Auburn, Ala.--Despite a surprising 6-4 record from the defending SEC champions, Tommy Tuberville says there is plenty of bite left in the Georgia Bulldogs and he expects that to be on display Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“I know Georgia has struggled the last few weeks with consistency, but they still have a good team with a lot of good players,” Auburn’s head football coach says. “Any time you play a freshman quarterback, you have to live and die with good and bad situations, as we all have over the years.
“This young man (Matthew Stafford) is going to be a heck of a football player,” Tuberville predicts. “He has a strong arm, he can move and has an opportunity to be a difference-maker for their team over the next few years. They have just decided to work through the ups and downs with him, which I can understand with the type of talent that he has.”
Auburn and Georgia will meet for the 110th time on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m. and the game will be televised regionally on LFS.
“This is always a very big rivalry game,” Tuberville says. “It’s my understanding that it is the longest running rivalry in the South. Our guys from Georgia always look forward to it. We have several on the team from Georgia and they are excited about it. This is a big conference game for both teams.”
Georgia won its first five games with strong defensive play leading the way. Tuberville says the Bulldogs have good athletes to work with again this year.
“Defensively, they look about like they normally look like,” he notes. “They are sound and they are very fundamentally well coached. They have good speed and good defensive ends, as good as anybody in the country. They have one linebacker (Tony Taylor) who can really run. Their secondary is very strong and they play consistent.
“If you look over their stats for the last few games, they have turned the ball over, as we have. That puts your defense in a bind. I am sure both teams will go into this game trying to focus more than they have for the past few and try to eliminate mistakes and play the best they can.”
Last year’s Auburn vs. Georgia game in Athens was a thriller. The Tigers rallied in the final minute to win 31-30.
“I think we had nine lead changes in the ball game between Georgia and us,” Tuberville says. “That very seldom happens because you normally don’t have that many points scored in a big game like that. It’s usually lower scoring.
“For some reason, both offenses got cranked up last year. I can remember their tight end (Leonard Pope). Every time they needed a big play, he caught a ball, either a crossing route or a go route down the field.
Kenny Irons played just briefly last week vs. Arkansas State, but is hoping to have another big game vs. Georgia this year.
“Kenny (Irons) had a very good game as well as some of our receivers. Big games are normally made and played by your better players. Brandon (Cox) had a good game. We did lose Joe Cope. At the end of the third quarter, we were all very concerned. Jonathan Palmer went in and played center, which he hadn’t played a lot of, and did a very good job considering the circumstances. There were a lot of heroes in that game on both sides.
“Georgia played a good game, we played a good game,” Tuberville says. “We just were fortunate enough to make a play at the end to have the lead when the clock ran out. Really, there wasn’t a loser in that game. We went back and looked at it, and it was hard fought and well-played on both sides. There were some big plays. It was a very good fan game to watch it; lots of excitement and lots of big plays.
“It’s just one of those where we were able to hold on and when as they were a few years ago when they beat us on a 4th-and-15, big play at the end of the game. That’s the kind of game this game has come down to every year. Again, I know they have struggled the last few weeks, but they will put that out of their mind. They will come in and play one of their better games and hopefully we will do the same.
“It will be one of those games that will be hard fought,” Tuberville says. “There is not a touchdown or two difference between anybody in our conference this year if you look from top to bottom. That is what makes our conference very special. Each year, everybody becomes more competitive. Anybody can play anybody and anybody can beat anybody. Just look at the schedules and how tough they are.
“Some of the teams that are leading the conference have been playing teams the last few weeks and it has come down to five, six or seven points. Everybody has good players, and they are well coached and they play hard.”
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