Dawgs Try to Continue Blackout Magic

ATHENS – Tickets are selling for more than $600. ESPN's "GameDay" is making its first visit to Athens in a decade. More than 70 media members are on a waiting list for credentials to cover the game. Black Georgia jerseys and t-shirts have created a windfall for retailers around town. Simply put, Bulldogs safety Reshad Jones calls today's game against No. 8 Alabama the biggest of his life.

It has been six years since two teams ranked in the top 10 played at Sanford Stadium and 32 years since Georgia's opponent in such a contest was Alabama, but there is more on the line for the Bulldogs than just history.

"I think it's going to be one of the easiest games to motivate for since I've been at Georgia," head coach Mark Richt said. "It's a no-brainer. If the guys blood doesn't boil, if they don't get riled up for this one, they probably shouldn't be wearing red and black."

Both Georgia and Alabama have started their season with four straight wins. Both have shown offensive firepower and stout defenses. Both have sights set on a national title – dreams that would take a big hit with a loss today.

Still, Richt isn't letting the fervor surrounding the biggest game at Sanford Stadium in years to rattle him. In fact, he's taking time to enjoy the moment.

"The older I get the more I realize what a blessing it is to be coaching at Georgia and playing in games like this," Richt said. "I mean, how often does a game like this come along? Not that often. … I hope the fans realize how special of a night this is going to be. It's going to be exciting. I don't know who's going to win. I'm excited because of just the whole opportunity to be a part of it."

The excitement has been pervasive, cornerback Asher Allen said. Wherever he has gone this week, people are talking about the game, offering plenty of reminders of just what's at stake for the Bulldogs.

"That's what keeps you focused, knowing that you hear football, football, football all day," Allen said. "It keeps you focused and most definitely excited just to be back at Sanford Stadium."

The challenge won't be simple for Georgia. The Crimson Tide have won their first four games by an average of nearly 27 points.

"They're scary just seeing them on film, how the defense is playing, how the offense is able to just dominate teams," Allen said. "They're just hitting on all cylinders right now."

Alabama leads the SEC in rushing offense behind a massive offensive line. Running backs Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch are dangerous out of the backfield, but it's junior Glen Coffee, who racked up 162 yards on just 10 carries in a route of Arkansas last week, that is Alabama's home-run hitter.

"He's a tough kid," defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "He puts his hat in it, the offensive line makes holes for him."

Georgia's pass rush struggled through three games this season, but last week the Bulldogs sacked Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter four times. Three of the defensive ends chipped in on sacks, nearly doubling the season output from that position.

Alabama's offensive line, however, will make getting to quarterback John Parker Wilson far more difficult.

"With the offensive line they've got, it's going to be hard to touch him," defensive end Jeremy Lomax said. "They've got a great, veteran offensive line, and it's going to be hard to get to him."

Things won't be much easier for Georgia's offense.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody and middle linebacker Rolando McClain are among the conference's best, making Alabama strong up the middle.

Cody is among the most feared players in the conference. At 6-foot-5 and more than 360 pounds, Cody is a force. But the junior is also incredibly athletic and can move quickly.

"He is a beast," Richt said. "Nobody has blocked him. He is a problem. He is a reason they are so outstanding against the rush, stopping the rush. He can push the pocket back in the face of the quarterback."

While Alabama will provide Georgia with its biggest test of the season, the opposite is also true.

The Crimson Tide have yet to face an opponent with as many offensive weapons as the Bulldogs employ. Last week, quarterback Matthew Stafford hooked up with freshman wide receiver A.J. Green eight times for 159 yards, while tailback Knowshon Moreno ran for 149 and two touchdowns.

The Bulldogs also have another advantage: History.

In five previous meetings in which both teams were ranked in the top 25, Georgia is undefeated. And while historical perspective can sometimes be lost on young players, the Bulldogs don't have to look back any further than last season to find a recipe for beating the Tide.

Georgia beat Alabama 26-23 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. last year in a game Stafford called a turning point and wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said was an invaluable learning experience for the Bulldogs.

"It was a classic SEC game, down to the wire, smash-mouth football, working hard," Massaquoi said. "It was one of those games you learn a lot."

How well Georgia remembers those lessons may go a long way to determining who wins this year's contest. As offensive lineman Chris Davis said, all the excitement surrounding this game isn't for nothing. Tonight's game will be one to remember.

"It's going to be a challenge," Davis said. "It's going to be a fistfight, a good old-fashioned SEC war, man-on-man to see who's tougher. It ought to be pretty fun."

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