ATHENS — Hello, and welcome to any place but State College. I considered not posting the pregame blog until after the South Carolina-Florida game, but figured this would give some of you folks an outlet to comment on that game until Georgia and Auburn kicks off at 3:30.
As I wrote earlier in the week, the Bulldogs are in a position that didn’t seem plausible two months after they started the season 0-2. They have won seven straight and, at 5-1 in the SEC, sit one-half game ahead of South Carolina (5-2) in the SEC East. Forget the contributing circumstances (Georgia’s soft schedule; the Gamecocks losing their Marcus Lattimore and Stephen Garcia losing his mind). All that really matters is if the Gamecocks lose and the Dogs win today, Georgia is division champions.
Even if both teams win, the Dogs need only win next week’s home game over Kentucky to assure themselves a spot in the conference title game.
UPDATE: South Carolina won 17-12, so the best Georgia can do today is stay one-half game ahead of the Gamecocks.
So about today. Auburn obviously is not nearly the force it was last year with Cam Newton, but the Tigers aren’t nearly as bad as they’re made out to be. They rank near the bottom of the SEC in most defensive categories. They’re allowing 400.7 yards and 27.7 points per game. But the statistics are skewed by lopsided road losses at Clemson (38-24), Arkansas (38-14) and LSU (45-10).
The Dogs’ biggest challenge will be stopping the run. Auburn is No. 2 in the conference in rushing at 191.1 yards per game, led by Michael Dyer’s 109.9 average.
The best way for the Dogs to counter that: Attack with their own running game. Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome should be rested. They’re all back from their one-game suspensions. Credit to Crowell for stepping up and publicly apologizing earlier in the week. He never would confirm that he was out because of a failed drug test, but said, “I just want to say that I made a mistake, and it will never happen again. I want to apologize to my family, fans and the Bulldog Nation.”
One last thing before I turn this over to you. Last week, coach Mark Richt had not said anything to the media about the running back suspensions at his weekly Tuesday news conference. A press release was sent out two hours later. So this week, Richt’s news conference ended with our Chip Towers asking Richt, “Is anybody suspended this week?” It was a completely appropriate, as well as humorous, question, given the backdrop, and Richt took it that way. Everybody in the room laughed, including Richt, who even turned to long-time associate athletic director of sports information director Claude Felton and joked, “Why did you let him ask one more question?”
But immediately following that conference, Richt went into another room for his standup interviews with television stations. When one person with the first question asked if any player was suspended for the Auburn game, Richt became irritated and called the reporter “unprofessional.” I’ve posted the video, via the Red and Black, below.
It just shows you that sometimes it’s not the question that irritates a coach or player as much as it is the timing and delivery.
Postscript: Richt phoned the reporter later and apologized.
I just figured the incident was worth addressing since the video was circulating on the Internet and I’ve been getting some questions about it via email. No big deal.
OK, that’s it for now. And as I post this, South Carolina leads Florida 14-3 at halftime.
And now, the floor is yours.
By Jeff Schultz