Georgia is one game away from the SEC title game, but could rival Auburn spoil the Bulldogs season?
By ANDY JOHNSTON FS South
Nine games into this season and Mark Richt is still talking about potential.
He hasn’t seen what he expected to by now: The complete game.
The overwhelming performance.
The dominating moment that heralded that fifth-ranked Georgia (8-1, 6-1 in the SEC) had finally arrived.
But despite their season-long inconsistencies, the Bulldogs are a victory over
Auburn (2-7, 0-6) from returning to the SEC Championship game.
“I think at times we’ve seen the best of what we can do offensively and defensively and maybe even in kicking. But have we done it all on the same day?” Richt said. “Not very often, and that’s still a goal for us to try to get to a point where everybody can play their best, week in and week out.”
There have been signs that Georgia is working toward being the team that Richt has been looking for all season.
The defense’s stifling of
Florida two weeks ago and the offense’s 37 straight points in last week’s victory over Ole Miss showed Richt that maybe the Bulldogs are peaking at the right time. What seemed improbable when South Carolina routed Georgia early last month, now seems possible.
If they win their final three regular-season games and defeat the West champion at the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs could find themselves in the BCS National Championship game.
“I look at everything on a year-to-year basis,” Richt said. “This is this season. What is our goal? What do I think we can accomplish? What kind of a team can we become? If we make it in 2012, then we accomplished what we set out to do in 2012. Have we reached our full potential as a team yet? I don’t know.”
Georgia has won five of the past six games against Auburn and is a heavy favorite this week, but the winner in this longtime rivalry isn’t always the better team. There have been several upsets in the past 30 years:
Result: Georgia 20, Auburn 16.
Notable: Auburn officials spray Georgia fans with water hoses to keep them from rushing the field after upsetting the
Result: Georgia 56, Auburn 49 (4-OT)
Notable: This was the first overtime game in the SEC and the game in which Uga V famously snapped at Auburn’s Robert Baker.
Result: Auburn 38, Georgia 21
Notable: Tommy Tuberville’s first victory over the Bulldogs despite losing five of six entering the game.
Result: Georgia 24, Auburn 21
Notable: The Bulldogs needed a last-second, fourth-down TD pass to clinch a berth in their first SEC Championship game.
Result: Georgia 37, Auburn 15
Notable: Fifth-ranked Auburn was dominated by Georgia, which had lost four of its previous five games.
“They’re playing for the ability to clinch the division and play in the SEC Championship game,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “When you play in rivalry games like this, that have been going on this long, and there’s so much just involved with the game regardless of where each team is at and where they’re at in their season, it just makes for a great game.”
And even though Georgia enters still looking for its complete game, the Bulldogs are explosive offensively and showing signs that their defense is coming together. They held Florida and Ole Miss to a combined 19 points and gave up only one play of more than 25 yards in those games.
Meanwhile, Auburn is trying out its third quarterback – freshman
Jonathan Wallace -- doesn’t have an established running back and is 13th in the SEC in total defense, giving up 428.7 yards a game.
“When you have nothing to lose, you can throw everything you’ve got at the team you’re going against to try and upset them,” Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “That’s your main goal in that situation, to upset their season, just like your season has been upset. You always have to play hard against a team like that because they’re going to lay it all out there.”