Georgia looks forward to welcoming Isaiah Crowell back following
a one-game suspension. The standout freshman running back’s return
comes as the 14th-ranked Bulldogs have a chance to earn a spot in
the SEC title game.
Crowell is expected to start Saturday’s home game against
24th-ranked Auburn as Georgia hopes to stay in the driver’s seat in
the SEC East and possibly clinch it.
The Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1) easily won their seventh straight last
Saturday, defeating New Mexico State 63-16. They also moved to the
top of the division by a half-game ahead of South Carolina, which
lost to Arkansas and hosts Florida in its conference finale
Georgia can clinch the East with wins in its final two SEC
games, including a matchup with Kentucky next weekend. If the
Gamecocks lose to the Gators, the Bulldogs would clinch by beating
“Our guys feel awesome,” sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray
said. “Everyone’s talking about it and not in a cocky way …
Talking about it in a way that if we win these two games, our
dreams come true, our goals since January come true.”
Murray helped the Bulldogs make up for some key absences last
week, throwing a career-high five touchdown passes – all in a
42-point second quarter – against the overmatched Aggies. Georgia
played without Crowell and fellow running backs Carlton Thomas
(one-game suspension for reportedly failing a drug test) and
Richard Samuel (ankle surgery).
Crowell and Thomas are expected back this week. Thomas has
rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns this season while Crowell’s
689 rushing yards rank sixth in the SEC.
Despite Crowell’s disciplinary issues, which include failing to
attend a required media session and a first-quarter suspension
against Vanderbilt last month for breaking an unspecified team
rule, his teammates remain loyal.
“I asked him if he was ready and he just said, ‘Give me the ball
and let me do my thing,'” Murray said. “He’s pumped up. He’s
excited. He’s ready to go. We’re not worried. I know when we get
the ball in his hands, he’s going to make some great plays for
Crowell and the Bulldogs will try to take advantage of an Auburn
(6-3, 4-2) defense that ranks 85th in the FBS against the rush,
giving up 185.7 yards per game.
“A big challenge,” said Tigers coach Gene Chizik, whose team has
been outscored 134-64 while dropping three of four road games in
2011. “He was recruited very heavily coming out of high school for
a reason, and that’s because he’s very, very good at what he does.
He’s got great vision. He’s got really, really good balance. You
can see week by week there’s a comfort level in there with him in
terms of how effective he is and how comfortable he feels with his
reads running the football.”
Georgia could also have freshman wideout Malcolm Mitchell back
after he missed three games with a strained hamstring. Even after
his absence, he leads the team with 438 receiving yards.
The Tigers will take the field for the first time since Oct. 29,
when they defeated Mississippi 41-23. Making his second start,
sophomore quarterback Clint Moseley threw for 160 yards and four
“I think for Clint, specifically, (the bye week was)
invaluable,” Chizik said. “It’s good to come off a win … and to
be able to build on some of those things that we did not do so well
and some things that we did do well.”
One of Moseley’s TDs went to sophomore Emory Blake, who returned
after missing three games with an ankle injury. Blake had five
catches for 71 yards despite saying he was far from 100
Blake leads the receiving corps with five touchdowns, and
Moseley should have another target back Saturday. Freshman Trovon
Reed is expected to play after missing four of the last five games
with a shoulder injury.
Also invaluable for Moseley is a talented running game led by
sophomore Michael Dyer, whose 989 rushing yards rank second in the
SEC. He ran 27 times for 177 yards and his ninth touchdown of the
season against the Rebels.
Auburn snapped a four-game losing streak in this series last
season with a 49-31 home victory. Two Tigers players were ejected
for throwing punches in the increasingly chippy rivalry game.
“A rivalry is always made up of two teams that usually have
something in common and are great competition for and with each
other,” Chizik said. “I don’t think you could go back and do the
math and think anything other than that’s one of the reasons this
has been a great rivalry.”
Auburn has lost its last two visits to Athens, where it hasn’t
won since a 31-30 victory in 2005.