All stops pulled out for ‘Bama-UGA

Published 6:53 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A match-up of two top 10 teams in primetime on national television. A visit from ESPN’s popular College GameDay program. Black jerseys on Georgia football players for only the third time.

As for the hype, it doesn’t get much better.

“This is the kind of game you come to Alabama or Georgia to play in,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said at Wednesday’s teleconference for Southeastern Conference coaches.

As for the game, set for a 6:45 Saturday night kickoff on ESPN, the outcome will have implications on No. 3 Georgia’s SEC and national title hopes and on No. 8 Alabama’s rebuilding project under Saban.

The Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 conference) were the preseason No. 1 team in the country but slipped because the schedule called for no early games against marquee teams. The Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0) could be Georgia’s first true test, and vice versa. ‘Bama had modest preseason expectations in Saban’s second season but have risen in the polls after an impressive start to the season.

When the Tide has been at its best on offense, in wins over Clemson and Arkansas, it has run the ball effectively. The significance of that aspect of Saturday’s game isn’t lost on either coach.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the offensive line has been a catalyst for our team,” Saban said. “When we haven’t been able to do other things, we’ve been able to run the ball.”

That’s easy to figure out. It’s more difficult to decipher a way to stop the Alabama running game.

“This will be a great challenge,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said during the teleconference. “The teams we’ve played haven’t tried to line up and run it down your throat. Alabama can do that.”

The ‘Dogs will have the help of what should be a raucous Sanford Stadium crowd. Earlier in the week, Richt called for a “blackout.” Georgia players will forgo their traditional red jerseys in favor of black ones, and fans are also encouraged to wear the color.

Saturday would mark Georgia’s third blackout. The first resulted in a 45-20 thumping of Auburn last season.

The choice of attire will contribute to what surely will be an electric atmosphere.

“Hopefully, we can cap it off with a win,” Richt said.