Dogs vs. Tigers - ‘One more game’ is what Georgia needs for a return trip to the SEC Championship
by Travis Ragsdale
photo by Rob Saye
Georgia has had a number of different themes in this 2012 season. It started off with “Our team, our time, no regrets.” Then it shifted to “Grown man football.” Most recently, it’s been “Who’s soft now?” But now there is new theme for this week; “One more game.” The Dawgs came out and took it to Ole Miss and avoided the let down game in an impressive way. The table is set for a showdown with a struggling Auburn team to represent the SEC east in Atlanta once again. From an outsider’s perspective, it would be easy to say that this week is an easy Georgia win given how mightily the Tigers have struggled in 2012 but fans know better. And in a rivalry game in the SEC, on the road, at night, anything can happen.
Which Murray will we see?
Aaron Murray is such a hard case to solve. Against Florida he had what
is arguably the worst game of his career throwing three interceptions in the first
half alone. Then against Ole Miss, he has one of the best games of his career
by completing 21 of 28 passes for 384 yards and four TDs. It’s up and down
with Murray and always has been. He already lost one of his favorite targets earlier in the year in
Michael Bennett and now it looks like he lost another this past weekend with Marlon Brown suffering
a knee injury. Luckily for Murray and the Dawgs, they have a large and deep staple of wide
receivers to fill the void. Also helping out this week is that statistically, Auburn has one of the worst
pass defenses in the SEC giving up an average of almost 230 yards per game. Dawg fans will remember
the name Brian Van Gorder. He was the defensive coordinator for Georgia back in the
mid-2000s. Fans will also remember how stingy those Van Gorder defenses were. Now, he’s the one
leading this Auburn defense which is shocking given his past successes in the college ranks. Another
aspect of the Georgia offense that is helping Murray is such a strong run game and a set of reliable
backs to hand the ball off to. He really hasn’t had that in his time in Athens and now he’s got
two really great ones to share the load.
Keith Marshall has to get more carries against Auburn. This isn’t to discount what Todd Gurley
has done to this point in the season. In fact, it’s the opposite. Fans need to remember that Gurley
is just a freshman. He’s been running into the teeth of SEC defenses the whole season. He won’t
say it but it’s safe to say that he is mentally and physically exhausted. If Georgia has a chance of beating
Alabama in Atlanta, they’ll need Gurley in peak physical condition. If there is any way for Georgia
to cut down on Gurley’s carries over the next few weeks, then they need to implement that plan.
What’s amazing is that Georgia has another great freshman in Keith Marshall to help out with that.
They are two different backs, no doubt. Gurley is the guy that can find a hole and grind. Marshall
needs a seam to open up for him to bust through. Against a team like Auburn, Marshall shouldn’t
have much problem be productive in an expanded role. People often forget about Ken Malcome as
well. He’s really gotten over shadowed because of how good Gurley and Marshall have been but he’s
a good back as well. In the ideal world, Gurley gets between 8 and 10 carries just to keep the rust
off. Marshall gets about 15 and then Malcome gets between 5 and 10. This would help everyone
and keep fresh legs for later on in the season.
How about a shutout?
Finally, the Georgia defense is living up to expectations and making successful offenses
look sluggish. Look at Ole Miss; a team that has a highly touted offense comes into Sanford
Stadium and fails to put even 300 yards together on offense. Auburn’s offense has been
abysmal. After having been a spread team for so many years, they have reverted back to a
pro set. Without the right personnel in place, they have struggled to get anything going on
that side of the ball. Leading that cause has been the quarterback play, which, without question,
has been the worst in the SEC all year. Saying that Auburn’s running game has been
a bright spot may be a bit of a stretch but at the very least, it’s been the most successful aspect
of their team. Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb have led the way thus far. McCalebb
is a particularly dynamic player in running the ball, receiving and taking reverses out of the
backfield. But if the running game is all the Tigers have then they won’t have near enough
to penetrate the Georgia D. If there was ever a time for a shut out and to continue momentum,
this weekend was it.
Rumor on The Plains is that the Tigers have quit on Gene Chizik. These are the last
words any coach wants to hear but when your only wins towards the end of the season are
against Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State, it’s a pretty safe assumption. Now, the
players aren’t playing for their coach but in a rivalry game that really shouldn’t matter. If
the players don’t want to show out for the coaching staff, then they will for a national TV
audience. You also have to wonder if Gene Chizik is coaching for his job this weekend. In
order to salvage it, he needs a big time win on a big stage and that means either against
Georgia or Alabama. Even still, many are calling this the worst Auburn team ever. It’s hard
to overcome sentiments like that. With that, the Dawgs should go into Jordan-Hare on Saturday
night and lay the lumber to Auburn. One more game, then it’s back to Atlanta.