and suspensions, look for Murray to throw the ball early and often against the Aggies.
WR Tavarres King -- King ranks third on Georgia in receiving with 290 yards and has a team-high five TD catches. With leading receiver Malcolm Mitchell still questionable, King could get targeted several times by Murray throughout the game.
LB Jarvis Jones -- Jones has an SEC-high eight sacks this season. Look for Jones to continue to get pressure off the edge. He also has been strong against the run this season, ranking second in tackles for Georgia this season with 44.
INJURY WATCH: Aggies:
DT Walto Taumoepeau (knee, questionable), LB Alex LaVoy (foot, probable).
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring, questionable), RB Richard Samuel (ankle, out).
--RB Richard Samuel is out for the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury. Samuel could possibly be back if Georgia reaches the SEC title game or the bowl game.
--RBs Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome have been suspended for the New Mexico State game for a violation of team policy.