AP photo by Butch Dill|
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson tossed a last-second touchdown to help the Crimson Tide defeat Arkansas 41-38 last week in Tuscaloosa. This week, Wilson will be directing his 16th-ranked team against No. 22 Georgia (2-1). Kickoff is 6:45 p.m.
Georgia brings balanced attack
By Josh Cooper
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TUSCALOOSA — It was a good week around Tuscaloosa for the Alabama football team. After a win against 2006 SEC West champ Arkansas, the Tide basked in its accomplishment.
Coming from behind in the last 2 minutes, 13 seconds, culminating with a touchdown reception by humble, do-it-all receiver Matt Caddell, brought a lot of smiles to the Crimson Tide this week.
Looking to dampen that enthusiasm is No. 22 Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC), a model of consistency — a league-high 55 wins during the past three years. Kick off is at 6:45 p.m.
"I just want (the players) to be positive and supportive and realistic about what we're doing game to game and play to play, and what we have to do as a team to get it right to have the best chance to be successful," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "That's what we should be focused on."
Also, 16th-ranked Alabama (3-0, 2-0 SEC) will focus on a defense that allowed 450 yards to Arkansas. The Crimson Tide might be without inside linebacker Darren Mustin, who has a shoulder injury.
Fellow linebacker Keith Saunders is recovering from a shoulder stinger, suffered in the fourth quarter against the Razorbacks. The rest of the players are going through a little more recovery than usual after taking hits from Arkansas' power-running game.
"There were definitely more bumps and bruises because those guys are a very physical team," Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. "We just have to work through those."
The Bulldogs won't give Alabama the kind of one-dimensional running game that Arkansas had, but its offense is balanced with running backs Knowshon Moreno (268 rushing yards) and Thomas Brown (139 rushing yards). Sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford showed flashes last year, completing 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards in the Bulldogs' 37-15 win at then-No. 5 Auburn.
For the year, Stafford has completed 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and one interception.
Under head coach Mark Richt, Georgia might be a better road team than home team. The Bulldogs are 22-3 on the road in the Southeastern Conference during his seven-year tenure.
Speaking about Georgia, Saban said, "Very athletic team. A very active team. Very capable of making lots of explosive plays on offense and very aggressive on defense. So, we need to re-center our focus here."
Part of re-centering that focus comes with playing in a larger than usual spotlight this week. Despite the hot start and the big win, Alabama had a 31-10 lead against Arkansas and let the Razorbacks come back and take a 38-31 lead with eight minutes remaining.
In the second half, quarterback John Parker Wilson had a fumbled exchanged with center Antoine Caldwell, and threw an interception against the Razorbacks, who scored 14 points off those turnovers.
But with the win over Arkansas, Alabama has turned from the hunter to the hunted this week. Also, the Crimson Tide knows that a few losses end all the good will.
"It's an SEC week, so each week becomes bigger and bigger," said cornerback and West Morgan graduate Eric Gray. "You can be in the polls one day, and the next you are out."
No. 22 Georgia (2-1, 0-1 SEC) at No.16 Alabama (3-0, 2-0)
When: Saturday, 6:45 p.m.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Line: Alabama by 31/2.
TV/radio: The game will be broadcast on ESPN. The radio broadcast can be heard on AM-1400, AM-730, AM-770, FM-93.3 and FM-92.5.
Players to watch: What will Alabama receiver Matt Caddell do for an encore? He had his best game as a collegian against Arkansas last week with 91 yards on nine catches, including the eventual game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left. Was it a breakout game for Caddell or will he fall back to earth?
Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford is 8-3 as a starter with the Bulldogs. He had less-than-stellar numbers last year with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but Stafford is the Bulldogs' main guy on offense. He guided Georgia to an opening-weekend win against Oklahoma State and has four touchdowns against one interception this year through three games.
Key matchup: Defensive end Wallace Gilberry against Stafford. Gilberry's verbal jabs at Stafford early in the week were said in a joking manner, but will the Bulldogs quarterback take them to heart? If Stafford throws a touchdown pass with Gilberry bearing down on him and gives the defensive lineman a little wink, we'll know that it's game on.
Weather: 83 degrees with isolated thunderstorms at kickoff.
Last meeting: Georgia 37, Alabama 23 on Oct. 4, 2003.
Prediction: Georgia 26, Alabama 21.
Josh Cooper, Daily Sports Writer
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