November 12, 2010

Do Dawgs have nothing to lose?

Brandon Boykin disagrees with the notion that Georgia doesn't have a single thing to lose come Saturday afternoon's game at second-ranked Auburn.

In fact, he feels the opposite is true.

"It's the complete opposite, I feel like," Boykin said. "We've got everything to prove playing a team like this on prime-time television, everybody's going to be looking to watch them so it's a great opportunity for to come out, play with a lot of passion and prove to the nation that Georgia still has a really good team. What better stage to do that on than this one right here?"

While all that is correct, there's not really any doubt as to the storyline most tuning in on CBS at 3:30 will be looking to see - how the ongoing saga with Tiger quarterback Cameron Newton ultimately plays out.

Unless you've been sand dollars off in the surf at Bora Bora, then you know all about the allegations surrounding Newton and whether or not he and father Cecil asked recruiters from Mississippi State for payment in order for his son to attend school in Starkville.

Newton and his father have both denied any wrong doing, and during Wednesday's SEC teleconference, head coach Gene Chizik backed his quarterback's hand, stating emphatically that the former Westlake High star would start against the Bulldogs.

Chizik refused any more questions on the matter, but the story has not gone away.

But despite all the smoke that seems to be rising from the "Loveliest Village on the Plains," Bulldog coach Mark Richt doesn't believe all the distractions will affect the Tigers (10-0, 6-0) when they step on the field against the Bulldogs (5-5, 3-4).

"I think it probably distracts them a lot less than you think. Sometimes we live in our own little world over here, which isn't always all bad, especially when you have a lot of stuff flying around," Richt said. "Your meetings, your practices, they're kind of a place where you can go to get away from it all. Athletes, when they're playing the game and practicing the game, they're kind of in their element and they seem to be able to shut everything out. They're really trained to be able to focus during crowd noise, they're trained to focus during distractions during the game and I think they're able to do that during the week of practice, too."

So, with that in mind, Richt said the Bulldogs will go into play fully prepared to see Newton on the field leading the Tigers' offense, which is tops in the SEC in scoring, averaging 40 points per game.

"He's another quarterback, and there aren't many quarterbacks who finish runs like (Tim) Tebow did and like Cam does. Cam usually wins the human equation. I don't know if I've seen anybody knock him back. They just do more than get in the pocket," Richt said. "They are breaking the pocket by design with nakeds, boots and sprintouts, then they have the option. They have so many different things. It's not like all he does is get in the pocket. If you get him to the point where they are going to throw some pocket passes, you just can't go in there with reckless abandon after the guy because you are probably not going to get him."

But as linebacker Akeem Dent warns, the Tigers have more weapons than just Newton, who has passed for 1,890 yards and rushed for 1,146 more, numbers that have him a leading candidate for this year's Heisman Trophy.

Freshman running back Michael Dyer has rushed for 799 yards and five scores, while wide receiver Darvin Adams is the team's leading receiver with 36 catches for 633 yards and five scores.

"As a defense, we don't get caught up and focus on one guy," Dent said. "Even though he's the key to their offense going, Cam Newton, and he's a great athlete and a great player, you still have to be worried about their receivers and their running backs so we have to create a game plan that stops all 11 guys and not just one."

Offensively, the Bulldogs are quietly confident that they can move the football against an Auburn defense that is eighth in the SEC in scoring defense, giving up 24.3 points per game.

The Tigers are also next-to-last in passing defense (241.3 points per game), although those stats may be somewhat skewed since opponents are constantly playing from behind.

Richt knows his Bulldogs need to avoid getting too far behind if they want to pull out the win.

"If they do what they've been doing and score at the pace they've been scoring, it puts pressure on all offenses to keep up. That's what I was saying earlier, you have a plan going in and you want to stick to your plan, but if the points get so far out of whack that you just have to flat out try to chunk it every down to stay in it, it can put a lot of pressure on you," Richt said. "It's been well-documented; everybody seems to remind me once a week that when we start slow, we don't win. You don't want to start slow in this one. Last year we started out down 14-0 and came back and won it. This offense here is more prolific than a year ago. It would be tough to get in that situation."

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