From the Other Sideline – Georgia

haleDavid Hale (Twitter) is the Georgia beat writer for the Macon Telegraph and Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. He has covered UGA for the past five seasons, was unaware that 95% of Georgia fans are bald with goatees, and keeps the UGA fans happy with his prediction of the game. Too bad none of them read this blog. 

1. What is the first thing that pops into the heads of Georgia fans when Auburn football is mentioned?

Right now? Probably “Fire Willie Martinez” but that’s only because that’s the prevailing thought all the time now. But if there is one indelible image of this rivalry, it’s clearly Uga going after Robert Baker. I think that’s probably what most football fans around the country — even those who don’t know much about the rivalry — think of first.

2. Georgia has seemed to be on a slow decline in the last few years, why do you think that is?

I’m just speculating here, but I think the biggest issue has been a lack of change. The coaching staff has remained nearly the same for the past few years (and really, since Mark Richt arrived) and the personality among the staff is pretty much all the same. There’s no real voice of dissent, and I think that can lead to complacency. I’m not saying firing coaches is a quick and easy way to turn things around, but I think a hard look at the status quo is definitely in order.

3. Why are most Georgia fans bald with goatees?

Is that the joke about Georgia fans? I’ve been covering the SEC for five years now, and I love the Florida fans wear jorts and LSU fans smell like corn dogs stuff, but I never knew what Georgia fans were randomly made fun of for. I assume the image all begins here.

4. What are Georgia fans’ expectations for this game and the rest of their season?

Well, expectations are hard to read at this point. This has been a season like none other under Richt, and while the players are certainly giving lip service to the notion of continuing to fight, it’s hard to know for sure until we see it happen. In 2006, the Dawgs dropped four of five, then pulled a huge upset at Auburn which started a streak of three straight wins over top-25 foes to end the season. I’m not sure if this team has that kind of a run in them, but that’s at least what they’re talking about right now.

5. At this point, what would be  a successful season for Georgia?

Beating Auburn and Georgia Tech. Georgia has lost its last meetings with Tech, Florida and Tennessee, and the last time they lost to all four of their top rivals (including Auburn) was in 1999 — a precursor to the firing of Jim Donnan. They desperately need wins over their big rivals to feel good about this year.

6. Who are two generally unknown Georgia players that Auburn should look out for?

On offense, keep an eye out for Aron White. He’s a redshirt sophomore tight end who has been overshadowed a bit by highly recruited freshman Orson Charles, but White has come up with some big catches this season, and the Dawgs completed seven balls to tight ends last week — their most in four years.

On defense, I’ll say Brandon Boykin. He’s been burned a few times this season in coverage, but in just his first year as a starting corner, he’s actually probably been Georgia’s best DB. He has great leaping ability and a ton of natural ball skills. He’s set a school record for kick return yardage this year, too, so watch out for him on special teams as well.

7. What is your prediction for the game?

If you ever read my picks column on my blog, you’ll know that predictions aren’t exactly my strong suit. That said, I think Auburn is going to put up some points this week. The Tigers are probably the best offense (particularly in terms of balance) that Georgia has faced this year, and the Dawgs’ secondary is really struggling. That said, Georgia has a huge weapon in A.J. Green and the running game has been much better the past three weeks. Considering Auburn’s struggles against the run, it wouldn’t shock me to see Georgia dent the scoreboard pretty often, too. If I was a betting man, my money would be on a high-scoring affair. And to make sure none of the UGA fans get too mad at me, I’ll say Georgia 33, Auburn 30.

8. What do you think Auburn and Georgia’s final records will be?

Well, Georgia and Alabama don’t make the conclusion to Auburn’s season look too easy. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Tigers drop both games. But I think Auburn can score on anyone, and with the struggles Georgia has had with turnovers and Alabama’s lackluster offense the past month, it wouldn’t surprise me if they won both, too. I’ll guess they split the difference though and wrap up the regular season 8-4 with a trip to the Cotton Bowl in order.

Georgia should beat Kentucky in two weeks, but I’ve yet to see anything to make me believe they can slow down Georgia Tech’s offense in the regular-season finale. Since I predicted a win this week, I guess that means a 7-5 finish to the season and probably a trip to the Music City Bowl.

9. Why do Georgia players like to dance so much? Are they big fans of Dancing with the Stars?

Well there are only two stationary bikes on the sidelines, so they have to do something to stay loose during the game, right?

10. Did you like the black helmet/red facemask combo?

I think Georgia should worry a bit more about tackling and a little less about fashion in the future.