ATHENS, Ga. -- Could it be a more different trip?
Georgia will be looking to clinch the SEC East title Saturday night when the Bulldogs visit Auburn, which is 2-7 overall and 0-6 in league play. When the Bulldogs last traveled to Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2010, they were 5-5 and the Tigers were on their way to the national championship.
"If you think about it, that's kind of crazy," Bulldogs senior cornerback Sanders Commings said Tuesday. "Two years ago, they didn't lose a single game, and now they've only won two. I think that shows you that college football is crazy, and also they had a guy named Cam Newton."
Auburn defeated Georgia 49-31 two years ago, which equaled the most points the Bulldogs have allowed in the Mark Richt era. The Tigers were 10-for-14 on third-down conversions, all 10 conversions occurring on Newton runs.
Since the 2010 season, however, the Bulldogs are 18-5 and the Tigers are 10-12.
"I think the big thing is just our league itself," Richt said. "Obviously I've been coaching in it for 12 years now, and it is a very fine line. Even the year we went 6-7, how much of a different team did we have than some of the teams that might have gone 10-2? Probably not a whole lot different."
Asked if Newton was the toughest quarterback he had faced in four seasons, Commings said, "Most definitely."
Georgia junior right guard Chris Burnette (shoulder contusion) did not practice Tuesday and is questionable for Saturday.
Junior left tackle Kenarious Gates played right guard in the second half of last week's 37-10 win over Ole Miss and expects to do the same against the Tigers, with sophomore Mark Beard replacing him at left tackle. Gates has played every position on the offensive line in a game for the Bulldogs except center.
"I prefer tackle, because I feel like that's my natural position, but I have fun at both positions," Gates said. "There are different people you go against. At tackle it's speed and at guard it's power, so you have to be ready for both."
Three Dogs down
The Bulldogs have lost three prominent players to season-ending injuries, receivers Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown to ACL tears and defensive end Abry Jones with torn ligaments in his ankle. The loss of Jones for the year was confirmed by Richt this week.
"In some years, you'll lose a guy a game or two, but to have three guys be out for the rest of the year who were prominent players and starters has been tough," said Richt, who may himself have to undergo hip-replacement surgery at season's end. "It's been tough that two have been seniors and their careers ended early, but the good news is the injuries they have are very correctable."
Despite those losses, Richt said it has not been an "awful" year in terms of injuries.
Much has changed
Auburn secondary coach Willie Martinez was Georgia's defensive coordinator as recently as 2009, but Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray said too much has changed for Martinez to rely on things from the past.
"Every single year we add more and more plays," Murray said. "He wasn't here when we were doing the no-huddle, so that's a whole new style of offense that he wasn't here to experience. He has nine games of film to watch, and I think that's all he really needs when he's game-planning for us.
"I'm not worried about him knowing anything."
Odds and ends
Commings on who would have won the presidential election among Bulldogs players: "I would say Obama, but most people wouldn't even vote." ... Georgia's defense forces 5.5 three-and-outs a game, which ranks third nationally behind Florida State and TCU. ... Richt's second son, David, will sing the national anthem at Georgia's basketball opener Friday against visiting Jacksonville.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...
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