11 10 2004 - Inside Slant - Georgia

Scout.com takes an inside slant look at the Dawgs before thier clash with Auburn.

Georgia coach Mark Richt knows the advantage Auburn brings into Saturday's game against his Bulldogs. Georgia had an open date last year before the Auburn game and came out rested and prepared in a 26-7 home victory over the Tigers.

"It's nice to have an open date," Richt said. "We had that advantage last year. We were fresh. It can make a difference, especially at this time of the year."

It's an advantage Richt would definitely like for his own team after playing six consecutive weeks against SEC opponents.

"It looks to me like we're not playing as fast," Richt said. "It's been a tough stretch. It wears on you."

Still, this year's version of the Bulldogs barely compared to the stumbling Auburn team that Georgia dominated last season. The Tigers are 9-0, 6-0 in the SEC, champions of the SEC West and No. 3 in the media, coaches and BCS polls, with 11 consecutive wins since last year's loss to Georgia, but the Bulldogs are 8-1, 6-1 in the SEC and ranked eighth in the nation and still playing for their own lofty goals.

Of all the games that have been played between the Bulldogs and Tigers in the oldest continual rivalry in the Deep South, this is arguably the most important and anticipated game.

"It's a great match-up and I think it will have a lot of national interest," Richt said. "The stage is big and the stakes are big. Our guys will certainly be excited about playing in that kind of game."

Beyond that excitement, Richt would also like to think his team is rested and ready, but he's not certain. The offense played perhaps its best of the game last week, producing 589 yards of offense in their 62-17 win over Kentucky, but then quarterback David Greene missed both meetings and practice on Monday with the stomach flu. He's started all 49 games during his Georgia career.

Meanwhile, the defense gave up 344 yards to a Kentucky offense ranked last in the nation in total offense, averaging 259 per game. That came one week after the Bulldogs allowed 458 yards against Florida.

Now Georgia must be at its best against an Auburn offense leading the SEC in scoring (35 ppg). With that in mind, Richt plans to cut back on practice and conditioning work this week to get the Bulldogs back on fresh legs.

"It looks like we're a little bit fatigued," Richt said of Georgia's defense. "I don't think that we're playing as fast as we've been playing in the past. I think that has to do with the wear and tear of the season. It might be that we don't have the depth that you'd like at certain positions. I don't know if the guys are just tired."


SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Bulldogs have been inconsistent at times, often moving the ball and then struggling to score touchdowns in the red zone, but they appeared to put it all together last week with 589 total yards and 62 points last week against Kentucky. The lack of a quality opponent inflated those numbers, but the Bulldogs appear to have both their running game and passing game moving in the right direction with increasing progress up front.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder certainly has high standards for a defense allowing just 15.6 points and 293 yards per game, but it's hard to argue with his assessments that Georgia hasn't played its best defensive football in recent weeks, especially in last week's game against Kentucky. To stop Auburn, the Bulldogs have to do a better job, especially with its linebackers against the running game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know Auburn's been resting up. I talked to a couple of my friends down there and they can't wait to play us. We're going to try and spoil their hopes like Florida spoiled our hopes two years ago." -- Georgia wide receiver Fred Gibson.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Georgia at Auburn, Nov. 13 -- The South's oldest and longest continuing rivalry has never meant more, with two top-10 teams trying to keep their championship hopes alive. The Tigers have won 11 consecutive games since last year's humbling 26-7 loss at Georgia, winning the SEC West, securing a trip to the SEC championship game and climbing to No. 3 in the media, coaches and BCS rankings, but this series has a tendency to favor the road team. Georgia has the SEC's best record since 2000 at 48-13, a 78.7 winning percentage that includes a victory at Auburn in 2004. The Bulldogs must slow the Auburn running game, force turnovers and create some big plays in the passing game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB David Greene -- Georgia's senior QB has a 40-9 career record as the program's starter, including a 14-1 mark on opponents' home fields and a victory at Auburn in 2002. Greene tends to play some of his best games in the big games and ranks as the SEC career leader in lowest interception ratio, with only 29 picks in 1,368 attempts. The Bulldogs must hope the stomach flu that forced him to miss Monday's practice and meetings won't carry over to the end of the week.

RBs Danny Ware and Thomas Brown -- Auburn is allowing only 101.7 rushing yards per game, but the combination of Ware, Brown and the Georgia offensive ine should be Auburn's toughest ground test of the season. If Ware and Brown can be tough and elusive and hold on to the ball, the Bulldogs will be in a position to make big plays in the passing game. If Ware can't play because of ankle and knee problems, someone else will have to step up and help Brown.

DE David Pollack -- Widely regarded as one of the nation's best and most active defensive players, despite constant double teams and nagging injuries. He's still tied for third in the SEC with 7.5 sacks and ranks third with 11.0 tackles for losses this season.

LB Odell Thurman -- He missed the first three games of the season with a suspension and has yet to play at the level he reached in 2003, drawing criticism from Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder in the process. Unless he can help slow the Auburn rushing attack, the Tigers will be tough to stop.

Even if Danny Ware was healthy and completely available this week, Georgia coaches told fellow true freshman Thomas Brown he would start this week at Auburn. "It means a lot," Brown told the Athens Banner Herald.

"It's going to be really exciting to get my first start. I just need to relax, calm down and just play the game that I've been playing." Ware is questionable for Saturday's game after leaving the first quarter of the Kentucky game with a sprained right knee and ankle. It's still possible he will play against Auburn, but Brown will start after rushing for a career-high 130 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries. He has rushed for more than 100 yards three times in the past four games.

Another key for Georgia in the Auburn game will be having its leading tackler, FS Thomas Davis, healthy and hitting Auburn RBs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Davis sat out the Kentucky game with a sprained right knee and ankle and is expected to start Saturday.

Other injuries include: TB Tyson Browning (ankle); WR A.J. Bryant (foot); TE Martez Milner (back spasms) and TE Michael Cooper (dental work). Browning, Milner and Cooper are probable, while Bryant is doubtful.

Dawg Post Top Stories