ATHENS — There were a few reasons CBS decided it wanted to showcase this Saturday’s game between Georgia and Auburn: The latter is unbeaten and on course for the BCS championship game, while the former owns a four-game winning streak in the South’s oldest rivalry.
One other thing couldn’t have hurt: The game will feature two of the most dynamic players in the country. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. Georgia’s A.J. Green could be the first receiver taken in the next NFL draft.
Since Newton, a transfer, just joined the Tigers this season, it will be the first time he and Green have played in the same game.
It will also likely be the last time, assuming Green makes the jump to the pros after this season.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was asked Saturday if, in his 11 years as an NFL assistant coach, he had faced anyone similar to Newton.
“Not really,” said Grantham, before one name occurred to him. “You know, Michael Vick. But Mike’s a little different in that he’s not as big as this guy. But that would probably be the closest thing.”
In other words Newton, the Auburn quarterback, only reminded Grantham of one of the game’s most athletic quarterbacks — only Newton is bigger. Georgia head coach Mark Richt compared Newton to Vince Young, who is also big and athletic. Young led Texas to a national title and, like Vick, is now an NFL starter.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt Vince Young elevated Texas, and I think the same is going on with Newton,” Richt said.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who specializes in defense, was extolling Green’s impact. It was not lost on him that the Bulldogs have looked like a different team in the five games since Green returned from an NCAA suspension.
“Their offense has clicked in direct correlation with him coming back,” Chizik said.
Chizik added that he expects the Bulldogs to throw the ball deep “a minimum of six times” per game.
Star power aside, Georgia and Auburn are at very different points as they wind down the season.
Auburn (10-0) has a chance to clinch the East even before its showdown with arch-rival Alabama.
Georgia (5-5) is just seeking bowl eligibility. It will also be seeking to avoid going winless against the SEC West for the first time since 1995.
But the Bulldogs’ younger players will be reminded often this week of the win that started their current win streak over the Tigers: In 2006, Auburn was No. 5 in the AP poll, while Georgia was unranked, but the Bulldogs won in a rout.
“Our senior class hasn’t beaten Georgia before,” said Chizik, who is in his second year as Auburn’s head coach. “They know it. They’re going to read it, hear it. But that’s all in the past.”
Georgia appears pretty healthy as it enters Auburn. The only two players with known injuries against Idaho State on Saturday were reserves — nose tackle Kwame Geathers (ankle) and receiver Logan Gray (jaw). And Richt said each player has a very good chance to play at Auburn. ... Freshman Alec Ogletree, who started his first game at safety, graded out well and is likely to earn another start, according to Richt.