September 25, 2009

Preview: Arizona State at Georgia

Where: Sanford Stadium

When: Saturday, 7 p.m. TV/Radio: ESPNU (Eric Collins, Brock Huard/Georgia Bulldog Radio Network

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

Records: Georgia 2-1, Arizona State 2-0

Head Coaches: Georgia - Mark Richt (84-23, 9th season), Arizona State - Dennis Erickson (17-10, third year; 165-75-1 overall)

What to Look For

Can quarterback Joe Cox keep up his recent run of excellent play? If so, the Bulldogs stand an excellent chance in Saturday's game. Cox tied a school record with five touchdown passes against Arkansas last Saturday night, earning the Walter Camp Foundation National Offensive Player of the Week Award. Also keep an eye on running back Caleb King, who will get more carries in the backfield, along with Richard Samuel. Also, can the Bulldogs cut out the turnovers and penalties which have plagued the team its first three games. If so, that should take some of the pressure off a defense which has given up 102 points thus far.

Arizona State comes into the contest 2-0 with wins over Idaho and last week against Louisiana-Monroe, a victory which saw quarterback Danny Sullivan throw for a career-high 220 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, the Sun Devils are led by defensive end Dexter Davis who is the only returning player in the nation with double-digits in sacks the previous two years.

Defense tries to right ship

Junior WLB Rennie Curran leads the SEC with 34 tackles in two games. He is the top returning tackler in the SEC after recording 115 stops in 2008. Curran matched his career high with 15 tackles against USC in 2009 and had the game-winning pass breakup in the game's final seconds. Junior SLB Darryl Gamble was third on the team in tackles with six against OSU and had a season-high nine stops versus the Gamecocks.

Still, Georgia must find a way to start eliminating the big plays that hurt the team last week against Arkansas when the Razorbacks burnt the secondary for over 400 yards passing and five touchdowns.

Injury Update

Backup cornerback Vance Cuff (knee) is listed as doubtful for the game, as is backup safety Quintin Banks (knee).

The Bulldogs are expected to have linebacker Darius Dewberry (groin) available, although fellow linebacker Akeem Dent (hamstring) will not play.

Arizona State will be without All-American placekicker Thomas Weber who will miss the next four-five weeks with a tendon tear.

Butler is nation's top punter

Redshirt sophomore Drew Butler is the nation's leading punter, averaging 54.6 yards on 11 punts. His 57-yard average against Oklahoma State is the second-best average for a game since 1958 (Bobby Walden, 63 yards) and his 75-yarder was the longest since Mimbs boomed a 77 yarder last year against South Carolina.

Non-conference success

Under Richt, Georgia owns a 34-4 record against teams from outside the SEC. The only losses came in bowl games to Boston College (20-16, 2001 Music City Bowl) and to West Virginia (38-35, 2006 Sugar Bowl). Two regular season losses came last year to Georgia Tech and in this year's season opener at Oklahoma State.

Prediction

The "Stache" is gone. Yes, for the second year in a row, picking against the Bulldogs has cost me my beloved pencil-thin mustache. But alas, it didn't die in vain, right?

Now for this week's game against Arizona State:

Although I picked the wrong team, at least I was on the right track as far as last week's game being a high-scoring affair. No, I never would have guessed 52 points by the Dawgs, but at least we were in the ballpark.

This brings us to Saturday:

I gotta admit, last week's effort was one of the more disappointing I've seen from a Bulldog D in all the years I've been covering this team.

The secondary looked confused, players were caught out of position and until the final eight minutes or so Arkansas moved the football completely at will.

Do I think the Bulldogs have defensive issues? Yes. Are the Bulldogs really as bad defensively as they've looked? No, although I know many of you will disagree.

Richt is correct when he says that the turnovers and penalties have contributed to Georgia's defensive woes, but the squad's penchant for giving up the big plays is certainly something that has to be addressed as well.

If the Bulldogs want to challenge for a championship, obviously that's going to have to change. We'll see. As good as Georgia's offense has been the past two weeks, there's certainly going to come a time very soon when the defense is going to have to start carrying its share of the load. That time is now. Prediction: Georgia 35, Arizona State 14.

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