AUBURN, Ala. — Greetings from the most important Georgia football game in a long time. And the most important until three weeks from now. Check here for regular updates, notes and analysis in the lead-up to the mammoth match-up with Auburn.
Nick Fairley …
Is here and led the Auburn cheer before the game. (The equivalent of Calling the Dawgs.) And that had to conjure some emotions among Georgia fans who remember the 2010 game.
And Aaron Murray, who was speared in the back by Fairley during the game. Now here comes Georgia with another freshman quarterback wearing No. 11, and who has been compared to Murray.
One memory from after that game: Jay Jacobs, who’s on his way out now as Auburn’s athletics director, came to Georgia’s locker room and was trying to speak to Mark Richt and Greg McGarity. I don’t know what Jacobs was saying, but he was smiling, and I remember Richt having a pretty detached, almost disgusted, reaction to it. He wasn’t having any of it.
Fairley, by the way, is now with the New Orleans Saints but is sitting out this season. One would think Auburn didn’t bring him to do this specific game because of 2010. But who knows.
Georgia fans once again appear to have traveled well. They’re not taking over the stadium like Notre Dame and Vanderbilt – not anywhere close to that.
But an Auburn reporter has remarked on the amount of red-clad fans he sees, so apparently it’s pretty decent for a normal Auburn game. You can see a lot of red in the upper section opposite of the press box, and in the area of one corner of the stadium, where the visiting tunnel is and the Redcoat Band is sitting.
Still, Auburn has the vast majority of the crowds and there don’t appear to be any empty seats. So this will rival Tennessee for the most hostile atmosphere Georgia and Jake Fromm has faced. In that game, Georgia took the crowd out of it very quickly. We’ll see what happens today.
It looks like Reggie Carter is working with the first unit in final pregame warm-ups. But Natrez Patrick is getting some snaps with the first unit too.
I suspect they’ll rotate a lot of snaps, and Carter could be used in a flex kind of role with the edge rushers.
Georgia vs. an old friend
Three payers on the cover of the Auburn official program – including safety Tray Matthews, who has had some pivotal moments in this stadium in the Georgia-Auburn series. For both teams.
It’s easy to take shots, but Matthews actually wasn’t quite at fault for that fateful 2013 hail mary. Matthews was in good position for the play, but it was Josh Harvey-Clemons who came over and caused a collision.
Matthews has also, by accounts out of Auburn, ended up with a pretty solid finish to his career after transferring here. He had an interception in the game last year at Sanford Stadium.
We’ll see how he finishes his career against his old team. Assuming this is the last time he faces them.
Travel roster notes
As we wrote earlier this week, Georgia is remarkably healthy for this point this season, and apparently that remains the case after this week of practice. No major surprises on the dress-out squad. Or even minor surprises. Everyone you’d expect to play is here.
That includes Natrez Patrick, back from his four-game suspension for the marijuana arrest. So Georgia not only is at peak health, but it’s getting back a starter for this game. (Though whether he actually will start remains uncertain. Reggie Carter played well the past couple games.)
The notable scholarship players who did not make it for the game: WR Jeremiah Holloman, ILB Jaleel Laguins, G Pat Allen, G-C Chris Barnes, OL Sa Madden, TE Jordan Davis, DE Justin Young, P Marshall Long and DL DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle.
These redshirting players also didn’t come: DB Tray Bishop, DB William Poole, DB Eric Stokes, OT Isaiah Wilson, OT D’Marcus Hayes, G Netori Johnson, OLB Robert Beal.
The only mild surprise among players not coming is Hawkins-Muckle, but he’s been a healthy scratch several times this year. Georgia is just so deep on the defensive line.
This will easily be the coldest it’s been for a Georgia game this season. The temperature here in Auburn is in the high 50s, but there’s a bit of a breeze too.
We’ll see if this has any effect on the game. Normally that cools down the passing games – pun intended – which you’d think would help Georgia, the less pass-oriented team. But the Bulldogs have played so well all season long, and it’s been warm for every game, that maybe you don’t want to mess with anything.
Or we’re just over-analyzing a game that’s already been over-analyzed.
National scoreboard watching
The picture for Georgia will become clearer after this game, but with so many important games elsewhere, the picture could also be clearer nationally – or more muddled – after today. So what to watch?
If Georgia wins the SEC championship, either as an unbeaten team or at 12-1, it will almost certainly be in the playoff. But otherwise …
Washington’s loss last night helped, as the Pac-12 would basically seem eliminated now, with every one of its teams having at least two losses.
The Big Ten is sitting preciously close to the same position. Its only hope now seems to be No. 8 Wisconsin, which is unbeaten and at 3:30 today hosts No. 20 Iowa. The Badgers haven’t exactly been impressive getting to this point, so a lot of people expect them to lose the Big Ten championship to Ohio State (or someone else). Still, the quicker Wisconsin begins losing the better for Georgia (or Alabama.)
The Notre Dame-Miami game of course has titanic implications. Who to root for in this one? The guess here is Georgia fans – those not rooting for Mark Richt for sentimental reasons – will pull for the Fighting Irish, because it helps the strength of schedule. Of course, this neglects that Clemson could end up 12-1 and the ACC champion, thus giving the ACC a playoff slot anyway, and if Notre Dame is 11-1 it could still end up getting in over the SEC runner-up. Even if it’s Georgia.
The Alabama-Mississippi State game will also be interesting, though obviously the Georgia vs. Alabama debate will likely play out on the field.
It’s a great day to be at home watching very important football games. Or to be covering one of those in person.
How big is this?
You need only look at press row. There are scouts from 10 NFL teams – the Seattle Seahawks sent two – and the game is being covered by The Washington Post, USA Today and other national outlets. (The Washington Post reporter is a sportswriter, by the way, not someone on the Roy Moore beat.)