Dawgs and Badgers set for Outback Bowl

TAMPA - Apparently, the expert's view of today's Outback Bowl isn't much different than the layman's.

"I see two very fierce defenses getting after two offenses that have been good but maybe not great," Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

The No. 8 Bulldogs (9-2) have the nation's 12th-ranked defense. That might intimidate some opponents, but not No. 16 Wisconsin (9-2), which boasts the country's eighth-best defense. The two teams meet today at 11 a.m. in Raymond James Stadium.

"I would say their defense would be one of the top two or three in our league this year," Richt said. "They're as good as any of them and better than most. I really haven't seen anybody have a whole lot of success against them."

The Badgers are led by defensive end Erasmus James, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, who has eight sacks on the season. The Badgers led the Big Ten with 33 sacks, and Richt said their front four is the best Georgia will have faced this year.

"In a lot of ways, Wisconsin's defense is very similar to LSU's in that they like to crowd you, they like to smother you," Richt said. "They like to play things tight (in pass coverage) and see if you can execute in the passing game."

The good news for Georgia is that it scored 45 points against LSU and has played its best offensively against man-to-man coverage.

"As a wide receiver, do you like that?" UGA senior Fred Gibson said. "Yeah. I love it, and I know Reggie Brown loves it."

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said his defense will get its biggest test of the season Saturday. The Badgers didn't play Michigan this year, and Alvarez said the Wolverines are the only team in his league that has an offense as balanced as Georgia's.

"Most of the other teams in our league you could overplay them," he said. "With Georgia's offense you can't do that. They have home run threats in both places. You have to play them honest."

As for Georgia's defense, Alvarez is most concerned about speed.

"I don't think we have anyone in our league who runs they do defensively," he said.

Alvarez compared the Bulldogs' defensive line to Iowa's, and Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco said Ohio State's linebackers might have been as fast as Georgia's.

"We pride ourselves on being able to run," Bulldog linebacker Arnold Harrison said. "It's what we do best. We run and we hit."

Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder says there's no way to predict a low-scoring game.

"All kinds of strange things can happen in a ball game," he said.

Still, that's what everyone will be expecting come Saturday.

"It wouldn't surprise me very much if it ended up that way," Harrison said. "I know the fans want to see a whole lot of points, but hopefully those whole lot of points will all be on our side of the scoreboard."

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