Georgia-Auburn Preview

The Associated Press

A resurgent season for Auburn has been offered as proof that a winless SEC record in 2012 should be attributed to nothing more than a very down year.

That conversation is unlikely to switch gears Saturday when the seventh-ranked Tigers host No. 25 Georgia a season after the Bulldogs came to Jordan-Hare Stadium ranked fifth and dominated in a 38-0 victory.

"From a personal standpoint, I have yet to beat Georgia," junior defensive tackle Gabe Wright told the school's official website. "There are a lot of guys who have yet to beat Georgia. Guys are more focused and locked in."

It was the first time the Tigers had been shut out at home since Aug. 30, 2003, when then-No. 8 USC handed Auburn a 23-0 season-opening loss.

The Bulldogs have won the last two meetings by a combined 83-7. They've won six of seven in the series, the lone exception coming during Auburn's 2010 run to the national championship.

At 9-1 (5-1 SEC), the demeanor on campus is far closer to that season than last year's 3-9 mess.

"The teachers' attitudes are better. The bus drivers' attitudes are better," Wright said. "I guess what I'm trying to get at is that everybody's attitude is better. There's not much bad that can come from winning. It's a new day here. We're blessed to be at this point. We just can't wait for the next opportunity."

Saturday's game will be personal in a different way for an Auburn player who wasn't on the sideline for either of its recent losses to Georgia. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall has played in the series before, though as a defensive back for Georgia in 2011.

He spent last year at Garden City Community College and landed this year at Auburn.

"He's familiar with them, there's no doubt," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said. "But if he holds true to past experience this year, he doesn't get too high or too low. Not much really rattles him. He stays pretty calm no matter what the moment."

Marshall leads SEC quarterbacks with 734 rushing yards while averaging just 17.7 passing attempts per game in the Tigers' zone-read offense.

He ran for a career-high 214 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in Saturday's 55-23 win at Tennessee. It was the highest individual rushing total in the conference this year and ranks third all-time among Auburn quarterbacks.

Running back Tre Mason added 117 yards and three TDs. He has seven scores in his last two games and is third in the FBS with 16 rushing touchdowns. His 1,050 yards rank 16th.

The Tigers' 33 rushing TDs are third in the country behind Oregon and Baylor. Their 320.0 rushing yards per game are also third but rank first among schools in automatic BCS-qualifying conferences.

With a season-ending matchup against unbeaten Alabama two weeks away, the Tigers need a win this weekend to maintain a shot at appearing in the SEC championship game.

The Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) handed Appalachian State a 45-6 defeat Saturday in Athens.

Quarterback Aaron Murray went 19 of 26 for 281 yards with two scores, despite the absence of leading receiver Chris Conley and starting tight end Arthur Lynch. Murray and backup Hutson Mason connected with 13 different receivers.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said Conley (sprained ankle) and Lynch (ribs) have a chance to play this week.

It was the first time this year the Bulldogs held an opponent under 20 points and the first time since last year's win at Auburn that they gave up less than 10.

Stopping the run and forcing Marshall into tougher third-down situations will be key for Georgia's defense.

"It's going to be hard to keep them from reducing the yardage on third down and having that run-pass threat on third down," Richt said.

"That's part of the reason why they're so successful - they have very few third-and-long situations unless there's a penalty. ... It really doesn't matter what we did in the past. It matters what we do Saturday, and hopefully we'll get them on the ground."

The all-time series is tied 54-54-8. In those games, Georgia has outscored Auburn by 114 points, which works out to 0.9 per game.

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