You know it’s not your typical Georgia-Auburn game when I get a “Go Dawgs” note from a die-hard War Eagle devotee, saying they want to see Georgia wrap up the SEC East on Saturday!
But two years on from the Tigers’ national championship season with their rent-a-QB Cam Newton, it’s not your typical Auburn football season, and I have a sneaking suspicion the Tigers fan who wants the Bulldogs to win the 116th meeting of the two programs is hoping a loss to Georgia will hasten the rumored departure of Gene Chizik.
You think the Georgia fan base is quick to turn on its coaches? We’ve got nothing on the folks in the Plains.
But that’s what happens when an Auburn team enters its annual game with Georgia winless in the SEC.
The Tigers have been a bad football team this season. They’ve lost their six conference games by an average of 17.3 points, with the nadir being a 63-21 drubbing by Texas A&M.
It took a 475-yard showing against the likes of New Mexico State last week to get them out of last place among Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense, and the Tigers will be starting their third quarterback of the season, freshman Jonathan Wallace. With Auburn having allowed 72 tackles for loss so far this season, chances are he’s going to get to know the likes of Jarvis Jones and Garrison Smith pretty well.
Things have only been marginally better for the Auburn defense, which features a pair of former UGA defensive coordinators on staff in Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez. Opponents are averaging 428.7 yards per game, which puts the Tigers in 85th place nationally. Auburn ranks last in the SEC in rushing defense, ninth in pass defense and 10th in scoring defense. They’re last in the nation in interceptions, with only one.
No wonder Georgia is favored by more than 15 points.
Still, it’s Georgia-Auburn and the Bulldogs can’t afford to come out flat or overconfident. Auburn’s freshman quarterback isn’t much of a passing threat so far, but he can be a dangerous runner, and the Tigers also have a decent pair of tailbacks in Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb. Plus, defensive end Corey Lemonier is highly regarded and could cause problems for Aaron Murray if Georgia’s offensive line gets off to another poor start.
Still, I’ll be surprised if Georgia doesn’t arrive in Auburn ready to take care of business. A trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship awaits if they do, and it’s hard to beat that for motivation.
Now, let’s check some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Paul Barrett writes: I like the way Collin Barber is coming along as the Dawgs’ punter, but I’m still not sure Marshall Morgan isn’t going to turn out to be another Andy Bailey, the scholarship kicker who eventually was beat out by a walk-on. Bill, what do you think are the chances that Georgia signs another placekicker for next year?
Mark Richt was asked a similar question on this week’s edition of “Bulldog Hotline” and he indicated that’s unlikely. But Richt also said that if any of the kickers on the team showed they could do a better job than Morgan he’d give them a chance. He sounded hopeful that Morgan will improve, though he did say that after that ugly hook on a missed field goal last week he “might need to see the kick doctor” for some work on his fundamentals. Kevin Butler thinks Morgan definitely needs to work on his form, but John Lilly, who oversees Georgia’s kickers (he doesn’t really coach them), seemed to think it was more of an aberration. He said this week that he told Morgan he’d never have one that bad again and “you got your worst one out of the way.” Let’s hope he’s right.
James Smith writes: I agree with you 100% on the poor showing by the fans [at the Ole Miss game]. We should be the motivating factor. When our Dawgs are down, we can pick them up. The opposing offense should not be able to communicate on the field because of the noise we create and this should be the case for the entire game, not just when we think it matters. Sanford Stadium should be a scary place for opposing teams but it really isn’t anymore. Seeing half the stadium empty with almost a full quarter to go was infuriating to me. I could not believe what I was watching. Yes we were up big and the game was pretty much over at that point but the thing that irks me is that we, as fans, get all over the players when they don’t give a full 60 minutes of effort. You lose the right to talk like that when you leave your team hanging. … Enough of asking “Where’s the motivation?” or “Where is the spark?” No more “Are we man enough?” The fans should be asking “Are we fan enough?”
Indeed. Sanford Stadium isn’t going to be an intimidating venue for opposing teams until the Georgia fans start showing up on time, staying for the whole game and getting loud on more than just big third-down plays.
James McKinney writes: Could you make it real clear on what it would take for us to make it to the BCS (besides beating Bama) and what are your thoughts on our chances of Beating Bama once we clutch the east! Go Dawgs!
And along the same lines JV writes: Bill, does a one loss Georgia team who beats Bama in the Dome play for it all in Miami? I bet the national pundits would cry if we upset Bama … and end the SEC streak if we don’t get in?
If Georgia makes it to the Dome and plays Alabama and somehow beats the Crimson Tide (which I believe is a mighty tall order), you’d think that winning the championship of the nation’s best conference and having knocked off both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a season would be enough, wouldn’t you? But most college football observers feel the reality is that even if Georgia wins out, the Dawgs’ chances of making it to the BCS title game basically depend on two of the three unbeaten teams currently ahead of them losing. The loss to South Carolina unfortunately looms large. Of course, if Georgia wins the SEC, they at least become an automatic qualifier for the Sugar Bowl spot if they don’t make it to the title game. However, if Georgia loses the SEC championship game, most BCS handicappers think the Sugar will prefer a one-loss Florida, assuming they beat FSU, or possibly even a two-loss LSU. The Bulldogs, they say, are more likely to wind up in the Capitol One Bowl. Nobody ever said college football was fair.
Rob Mercer writes: Hi Bill, Love your articles. Go Dawgs! I, like so many, am a life long Dawg fan, I still remember that day, at my Grandmother’s house at 8 years old and watching UGA beat Notre Dame. I was a fan before then, my being a Dawg was chosen even before birth and proud of it. I do have a question concerning Ray Drew. He’s from my home town, or county down in Thomasville. But, I’m wondering, I have seldom seen him in games, is it because he just hasn’t progressed enough to have more playing time, or is that he’s just behind on the depth chart due to better players in front of him?
Thanks, Rob. Drew, who was a highly-rated recruit, has been playing but in a backup role as a defensive end. Earlier this season, Richt said that Drew is “still working on becoming a great football player” and that the reason he isn’t earning as many game reps is largely due to the players in front of him. Even after Abry Jones went down hurt, Drew has still had to compete with Garrison Smith and Cornelius Washington for playing time. And he hasn’t been as productive as them so far. Against Ole Miss, Drew had one solo tackle and one assist. That compares with Smith, who had three solo tackles, four assists, a sack and a quarterback hurry. For the season to date, Drew has three solo tackles and four assists in eight games. Smith has 14 solo tackles and 21 assists in nine games and Washington has eight solo and 12 assists in nine games. Still, Drew is just a sophomore and Georgia’s coaches expect him to get better with more experience.
I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week. Do you have something you want to discuss concerning the current football season or UGA athletics in general? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg