September 4, 2009

Preview and Prediction: Georgia at OSU

No. 13 Georgia at No. 9 Oklahoma State
Where: Stillwater, Okla.

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: ABC (Sean McDonough, Matt Millen, Holly Rowe/Georgia Bulldog Radio Network

TV Replay: CSS, Sunday, 11 a.m.

Head Coaches: Georgia - Mark Richt (82-22, 10th season), Oklahoma State - Mike Gundy (27-23, fifth year

The Game

Saturday's game between Georgia and Oklahoma State marks the teams' second meeting in three seasons, with the Bulldogs taking a 35-14 victory in the 2007 season-opener.

Under the direction of head coach Mark Richt, Georgia owns a 34-3 record against teams from outside the SEC. The only losses came in bowl games to Boston College (20-16, 2001 Music City Bowl) and West Virginia (38-35, 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl) and during the regular season last year to Georgia Tech (45-42.). Richt is also 30-4 in an opponent's home stadium.

Oklahoma State, meanwhile, has won 15 straight non-conference home games.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 10-3 season, capped off by a --- win over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl, while the Cowboys finished 9-4, losing - to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl.

What to Look For

For Georgia, will sophomore running back Richard Samuel continue his success from preseason and pick up where Knowshon Moreno left off? While that may be asking a bit too much, it's obvious that coaches love his potential and what he brings to the offensive side of the ball.

Samuel saw action in 11 games last year and gained 133 yards on 26 carries, while redshirt freshman Carlton Thomas is slated to be the top backup after a solid spring and preseason camp.

But all eyes will be on the Georgia defense.

The Bulldogs were 10th in the SEC in scoring defense giving up over 24 points per game and failing to live up to the fans, the coaches and ultimately themselves.

For Oklahoma State, the question is can the Cowboys keep Georgia's defense off balance with a good mix of run with tailback Kendall Hunter and pass with quarterback Zac Robinson and Biletnikoff Award runnerup Dez Bryant at wide receiver. If the Bulldogs can make OSU one-dimensional on offense, that's certainly going to bode well for Georgia's chances.

The quarterbacks

Senior Joe Cox takes over the starting job for Georgia after Matthew Stafford left a year early for the NFL. In his career, Cox has appeared in 13 games with one start (Ole Miss, 2006) and is 33 for 58 for 432 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.

Robinson of Oklahoma State is one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks having passed for more than 2,600 yards and has rushed for more than 1,500 career yards. On the watch lists for the Maxwell Award, the Manning Award, Davey O'Brien Award and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Robinson has thrown for 51 touchdowns and likely to finish as OSU's career leader in passing yards, total offense and touchdown passes.

SEC's top returning tackler is back

Junior weakside linebacker Rennie Curran is the top returning tackler in the SEC after leading the Bulldogs with 115 stops in 2008.

He was the Bulldogs' top tackler nine times and the first Georgia defender to register 100 tackles in a season since safety Thomas Davis in 2003. Davis tallied 130 that season and eventually earned All-American honors and was a first-round pick in the 2005 draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Curran was one of four SEC players to have at least 100 tackles in 2008. He was also one of three Bulldogs who finished the year with a team-high three sacks.

Also at linebacker, the Bulldogs feature a trio of veterans in Darryl Gamble, Darius Dewberry and Akeem Dent. Gamble was third on the team last season with 60 tackles and returned two interceptions for touchdowns versus No. 11 LSU in Baton Rouge.

Dawgs searching for production at defensive end

Georgia's starting defensive ends include Demarcus Dobbs and senior Roderick Battle. Dobbs had 19 tackles and two sacks last fall along with two big interceptions, including one to preserve Georgia's win at Kentucky with a one-handed grab at the Bulldogs' 13-yard line.

The Bulldogs are also counting on contributions from senior Marcus Washington, who missed last season with a shoulder injury and played in 33 games in his career at linebacker before last year.

Special day for OSU

Saturday's game will mark the official re-dedication of Boone Pickens Stadium and take place prior to kickoff.

The actual ceremony will take place at approximately 12:20 p.m. after the Cowboys complete the "The Spirit Walk" down Hester Street to the west end zone. Billionaire and stadium namesake T. Boone Pickens will be on hand for the ceremony, which is expected to last 20 minutes.

Outside the stadium, OSU College and NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas, the school's all-time leading rusher, will team with national host Dan Patrick as part of the Nissan Heisman Trophy National Tour. The pair will be signing autographs on Hall of Fame Avenue during the pregame.

Prediction

Much has been made about Oklahoma State's offense and points the Cowboys will score will rival the number of windmills owned by T. Boone Pickens.

No question the Cowboys can put points on the board. Robinson, Hunter and Bryant are indeed "all that." But here's the kicker, and no we're not talking about Blair Walsh…

The team with the best defense will win this game. I know, no kidding, right?

Well, here's the deal. Oklahoma State gave up almost 28 points per game, numbers so bad that head coach Mike Gundy brought in Bill Young as its new defensive coordinator to try and right the ship.

The problem is, can Young make that much of a difference so quickly? Earlier this week the Cowboys lost their starting middle linebacker in Orie Lemon, the team's second-leading tackler from a season ago.

Georgia's defense, meanwhile, has a whole lot to prove after what players like Rennie Curran will tell you, was a disappointing 2008 campaign.

Have the Bulldogs learned from last year's mistakes? We'll see. Georgia's got ton of depth on the defensive side and the return of defensive tackle Jeff Owens certainly bodes well for a unit which has tons of speed, a factor OSU must certainly have to contend with.

Some make a big deal about Georgia having to play on the road in front of 60,000 or so screaming Cowboy fans. It won't be.

The Bulldogs have certainly played and won games in places like Tuscaloosa, Baton Route, Auburn and Knoxville. Georgia will not be intimidated by playing in Boone Pickens Stadium. Final Score - Georgia 35, Oklahoma State 24.


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