[W]e want to tear down those hedges....referring of course to the famous hedges that surround the field at Georgia's Sanford Stadium. An Auburn tradition is to take a piece of the Georgia greenery with them when they beat the 'Dawgs in Athens (pictured at right: Karlos Dansby with his piece of the hedge from AU's 2001 victory), and it's something they've been able to do a bunch due to an oddity in the rivalry: Georgia's only beaten Auburn at home three times in the last 30 years, but has won at Auburn eight times in that span.
For Groves to keep Auburn's green thumb strong and help his team tear down those hedges, he might want to start by tearing down Knowshon Moreno. UGA's frosh running back has gained 1004 yards so far this season (the only other Georgia RB to top 1000 yards in a freshman season: Herschel Walker), and the bulk of those yards -- 541 -- have come in the last three games, all wins for Georgia. In each game, Moreno has gained incrementally more yards, topping out at 197 yards last week. OK, so two of those wins came against Vanderbilt and Troy, but Georgia needed Moreno to win them all, and they'll need him again this week.
To slow down the Georgia freshman phenom, Auburn will rely heavily on Groves, who has switched to strongside linebacker from defensive end since coming back from a foot injury. Of that injury -- dislocated toes suffered against Florida when a lineman rolled over his foot -- Groves says his toes are at 85% (a line I can't read without imagining a regular-sized foot with slightly undersized toes, but that's just me). In Groves' absence, sophomore Antonio Coleman played so well as to necessitate Groves' move to LB, and now leads a vaunted Auburn defense in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (6). Groves has 7 TFL and 3 sacks in his limited action
How Groves and Coleman are used in this game will be decided by defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who is one half of another intriguing matchup in this game. Muschamp played at Georgia and was a teammate of UGA offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Muschamp has already generated a lot of talk among fans and is starting to find himself on some of the watch lists of hot young coaches, while Bobo is trying to get there. Although Bobo has downplayed the personal side of this chess match against his counterpart, the two are close friends and add a bit of a sidebar to an already intense game.
Statistically this is an interesting game, too. Georgia and Auburn are ranked right next to each other for most offensive categories in the SEC. Georgia has the best red zone offense in the league, while Auburn's defense is ranked number one inside the 20. But it's on defense where there is real separation, where Auburn is ranked in the SEC's top three in scoring, rushing, and passing defense; while Georgia is in the middle to bottom of the pack for all three categories. This game will be won on defense, so consider Auburn 20, UGA 16 the unofficial FanHouse pick for the South's Oldest Rivalry.