Georgia running back Todd Gurley rushed for just 87 yards last week against Appalachian State and will need to have a bigger game Saturday against No. 7 Auburn. (Reuters)
ATHENS — Which Todd Gurley will show up against Auburn on Saturday? The one who terrorized Florida two weeks ago or the one who was kept at bay by little ol’ Appalachian State a week later?
The answer may go a long way in determining whether Georgia can pull off an upset against the Tigers when the two teams meet for the 117th time, this weekend at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Gurley, who was out four weeks with an ankle injury, wasn’t nearly as effective against the Mountaineers (87 total yards, one touchdown) as he was the previous week against Florida (187 yards, two TDs) and seemed be showing more effects of the injury.
“He’s still limited,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “As the game went on he seemed to get a little more loose. Maybe there was a little stiffness early on from the cold weather. But we felt like he’s got to work himself back into playing shape and he needs to play to do that. And, quite frankly, we need him on offense. We’re not nearly as explosive when he’s not in there. He gives us a lift.”
Georgia eventually got it going offensively and the 45-6 final score seemed to buy the Bulldogs some goodwill. First, CBS stepped up on Sunday and claimed what’s now going to be a Top 25 matchup. Not long after the new Associated Press poll was released showing the Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2 SEC) had returned to the national rankings at No. 25, CBS announced it had picked the Georgia-Auburn game for its 3:30 p.m. national broadcast next Saturday. UGA entered the BCS for the first time this season, coming in at number 25.
The Tigers (9-1, 5-1), ranked No. 7 by The AP after a 55-23 shellacking of Tennessee this past Saturday, moved up from ninth to seventh in the latest BCS rankings released Sunday night. Auburn has been impressive in its first season under coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers lead the SEC in rushing offense and are ranked third nationally.
Leading the way is former Bulldog Nick Marshall. Now playing quarterback for Auburn — he was a cornerback at UGA before his dismissal — Marshall accounted for 214 of Auburn’s 444 yards rushing against Tennessee.
The Tigers opened as a three-point favorite over Georgia. But the Bulldogs have won six of the last seven in the series, including 38-0 last year at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Georgia is having to play at Auburn in back-to-back years to accommodate the recently-reworked schedules for the now 14-team SEC. The record in what’s known as the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, is tied 54-54-8.
Gurley is not the only health concern for the Bulldogs. Tight end Arthur Lynch sat Saturday with bruised ribs and his backup, sophomore Jay Rome, suffered a foot injury against the Mountaineers. Wide receiver Michael Bennett was also “banged up” in the game. A regularly-scheduled teleconference call with Georgia coach Mark Richt was canceled Sunday night due to technical difficulties, so their availability is currently unknown.
As for his health, Gurley admitted he is not 100 percent but said he’s well enough to perform..
“I’m feeling pretty good, better than I thought I’d be feeling,” he said. “I didn’t get as many plays as I wanted to. I felt like I could have played more.”
He very likely will against the Tigers.
“We’ve pretty much got to execute and be on top of our game because we’ve lost a lot of our explosive bullets, so to speak,” Bobo said.