Early December Inside Slant

Today's inside slant on the Georgia Bulldogs

With so many hints and suggestions that Wisconsin might be Georgia's opponent in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, Georgia coach Mark Richt taped a replay of the Wisconsin-Iowa game to get an early start on preparation.

"Everybody had been kind of anticipating that this would be it, and now that it's a reality, we're all fired up about it," Richt said. "They're a tremendous football team. It wasn't long ago that they were 9-0 and getting ready to still vie for the national championship."

Even though 17th-ranked Wisconsin and eighth-ranked Georgia took different paths to the Outback Bowl, each finished the regular season with a 9-2 record.

Wisconsin was 9-0 and ranked No. 4 in the nation before suffering blowout losses to Michigan State (49-14) and Iowa (30-7). Meanwhile, Georgia lost to the two teams that played for the SEC championship, Tennessee (19-14 on Oct. 9) and Auburn (24-6 on Nov. 13).

"You put so much into it, and you have a chance in the 11th game of the season to represent the league and go to the Rose Bowl," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "It's very frustrating as much time and effort as you put into it. It takes a few days to get it out of your system and then refocus."

Even with the two late-season losses, Richt has seen enough to know this is a tough Wisconsin team. The offense has been up and down, depending on the health of RB Anthony Davis, while the defense is ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 14.6 points per game.

"It's just an awesome defense, from what I can see," Richt said.


BY THE NUMBERS: 41 -- The number of Georgia victories over the past four seasons, making this the Bulldogs winningest senior class.

GAME OF THE YEAR: Georgia 45, LSU 16 -- After LSU beat Georgia twice last year on its way to the national championship, the Bulldogs ripped the Tigers this time around. David Greene passed for five UGa touchdowns and the defense gave LSU QBs constant problems.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Georgia's running defense vs. Wisconsin RB Anthony Davis -- Davis, the sixth-leading rusher in Big Ten history, missed four games because of injuries this season. Wisconsin averaged 25.4 points in six games with Davis and 12.5 points without him.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think Georgia will be the most talented team we've played. I don't think we've played anyone with the speed they have and the athleticism they have. They're a team that I know had aspirations to win a national championship going into the season. I can see why. I just hope we can match up with them." -- Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez.


BOWL AT A GLANCE: Georgia vs. Wisconsin, Outback Bowl, Tampa, Jan. 1.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RBs Thomas Brown and Danny Ware -- They've already faced some tough challenges as true freshmen and will face another against Wisconsin.

MLB Odell Thurman -- He got off to a slow start this season because of a suspension and some uncertain performances, and never really played up to expectations. Georgia needs him to be at his best against a hard-nosed Wisconsin running game.

PRO POTENTIAL: DE David Pollack -- His motor is always running on high and he's spent the past three years making play after play. He moves well and knows how to find the ball, but at 6-2, 265 pounds he can be pushed around.

LB Odell Thurman -- He entered his junior season as one of the top linebackers in the draft, but hurt himself with a three-game suspension and inconsistent play throughout the season. If he makes the jump, he'll be taking a chance.

WRs Fred Gibson and Reggie Brown -- Both have decent speed but neither has the big-time NFL burst. Gibson has an edge with his size (6-4) and ability to go up and get the ball, while Brown has better hands. They are generally considered among the top 10-12 receivers available in the draft.

S Thomas Davis -- Georgia always wanted to use him at linebacker and often played him like one, but injuries to other players prevented a full-time move, so he might be better off with another season at Georgia. Either way, NFL teams love his willingness to hit and he might have a difficult time ignoring all those first-round projections and returning for another year of college ball.

QB David Greene -- He's smart, experienced and knows how to win, with 41 victories in his career, but his arm strength, mobility and athleticism are limited, so he likely will last into the later rounds.

OT Max Jean-Gilles -- He's played both guard and tackle and has the size (6-4, 341) and athletic ability to pass up his senior season and enter the draft. Still, he has much to gain from another college season, especially when it comes to technique and consistency.

INJURY IMPACT: In addition to QB David Greene suffering a broken bone in his left (throwing) hand, WR Fred Gibson (hip-pointer), RB Danny Ware (broken bone in right hand) and FB Jeremy Thomas (eye) all suffered first-half injuries against Georgia Tech. Greene, Gibson and Thomas are all expected to be back for the bowl, while Ware will try to play with a cast.

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