Richt Turns up the Heat on Auburn

ATHENS -- Georgia coach Mark Richt has done his best this week to turn up the heat up on Auburn's third-ranked football team.

"To me, Auburn's got a lot more riding on it," Mark Richt said. "It's pretty obvious. They have a legitimate shot at the national title. I can't say we have a legitimate shot at the national championship if we win it. If we win it, we might not even play for the SEC Championship. We're playing for possibilities. They are playing for more real, tangible things you can sink your teeth into."

The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 SEC) and the No. 8 Bulldogs (8-1, 6-1) play today at 3:30 p.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Georgia has won on three of its last four trips.

If Georgia makes that four out of five, it'll likely do it on the back of its passing game. The Bulldogs have averaged 11.3 yards per attempt in their last four games, a number that would easily lead the SEC if they had managed to do it the whole season.

"We're starting to make plays," quarterback David Greene said.

There will be opportunities to make more today. Auburn's coaches have expressed concern this week with every member of their starting secondary except senior cornerback Carlos Rogers. This week, that beleaguered group will have to find a way to cover Fred Gibson, Reggie Brown and tight Leonard Pope.

"They can't cover everybody," Gibson said. "Carlos can't cover the whole field. It doesn't matter if he switches on me or Reggie, we're both going to get the job done. I don't think they've got three Carlos Rogers on the team."

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville acknowledged this week that the cornerback spot held by Montavis Pitts has "given up a few plays this year."

"We'll have a few things this week to help that situation out, but (Georgia has) good football players," Tuberville said. "They've got a guy who can throw it down the field. Fred Gibson has been a good football player since he's been at Georgia. It's nothing any different. He makes a lot of plays."

Gibson and Brown each have 42 catches this year, but Brown has a slight yardage lead at 732.

Of course, if the Bulldogs are going to make any plays down field, they have to figure out how to slow down Auburn's pass rush. The Tigers lead the SEC with 32 sacks this season. Georgia has given up just 13, the fourth-best total in the league, but its offensive line has had a few lapses.

"They're hot and cold," Auburn defensive end Bret Eddins said. "But it seems like the tough times and the tough games, when they needed to, they were really able to turn it on. Anytime they want to, they're very physical, very big up front."

Although Eddins and Doug Langenfeld are the Tigers regular starters at defensive end, it's pass-rush specialists Quentin Groves and Stanley McClover who have made life tough for opposing offenses. Groves is tied with Georgia's David Pollack for the SEC sack lead (7.5), and McClover is in second place (6.5).

When Groves and McClover are in the game at the same time "that really causes some problems," Richt said. "I'm sure our tackles will need some help from time-to-time."

The Bulldogs will try to slow down the Tigers' pass rush with play-action passes as well, but, in order for that to work, they have to establish an ability to run.

"When you get a running game going, that makes the defensive line hesitate," guard Nick Jones said.

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have looked at the matchups for today's game and made the Bulldogs the underdog for the first time this season.

"I like being the underdog," Gibson said. "Our whole team likes being the underdog. When you turn on the TV, everybody is talking about Auburn. I hope they're watching the game. We'll see then."

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