Dawgs eyeing open week after Auburn

ATHENS – College coaches hate to admit it, but their players sometimes look ahead.

That is, they'll worry more about the big-time opponent in two weeks than the no-name foe earlier on the schedule. How could Georgia possibly be looking ahead today, with No. 5 Auburn staring back across the line of scrimmage?

It has to do with what's on the other side of the 12:30 p.m. game in Jordan-Hare Stadium – a break. For the leg-weary Bulldogs (6-4, 3-4 SEC), who are playing their 11th game in as many weeks, it must seem like a mirage in the desert.

"I've been looking ahead all season for this open week," safety Tra Battle said. "I've been praying for this off week for a very long time. My body is tired. The entire team is really mentally and physically tired."

The last time Georgia played 11 straight weeks was 1979, but it will be a regular occurrence now that the NCAA has adopted a 12-game schedule without allowing the season to start any earlier.

The Bulldogs won't be any more weary than the Tigers, though. Auburn also is playing for the 11th consecutive week, and the Tigers (9-1, 5-1) will play next week before finally getting a break.

"The players are feeling it," Coach Mark Richt said, "but we're not the only team that has played a lot of football this season."

Fullback Brannan Southerland will celebrate his 21st birthday on Sunday.

"It's going to be a great birthday present, being able to sit down a little and relax," he said. "The off week will be very enjoyable, but we have a couple more days of work before we can get into that.

Sunday's also a big day for Georgia's coaching staff. Richt and the Bulldogs' nine on-field assistants, who average more than 80 working hours a week, haven't had a day off since July.

"I'm looking forward to Sunday because Coach (Richt) said we don't have to come in at all Sunday," said quarterbacks Coach Mike Bobo, who has four young children, including triplets under the age of 1. "It'd be nice if we could win and stay home and enjoy the family. I don't know, though. I might need to come to work. I'll probably work more if I go home."

Richt himself is looking forward to the break, he said.

"We've gone this far," he said. "We can grind it out and put our best effort forward."

Wide receiver Mikey Henderson acknowledged that the open date has been circled on the Bulldogs' calendar all season just like a big game would be, but he said if Georgia is looking ahead today, it will only serve as a positive influence.

"Just because of the off week, there would no excuse not to play that much harder this week," Henderson said. "We've been on that grind, but it's like we're not going to have a game next week, why not let it all hang out this week?"

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