Dogs Hit The Road
Georgia won't get as much notice for finally heading west as coach Mark Richt might have hoped.
Even though the third-ranked Bulldogs are unbeaten, much of the expected luster from their visit to Arizona State on Saturday night has waned because they'll face a team which dropped out of the AP poll this week following an embarrassing loss.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Georgia -7 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on Georgia -7 (View College Football bet percentages).
This game marks the first time Georgia has been as far west as Tempe, Ariz., for a regular season matchup since visiting Southern California in 1960 and losing 10-3. The program hasn't traveled this far for any game since going to Honolulu for the 2000 Oahu Bowl.
"The bottom line was we wanted to ... play a game on the other side of the country and give our players the experience and our fans the experience and allow the other side of the country to maybe take a little more notice of Georgia and not look at them as such a regional team," Richt said.
The Bulldogs (3-0) have not left SEC territory for a regular season game during Richt's seven-plus seasons at the helm. They haven't played a Pac-10 team since a 41-7 home win over Oregon State in 1987 and have never faced Arizona State (2-1).
Knowing the preseason No. 1 team in the nation was coming to its campus created plenty of hype in Tempe, particularly with the Sun Devils' No. 15 preseason ranking being their highest since 1998. They maintained that position in the Top 25 with relatively easy wins over Northern Arizona and Stanford, but Arizona State was stunned at home by UNLV 23-20 in overtime last Saturday and dropped out of the rankings.
"I don't know if we should have been in there to start with," coach Dennis Erickson said.
The loss came against a UNLV team which had just two wins in each of the last four seasons.
"I wish they'd won it just so maybe they'd be flying a little higher right now," Richt said of the Sun Devils. "They'll probably have a little chip on their shoulder and be a little tougher to match up against."
Georgia had a struggle of its own last Saturday. After scoring 101 points in blowout wins over Georgia Southern and Central Michigan, the Bulldogs were held to 252 total yards in a 14-7 victory at South Carolina.
They totaled more than 530 yards of offense in each of their previous two wins, but star tailback Knowshon Moreno was held to 79 yards on 20 carries last week after entering the game averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. Matthew Stafford threw for a season-low 146 yards, was sacked four times and did not have a touchdown pass after tossing two in each of the first two games.
"We just got to go back, correct our mistakes and get ready for Arizona State," Georgia defensive tackle Corvey Irvin said. "We got another big one on the road, and we'll see if we have an answer for that."
Irvin and the Bulldogs defense appear to be facing their biggest challenge yet. They are second-to-last in the SEC in pass defense, allowing 236.3 yards per game, and are matched against an Arizona State passing offense that leads the Pac-10 (324.7 ypg).
Rudy Carpenter tops the conference with 975 passing yards, a 71.3 completion percentage and a 183.6 quarterback rating.
The Bulldogs could slow down the Sun Devils by getting pressure on Carpenter, but they have only six sacks this season despite having returned nine starters from a defense which led the SEC with 42 last year.
The Sun Devils are 7-9 when Carpenter, a four-year starter, has been sacked more than three times, compared to 19-3 when he isn't.
Carpenter was only sacked twice last week but he also attempted just 23 passes, his fewest in 13 games. It seems likely he'll get more chances Saturday after Arizona State rushed 36 times last week - the first time this season it tried more runs than passes - and was held to 3.6 yards per attempt.
"I'm not concerned because I know the character of our team, and I know how they are," Carpenter said. "For me, being a leader on this team, I've got to make sure that all that negative energy and all the bad feelings they had from last week, hopefully they use that as some type of motivation and, I don't know, I guess you could say a rally cry to take all that anger out on somebody else."
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