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September 22, 2007

Georgia at Alabama Preview

Game Ticker

Alabama returned to the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2005 with a stunning comeback victory last week. The Crimson Tide won't have to wait long to prove they deserve to stay there.

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Following a stirring victory over Arkansas, the No. 16 Tide (3-0, 2-0 SEC) face 22nd-ranked Georgia (2-1, 0-1) at Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

Alabama leaped into the poll this week despite blowing a 21-point third-quarter lead before defeating the then-No. 16 Razorbacks 41-38 on Saturday. John Parker Wilson passed for 327 yards and four touchdowns as the Tide won despite giving up 450 yards to star running back Darren McFadden and Arkansas.

The victory resulted in Alabama moving into Arkansas' spot in the Top 25 and the Razorbacks falling out - something that Tide coach Nick Saban pointed out could just as easily happen to his team next week if it loses.

"That's another one of those external factors that you guys love to talk about that has no effect on the outcome of anything," Saban said Monday when questioned about Alabama's chances of winning the SEC West Division.

Saban's enthusiasm over the victory might have also been dampened by his team's turnover problems, as the Tide's offense committed three.

"It didn't sound like we won, but we did," cornerback Simeon Castille said after a businesslike Monday morning film session. "I don't really think it was knocking us down at all, it was just showing us what was there and what needs to be fixed. No matter what you do you always have to improve. That's what we have to focus on."

Despite Saban's desire to keep his team focused on Saturday's game against a ranked SEC opponent, the victory that came when Wilson hit Matt Caddell for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left did seem to create some swagger among the Razorbacks.

Asked about Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive end Wallace Gilberry said: "I don't know anything about him. But after the game Saturday, I can tell you anything you want to know - his birthday, his telephone number, his home address. I'm serious, because I will know.

"I've got to know where to send the flowers after the game," Gilberry continued, adding that his comments were "all in fun."

Whether Gilberry's words are a motivating factor for Georgia remains to be seen, but the Bulldogs' priority is more likely to be trying to pick up a crucial victory this week after bouncing back from their first loss with a 45-16 home win over Western Carolina on Saturday.

Stafford threw two touchdowns in the second quarter and Georgia overcame a slow start on the way to the lopsided win, one week after getting upset in Athens by nemesis Steve Spurrier and South Carolina.

Georgia put together a strong defensive effort, holding Western Carolina's Todd Spitzer to 16 yards passing and limiting the Catamounts to 63 yards rushing. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, though, knows this week's road contest - Georgia's first of the season - against the formidable Tide will present a different kind of challenge for his young squad.

"A lot will be learned because we haven't played away first of all and we have an awful lot of guys who will be away from home for the first time and playing in a hostile environment for the first time," Richt said. "We'll learn a lot about this team."

One of the young Bulldogs, Knowshon Moreno, continued to impress last week by rushing for 94 yards and a 23-yard touchdown, the first of his college career, on just 13 carries. The dynamic freshman has run for 268 yards on 47 carries this season - a 5.7-yard average.

Richt hopes Moreno can help continue Alabama's problems defending the run after McFadden rushed for 195 yards last week. Georgia's coach, though, isn't underestimating the lift the Tide may have gotten from the comeback victory over the Razorbacks.

"Momentum is huge, and they've got it," he said. "It's hard to get it started sometimes, but once it's rolling it can be hard to slow down. That's our challenge."

Under Richt, the Bulldogs have won the last two meetings with Alabama, most recently a 37-23 victory on Oct. 4, 2003 in Athens. The Tide, though, lead the all-time series 34-23-4.

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