SEC: Tempe 0804

Georgia makes statement but its got a lot of work ahead

September, 21, 2008
9/21/08
2:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- I watched USC brutalize Ohio State. And I've now watched Georgia manhandle Arizona State.

 
  AP Photo/Paul Connors
 Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno showed once again he is one of the best in the nation Saturday night.

The obvious question is: Who's better?

Heck if I know.

But if I had to guess, I'd take USC.

That seemed to be the consensus opinion among a couple of other reporters I talked to who had covered both games.

Say what you want about Ohio State, but it's laden with NFL players and few folks would pick the Sun Devils to beat the Buckeyes.

That said: If the Bulldogs go undefeated against a schedule that includes Alabama (next Saturday), LSU, Florida and Auburn, the sight test won't matter because they will have passed the "do test."

That's a big if, which is probably why Georgia coach Mark Richt didn't want to start lobbying for respect just yet, even though his team, ranked No. 1 in the preseason, has dropped two spot in the polls while watching everyone fall in love with the Trojans.

"I wasn't really worried about making a statement," Richt said. "I just wanted to win the game."

Georgia has one of the slickest running backs in the nation in Knowshon Moreno. QB Matt Stafford owns the best arm I've seen since Carson Palmer. Freshman wide receiver A.J. Green looks ready for his close-up, too.

And the defense? Its linebackers are fast and its front four is physical. The secondary is above-average.

The defense is great against the run. It entered the game surrendering 59.7 yards rushing per game and held the Sun Devils to an embarrassing four yards on the ground.

The Bulldogs struggled to pressure opposing QBs, but the one-dimensional Sun Devils made things predictable and Georgia had four sacks.

However, be forewarned Dawgs fans: It's unlikely Georgia will face any more offensive lines with as many issues as ASU, at least not in its marquee games ahead.

Of course, Georgia isn't exactly dominant on its offensive line, and that youth -- two freshmen and two sophomores started -- that played fairly well against ASU, probably will find the going rougher against SEC front-sevens.

Or USC's front seven, should those teams hook in a some sort of game, you know, down the line.

While this game made a statement -- Georgia took care of business a long way from home against a quality opponent -- the Bulldogs don't need to fret about what sort of message they're sending.

Against this schedule, just winning makes a statement.

"We obviously know the prettier it is, the more people are going to look at it," Stafford said. "But we don't look at it like that... We definitely haven't arrived."

Georgia's Green and Stafford emerge together

September, 21, 2008
9/21/08
1:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's not the Two Stooges and it's not the Two Blind Mice and everyone knows that three -- not two -- is the magic number.

So it probably bodes well for Georgia that its talented offensive duo of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno appears to have found a third big Dawg with which to attack defenses.

"Want to ask about A.J. Green?" Georgia coach Mark Richt queried reporters a few moments into his post-game comments.

 
  Chris Morrison/US Presswire
 The combination of true freshman receiver A.J. Green and junior QB Matthew Stafford is working wonders for the Bulldogs.

Green, a true freshman, hauled in eight passes for 159 yards with a TD in the third-ranked Bulldogs 27-10 beatdown of Arizona State.

Those numbers eclipsed his totals from the previous three games, and announced that Georgia has a new weapon as it begins its SEC schedule next Saturday against Alabama.

What did it mean for Green to slice and dice the Sun Devils coverage and become the Bulldogs first receiver to have more than 100 yards receiving since 2006 and post the team's best tally since 2004?

Well, Stafford, maybe the most physically talented QB in the nation, threw for a career-high 285 yards.

"Y'all [can] say it's a breakout game, but I just try to make plays every game," Green said.

Green, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, did almost all his damage in the first half, catching seven passes for 150 yards before the break. Richt said that Green exploited soft, man-to-man coverage on the wide side of the field.

"We definitely wanted to make sure we kept it coming his way," Richt said. "He basically changed the game for us."

Added Stafford, "He was alone out there a lot and it's a good matchup."

Arizona State quieted Green in the second half by rolling coverage toward him with extra safety help. But the damage was done.

"My guess is the next team will have a better plan," Richt said.

That might be true, but extra attention for Green means an opposing defense won't be able to focus its efforts on Moreno. And wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, no slouch himself, figures to find the going easier.

Green's teammates didn't seem terribly surprised by Green's evening. He's shown flashes in previous games, but he'd already raised more than a few impressed eyebrows in practices.

"What you saw today was what I think a lot of the team was waiting for to come out," cornerback Asher Allen said. "He most definitely changed the game today."

The Bulldogs defenders seemed to take particular relish in the youngster's breakthrough. Perhaps they enjoyed watching an opposing defense look bad trying to contain the Parade All-American from Summerville, S.C.

"He makes crazy catches no matter how bad the pass is," linebacker Rennie Curran said.

That translates to: Green can increase Stafford's margin for error.

Consider the Bulldogs touchdown drive that gave them a 21-3 lead right before the half. The 5-play, 70-yard drive featured passes of 23, 31 and 14 yards to Green, the final one for the score on third-and-8.

It was basically Stafford and Green effortlessly playing pitch and catch.

"He's a special player," Stafford said. "You can see it in practice. We knew he had to get a couple of touches."

Now, with Alabama coming to town with its freshman phenom receiver, Julio Jones, the big question is: Who's the best freshman wide receiver in the SEC?

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