1. What's the biggest mismatch in this game (i.e. Bama's rushing attack vs. UGA's front seven)?
I think both teams' running games stand to make some solid gains against the opposing defensive fronts, but the mismatch is greater in Alabama's case because they appear to have a much more solid offensive line to pave the way. I was kind of hoping before the season started that Bama still wouldn't have their RB committee sorted out by the time Georgia came to town, but it looks like we probably won't be that fortunate -- Terry Grant has been fantastic so far, and Coffee and Upchurch are both hanging around with per-carry averages of well over five yards.
It's been extremely rare for the Dawgs to get completely rolled by an opponent's rushing attack in the Mark Richt Era, and I don't think that will happen this weekend, but when South Carolina had a late lead on Georgia two weeks ago, they did a very good job of clearing the way for their two running backs and grinding down some clock; there were a couple drives in the fourth quarter where it seemed like they got a first down every fricking time they ran the ball. That can't happen again on Saturday.
2. Who do you think will be the playmaker that makes the biggest difference for UGA, be it on offense or defense?
Well, it's the easy answer, but I gotta say Knowshon Moreno, who may end up being the most dynamic force Georgia has had at running back since Robert Edwards, if not Garrison Hearst. For much of the Richt Era, it seems like Georgia's running backs have been talented but not really prone to breaking off many big plays; they've been the kind of guys who need to be given 25 or 30 carries before they can grind out 100 yards. Against South Carolina, Moreno did it in 14. His speed makes him an equally potent weapon at receiver, too, and he's been a nice safety valve for Stafford when he's had to unload a pass in a hurry. You don't have to be a genius to figure that the running game will be the meat and potatoes of any success Georgia has against Alabama this weekend, and I'd expect Moreno to be the biggest part of that.
Don't sleep on Mikey Henderson, though. He's always been a dangerous little dude on punt returns, but so far this season the coaches have been doing a much better job of bringing him into the passing game.
3. Which Alabama playmaker do you fear will have a banner day against Georgia?
Right now I'd have to say John Parker Wilson. He had a breakout game against Arkansas, and the way he led that final game-winning drive he's got to be brimming with confidence right now. Georgia spent all day in Oklahoma State's backfield but really hasn't done much since -- we notched a total of three sacks against South Carolina and Western Carolina O-lines that aren't exactly brick-wall-like -- and we've got to apply more pressure than that against JPW. With all the receiving weapons he has at his disposal, we can't afford to give him any extra time to throw.
4. How big is this game for Georgia in the wake of the South Carolina loss? Does another loss here pretty well end the Dawg's hopes of an SEC title game appearance?
I don't think this loss would necessarily ruin Georgia's season -- we all know Alabama is a great team, and there's no shame in losing in Tuscaloosa -- but yeah, starting 0-2 in the conference, which Georgia hasn't done since 1993, would pretty much knock us out of the SEC East race. We still haven't absorbed our annual loss to Florida, and teams like Vanderbilt and Kentucky are no longer simply going to roll over and die for us like they used to. With that in mind, we'd still be behind the 8-ball even with a win in T-Town, but it'd be a statement victory and something to build off of (which we don't really have now that Oklahoma State appears to have been a complete mirage).
And now, some more interesting ones:
1. What one player from last year's team that either graduated or entered the draft early would you most like to have back, and which starter would you be willing to trade for him?
I'd trade any of our current linebackers for Tony Taylor, who graduated after last year and was signed as a UFA by the Falcons. Taylor was the heart and soul of a defense that spent a lot of the 2006 season looking for some kind of leadership; he led the team in both tackles and interceptions and was a one-man wrecking crew down the stretch -- in the last four games of '06 alone, he had 33 tackles (three for loss), two fumble recoveries, a sack, and three picks. If we could bring him back this year he'd be the anchor of a linebacking corps that has a lot of raw talent but really hasn't quite come together yet, and is still being shuffled as we speak, if what I'm hearing from my man David Ching (http://ching-athens.blogspot.com/2007/09/tuesday-notes-and-whatnot.html) is any indication.
2. Which member of the Alabama team do you wish was wearing red and black this weekend?
Again, looking at the linebacking corps, I wouldn't mind having a do-everything guy like Prince Hall on our side -- he's the kind of player who could fill the substantial gap left by Taylor. But having a guy like Andre Smith on the offensive line would also bring some leadership and playmaking ability to a group that, like the LB corps, has a lot of raw talent but still isn't quite playing as a cohesive unit just yet.
3. Conversely, which Georgia player that you aren't fond of (preferably for their lack of performance, but maybe you just hate his name) would you choose to curse the Tide with?
Aww, I couldn't call out any of our current players like that. But hey, Quincy Carter still has a year of eligibility left, and as far as I know, he's still playing af2 ball in Shreveport -- I think playing for a name-brand college program like the Tide might actually be a considerable step up from that. Y'all want me to give him a call for you?
4. Finally, and really for no apparent reason, who's your favorite UGA player not named Herschel and why?
There have been any number of players under Mark Richt whom I've absolutely loved, D.J. Shockley being one of the biggest, but I've got to go back to my student days and say Champ Bailey. He was a tremendous playmaker on both offense and defense, and it's no coincidence that our secondary pretty much disintegrated after he left for the NFL in 1999. As a near-lifelong Redskins fan, I was thrilled when they drafted him in the first round that year -- I now have both a #4 Georgia jersey and a #24 'Skins jersey hanging in my closet -- and even now that he's playing in Denver, I still keep up with what he's doing. So far this season, he's racked up nine solo tackles and an interception for the Rural Jurors, my fantasy team on Yahoo.
Be sure and check with him later for our side of the story, and also for some highly amusing commentary on just about anything he can think of.
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