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Alabama at Georgia Preview

Alabama at Georgia Preview

Alabama at Georgia
By Brian Edwards

Let’s call it the Funeral Game. Just like it did in a 45-20 win over Auburn last year, Georgia (4-0 straight up, 2-1 against the spread) is planning to break out its black jerseys Saturday for only the third time in school history.

On Tuesday, a video leaked from Alabama’s practice with a strength coach saying UGA was wearing black because it was going to its own funeral. Then after practice Wednesday, Mark Richt sported a black hat, black shirt and black shorts and remarked, “I’m going to a funeral.”

Shenanigans aside, gamblers have a crucial SEC showdown to wager on when Alabama (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) brings its undefeated record into Athens to face the unbeaten Bulldogs. With top-ranked USC going down Thursday night in Corvallis, both teams know the significance of this meeting extends beyond the conference borders.

The Crimson Tide started their season in the Peach State, delivering woodshed treatment to Clemson in the form of a 34-10 clubbing at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Since then, Nick Saban’s team has beaten Tulane (20-6) and Western Kentucky (41-7) at home before destroying Arkansas 49-14 in Fayetteville last week as a 9 1/2-point favorite.

The Tide didn’t waste any time in the A-Hole Bowl (Saban vs. Bobby Petrino), jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. They led 35-7 by intermission.

Junior CB Javier Arenas continued to make plays, scoring on a 63-yard interception return. Glen Coffee busted out for a 87-yard touchdown run en route to 162 rushing yards on just 10 carries.

Freshman WR Julio Jones caught his third career TD, hauling in a 25-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback John Parker Wilson. ‘Bama ran for 328 yards against the Razorbacks, although Wilson was just 6-of-14 for 74 yards.

Wilson hasn’t needed to produce big numbers, as ‘Bama has had a run-first mentality behind its stellar offensive line. He has connected on 59.6 percent of his passes through four games, but for just 542 yards. Most importantly, though, Wilson has an outstanding 5/1 touchdown-interception ratio.

Coffee has led a balanced trio of RBs, gaining 404 yards on just 47 totes. That’s good for a 8.6 yards per carry average, and Coffee has found the end zone twice. Mark Ingram has 263 rushing yards and four TDs on 43 carries, averaging 6.1 YPC. Roy Upchurch has rushed 26 times for 181 yards and one TD, averaging 7.0 YPC.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Georgia as an eight-point favorite with a total of 45. As of Friday afternoon, most books had UGA listed as either a seven or 6½-point ‘chalk,’ while the total was in the 44-45 range. Alabama is plus 220 on the money line (risk $100 to win $220).

The Dawgs survived back-to-back road tests leading into this contest. They went to Columbia two weeks ago and came away with a 14-7 victory as 7½-point favorites. The 21 combined points fell ‘under’ the 45-point total.

Junior QB Matthew Stafford got knocked around all day by a game South Carolina defense, but Knowshon Moreno made just enough plays and UGA’s ‘D’ kept the Gamecocks out of the end zone on five second-half drives that all managed to penetrate UGA territory.

After surviving the trip to Williams-Brice unscathed, Richt’s team did something it hadn’t done in five decades – travel west to take on a Pac-10 foe. Arizona St. had fell victim to a look-ahead spot the previous week in a loss to UNLV, so the Sun Devils were in dire need of a victory.

But that wasn’t happenin’ last Saturday. After a scoreless first quarter, Georgia raced to a 21-3 lead by halftime. Moreno ran for a pair of scores on the way to a 149-yard performance (and solid Heisman audition). Late in the second quarter, Stafford found true freshman WR A.J. Green on a 14-yard scoring strike.

Green enjoyed his coming-out party in Tempe. He had eight receptions for 159 yards, including a couple of dazzling grabs in traffic over the middle. Green is a big target (6’4”, 190) with excellent speed and no fear of taking a hit. With him in the mix, Stafford now has another big-time wideout to compliment senior Mohamed Massaquoi.

The Dawgs tacked on a pair of short field goals in the second half en route to a 27-10 triumph as seven-point road underdogs. The 37 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 51-point tally. UGA’s defense limited Rudy Carpenter and Co. to just 212 yards of total offense.

For the season, Moreno has 455 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. The redshirt sophomore is averaging 6.6 YPC. Stafford has 919 passing yards and a 5/0 TD-INT ratio.

During Richt’s eight-year tenure, Georgia owns a 19-20-1 ATS record as a home favorite. However, the Dawgs are 5-2 ATS in their last seven such spots. Alabama has only been a road underdog once under Saban, losing 17-10 at Auburn last year as a 4½-point puppy.

’Bama leads the all-time series 35-25-4, but it hasn’t tasted victory against UGA since 1995. The Dawgs went into Bryant-Denny Stadium last year and won a 26-23 thriller in overtime as 3½-point underdogs. After ‘Bama scored on a field goal in its OT possession, the Dawgs responded on the very next play as Stafford found Mikey Henderson on a perfectly-thrown fade to the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard TD pass.

ESPN will provide television coverage Saturday night at 7:45 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--Georgia owns a 40-7 SU record at home under Richt.

--This is the first time Wisconsin has ever been favored at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Furthermore, the Wolverines have been favored in 20 consecutive head-to-head meetings against the Badgers until this week. Wisconsin is a six-point road ‘chalk’ at most spots.

--Ole Miss is a 22½-point underdog Saturday at Florida. The Rebels have lost 14 straight SEC road games, while the Gators are 21-1 SU at home under Urban Meyer. With all that said, it’s worth mentioning that Houston Nutt’s teams (at Arkansas, that is) are 10-2 ATS in the last 12 double-digit underdog spots.

--Florida Atlantic QB Rusty Smith received a considerable amount of ink during the off-season after throwing for 3,688 yards with a 32/9 TD-INT ratio in 2007. However, Smith is completing just 45.9 percent of his passes through four games with a 4/5 TD-INT ratio. The Owls are off this week before playing at Middle Tennessee on Tuesday.

--According to VI’s Marc Lawrence during Thursday’s edition of the Power Hours, Frank Beamer's Va. Tech teams are 17-2 ATS when facing unbeaten squads like Nebraska this week.

--I have a pathetic 2-6 record on college football totals this year. The bright side to that is a 15-5-2 record (75%, +960) on sides. I have a 17-11-2 overall record for the year which is good for 61% and a plus 500 money total. Check out my blog page for more notes, tidbits and this week's fresh Top 30 (before USC was upset last night). Here's my pick pack for Saturday's card (and it's all sides!).

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Re: Alabama at Georgia Preview

After thriller, Dogs host Bama with more at stake
September 26, 2008

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) -A.J. Green was watching the game on television, still a few months away from enrolling at Georgia. He knew the Bulldogs had it when Matthew Stafford let go of the pass.

Mikey Henderson got a step on the Alabama defender. The ball arrived just in the nick of time.

Touchdown, Georgia.

Game over.

``I was watching at my house,'' said Green, now a freshman receiver for the Bulldogs. ``That was a crazy game. It was fun, though. When they put Mikey out there, I said, 'Throw the fade to him. He's going to outrun them anyway.' As soon as Stafford threw it, I knew it was going to be a touchdown.''

That was a year ago. The Bulldogs turned their season around with the overtime win in Tuscaloosa, going on to finish No. 2 in the nation. Alabama took a turn for the worse, barely nudging above .500 by the time 2007 was done.

On Saturday, these two Southeastern Conference powerhouses will get together for another of their infrequent meetings, and the stakes couldn't be much higher.

For No. 3 Georgia, it's a chance to justify its place as a national championship contender. For the eight-ranked Crimson Tide, it's a chance to show coach Nick Saban really has stirred the ghost of the Bear after last year's tantalizing tease.

``These are the kind of games that you should come to a place like the University of Alabama to play in,'' Saban said.

Georgia (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) opened the season No. 1 but slipped a couple of spots, the voters not impressed with a win over outmanned Georgia Southern and a squeaker against South Carolina. But the Bulldogs always knew their schedule - one of the nation's toughest with remaining games against five Top 25 teams - would ensure they got their proper due.

It might happen this week. Top-ranked Southern California's shocking loss at Oregon State gives the Bulldogs a chance to leap back to No. 1 with an impressive showing against the Tide.

``They've got a ton of momentum, and I feel like we do, too,'' said Stafford, the SEC's top-rated passer and yet to throw an interception. ``It's going to be fun.''

Despite the obvious proximity - the campuses are in neighboring states, separated by about a 4 1/2-hour drive - this isn't one of the SEC's more heated rivalries, largely because the schools haven't faced each other more than two years in a row since the 1960s. This will be the first Alabama-Georgia game since 1976 with both teams in the Top 10.

But last year's thriller in Tuscaloosa proved a watershed for each program.

The Bulldogs already had lost at home to South Carolina and were desperate to avoid another defeat in the opening month of the season.

Georgia jumped to a 10-0 lead. Alabama tied it up after halftime. The Bulldogs reclaimed their 10-point edge early in the fourth quarter. The Tide rallied again, sending the game to overtime on John Parker Wilson's touchdown run with just over a minute left in regulation. Georgia attempted a field goal on the final of regulation, but missed.

With all the momentum heading into OT, Alabama got the ball and went ahead for the first time on Leigh Tiffin's field goal. But the Bulldogs needed only one play to end it. Stafford faked a handoff, Henderson streaked for a corner of the end zone and turned back just as the perfectly thrown ball arrived.

Georgia 26, Alabama 23.

``There's a couple of games that stay with you, and that's definitely one of them,'' Stafford said. ``It was such an up-and-down game. We felt like we had the momentum early. They took it back. It was just back and forth the whole game. We had a chance to win in regulation and didn't. That was a blow to our momentum. Then we make a great play in overtime to win it. It was just an awesome game, and a big game for us. That set us off.''

The Bulldogs lost only one more game all season, on the road at Tennessee, and trailed only national champion LSU in the final Associated Press poll.

``You learn a lot when you get a victory like that,'' Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. ``It helps the team grow closer. It helps you continue on to push through the tough times.''

After losing to Georgia, the Tide faced plenty of tough times, dropping five of its next eight games before salvaging a winning season in the Independence Bowl - hardly satisfying for a school that demands nothing less than championships.

In Year 2 of Nickball, Alabama (4-0, 1-0) is off to another promising start. The Tide opened with a 34-10 rout of Clemson - then ranked in the Top 10 - and began SEC play with a 49-14 blowout at Arkansas.

For Saban, this is another chance to prove his latest reclamation project has truly put the mediocrity of Mike Shula's teams in the rearview mirror. The Tide has two of the SEC's top 10 rushers (Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram), an experienced quarterback (the senior Wilson), one of the best freshman receivers in the country (Julio Jones), and 365-pound Terrence Cody anchoring the defensive line.

The Bulldogs look a lot like Alabama. There's a dynamic running back (Knowshom Moreno), a three-year starter at QB (Stafford), an amazing freshman receiver (Green had eight catches for 159 yards against Arizona State), and a stout defense (allowing just 45.8 yards rushing per game).

Looking for an edge, Georgia coach Mark Richt called for a ``blackout.'' The Bulldogs will be in their black jerseys for only the third time in modern school history.

Alabama was unimpressed by the fashion choice.

``That ain't no swag,'' cornerback Javier Arenas said. ``That's uniforms, man.''

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Re: Alabama at Georgia Preview

What bettors need to know: Alabama vs. Georgia


Meteorologists are calling for a 30 percent chance of rain in Athens Saturday night. Game-time temperature should be a comfortable 68 F and the winds shouldn’t play a factor.

Hot Streaks

Georgia comes in with an 11 game winning streak, second longest in the nation.

Alabama is on a roll as well. Nick Saban’s offense busted out for 49 points last week against Arkansas. It marked the most amount of points scored for the program in an SEC game since 1990.

Nasty Up Front

Those who take pleasure in watching battle in the trenches have got to appreciate the Alabama offensive line.

The unit’s utter dismantling of Clemson’s D-line in Bama’s 34-10 win issued a major statement to the rest of the SEC.

Lights Out Defense in Georgia

Georgia held ASU to 212 total yards (including just four yards rushing) and sacked Rudy Carpenter four times.

DT Geno Atkins is a beast inside and LBs Rennie Curran and Darryle Gamble have emerged as a dominating pair.

If you’re looking for holes, there aren’t many. One potential problem has been the relative inability of the defensive line to get to the quarterback on its own (only 5.5 sacks for the DL in four games).

Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has sometimes resorted to blitzing his linebackers. This might open up some opportunities for big gains if Bama QB John Parker Wilson can recognize the blitz and get the ball to the right place.

One-Dimensional Bama Offense

Despite its 49 point showing against Arkansas, the Alabama offensive has been largely one-dimensional thus far. The team has relied on its running backs and a dominating offensive line to steamroll the opposition.

QB John Parker Wilson has averaged just 23 passing attempts and 135 passing yards per game.

Wilson has good experience, having started 30 consecutive games. In fact, last week he became the all-time leader in TD passes at the school. Nevertheless, Wilson does not possess the world’s strongest arm and, despite the experience, his decision-making can be spotty.

Alabama cannot expect to win against Georgia without Wilson finally being asked to make some big throws.

How he responds to the challenge will be a huge factor in this game.

Balancing Act

In contrast to Alabama, Mark Richt’s Georgia offense has been the epitome of balance. Knowshon Moreno gives the team one of the best RBs in the country. Georgia leads the SEC with 11 rushing TDs.

At the same time, QB Matthew Stafford is also one of the nation’s best, and still improving. With the emergence of freshman WR A.J. Green last week, Stafford finally has a weapon with which to make defenses pay for cheating against the run.

Stafford is 21-4 in career 25 starts.

Bama’s Wilson has an overall record of 17-13 as a starter.


This game features the two best freshmen receivers in the country. Bama’s Julio Jones and Georgia’s Green were ranked one and two coming out of high school and both have already become the go-to receiver for their respective teams.

After piling up 159 yards against ASU, Green stands as the yardage leader in the SEC.

Penalty Prone

Georgia was penalized 12 times for 104 yards against last week against Arizona State. The team is averaging 10.74 penalties per game, tied with Texas Tech for worst in the nation.

Black Out

For just the third time in modern history, Georgia will be wearing black jerseys as opposed to the traditional red. Bulldog nation refers to this as a “blackout.” Fans attending the game are encouraged to wear black themselves, adding to the overall effect.

The previous two “blackout” occasions led to big wins over Auburn and in last year’s Sugar Bowl over Hawaii.

The move seems to have excited not only Georgia’s players but Alabama’s as well.

Tide DE Lorenzo Washington commented, "Honestly, I feel privileged that they think it's important that they put on the black jerseys. It is going to give it a huge game feel. It's going to be awesome."

Line Moves

Georgia opened as a 7½-point favorite and was quickly bet down to -6 ½. After a brief move to -6, the line has fluctuated between -6½ and -7.

The total opened at 44½ and now sits at 45.

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