Vince Dooley, an Auburn grad who made UGA his home, likes to refer to the Georgia-Auburn rivalry as “feuding cousins,” but there’s always been a sizable contingent in the Bulldog Nation that thinks more like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, who said this week, “I never liked Auburn. Point blank, I never liked them.”
After last year’s contentious game — what with Nick Fairley’s unpunished dirty play, Gene Chizik stirring it up on the sideline during the fracas at the end of the game and assistant coach Trooper Taylor and rent-a-quarterback Cam Newton strutting around like playground bullies — a lot of UGA fans no longer view it as a “friendly” rivalry.
Darrell Huckaby said the rivalry “changed forever last year because of the dirty play of Nick Fairley and the thuggish sideline demeanor of Trooper Taylor. No longer a friendly rivalry between conference cousins.”
Dawn Garland dates the change further back than last year. “I can’t forget when Reggie Brown was knocked unconscious in a deliberate helmet to helmet collision in Auburn in 2004. There was no penalty flag thrown and that set the tone for the 2 teams for the last several years.”
Cory Organ rates it “pure hate” now and Jesse Murrah agrees, while Chip Kash says, “Most of us are just tired of Auburn being treated by the NCAA as if they are teflon coated.”
Kevin McCann worries that, “after the dirty plays last year, this one could get ugly.”
Let’s hope not. The only really “chippy” game so far for Georgia was Vandy, and the Dogs didn’t handle that well. Better to take the business-like approach that worked this year in Jacksonville than to get too amped up over how things went last year.
The Georgia fans who have the closest view of the rivalry are those who live over the border and must put up with the Barners and Bammers on a daily basis. One of them is my longtime friend John Sosebee, who lives in Anniston with his wife Lisa, who is of the War Eagle persuasion. Or Turkey Buzzard, as John puts it. I asked him what folks over there were saying about this week’s game.
Auburn fans, John reported, “are still busy cackling about the LSU win and Bama’s drop to #4 and how their faithfuls have been momentarily silenced for the first time this season.” But, he said, some Tiger fans have admitted to him that “Auburn’s fickle defense and lack of a leader at QB is gonna make them a much different opponent than they were last year with Cambo leading them on the field, blowing kisses at everybody.”
As for John, he’s “getting psyched up for this Saturday’s feast of Turkey Buzzard stew.”
When asked this week what I expect out of this game, I’ve said I think the double-digit spread favoring the Dogs is kind of ridiculous for a conference game between two ranked teams, but if Georgia doesn’t cough it up or commit a bunch of special teams gaffes, I think they should be able to handle Auburn.
Under Gus Malzahn, the highest-paid assistant in college athletics, the uptempo Auburn offense is always dangerous, and it will be important for the Dogs’ defense to contain power back Michael Dyer up the middle and speedster Onterio McCalebb on the outside in the running game, while keeping tight coverage on wide receiver Emory Blake and big tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen (who killed us last year). Sophomore Clint Moseley only has a couple of games under his belt as the starter at quarterback, so it behooves Jarvis Jones and company to get in his face constantly from the start.
Offensively, the Dogs should be able to move the ball on an Auburn defense that ranks near the bottom of the conference in most categories. Getting Crowell and Malcolm Mitchell back is big, but I think how Georgia fares will come down to how Aaron Murray plays. If it’s a tight game, he should be the difference.
What’s your view of this year’s installment in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry?
Coach Dooley will be meeting fans, posing for pictures and autographing copies of his books from 3 to 4:30 Friday at the Red Zone, 155 E. Clayton St. in Athens. … Jake Scott, one of the most exciting Bulldogs players ever, will be honored on the field during Saturday’s game for his upcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Scott becomes the 12th Georgia player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. … Athens’ Hotel Indigo is holding a 1980s era “Bulldog Legends” event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. before the game and for two hours right after the game Saturday in connection with the “1980 Dawgs” DVD set. Scott Woerner, who was at the Red Zone last week, will be on hand and organizers say some other 1980 players also might show up. There’s no admission charge and a cash bar will be open in the lobby area of the hotel. In addition, an exhibit of Georgia football photos by Wingate Downs is being held in the Indigo’s art gallery and runs through late December. … McFarlane Toys has announced its fourth series of college football action figures is due out in late June, and UGA’s Champ Bailey is in the lineup, along with Ricky Williams of Texas, Sam Bradford of Oklahoma, Tim Tebow of Florida, Cam Newton of Auburn, Marcus Allen of USC and Peyton Manning of Tennessee. McFarlane released a cool Hines Ward figure a couple of years ago.
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