Pregame notes: Georgia at Georgia Tech

semerson@macon.comNovember 30, 2013 

SE

ATLANTA - Matt Stafford is here to watch the first game of the Hutson Mason era. But Aaron Murray is not expected to be here.

Stafford has the weekend off, as his Detroit Lions played on Thanksgiving. So the quarterback is here along with Lions receiver Kris Durham, another former Georgia Bulldog.

Stafford, wearing an Atlanta Braves hat, spent some time in warmups catching up with Mike Bobo and some other staffers. Durham was on the sideline for even longer.

Meanwhile, the word from two Georgia staffers is that Murray won't be able to make it. That doesn't mean he won't make a surprise appearance, but as of now he's not coming.

Defensive back replacements

Sheldon Dawson is working at first-team cornerback in the absence of the injured Shaq Wiggins.

Quincy Mauger is working at safety in place of the injured Tray Matthews, with Corey Moore on second team. That surprises me a bit, we'll see if it's that way during the game.

Matthews and Wiggins out

Two Georgia starting defensive backs appear to be out for this game.

Free safety Tray Matthews and cornerback Shaq Wiggins, both freshmen, have posted separately on social media that they're out today. We're waiting official word from UGA.

Update: Both are definitely out. Matthews did not make the trip, while Wiggins is here, but not suited up.

Wiggins' malady isn't confirmed. Matthews was limited this week in practice with a shoulder sprain.

The quarterback weirdness

I re-joined the Georgia beat in August of 2010. That was more than three years ago, and during that time I've met my future wife, gotten married, and had a child, who is now six months old.

And through it all Aaron Murray was the starting quarterback at Georgia. That ends today.

Hutson Mason, who has also been the top backup these past four seasons, gets his first career start today. It was a bit weird looking at the blue flip card that Georgia Tech passes out in the press box, and seeing Mason, and not Murray, at first-team quarterback.

In a way it adds some excitement at the end of a long season that a lot of people are probably ready to move on from. But there's also a lot of uncertainty for Georgia: Can the offense play just as strongly under Mason? Oh, they say they can, and have been saying that for several years now. But now the moment is here.

Bowl update

The Chick-fil-A and Russell Athletic are the only two bowls listed as having representatives at today's game, but I'm pretty sure the Gator Bowl is very much in play for Georgia.

In fact, Thursday's Ole Miss loss at Mississippi State enhances the chances. Even if Georgia loses today, both the Bulldogs and Rebels would be 7-5, and the Gator has been pretty open about its interest in Georgia. At worst now the two teams will have the same record, rather than Ole Miss being one game better, with more momentum.

Now, this all assumes that the Bulldogs are still there for the Gator to pick. That's still not assured. The Chick-fil-A, which has the pick before the Gator, could grab Georgia. And the Outback, which picks in front of the Chick-fil-A, would surprise people, but that doesn't seem as likely.

The other factor is Vanderbilt, which can move to 8-4 with a win today, and that seems likely at home against Wake Forest. If Georgia loses today, and Vanderbilt wins, there might be pressure on the Gator to pick the Commodores.

Potentially, things could get very muddled in the SEC bowl selection process. The conference will get two BCS slots, as usual, and then there's the Capital One and Cotton bowls. Right now Alabama, Auburn and Missouri are virtually assured of three of those four bowl slots. After that, well, comes the confusion.

The SEC has a bowl selection rule that a bowl can't pick a team with two more losses. Right now that means a bunch of teams could potentially be bunched up: Georgia and Vanderbilt are 7-4, LSU has finished 9-3, South Carolina is 9-2, and Texas A&M is 8-3. That's five teams that could potentially could all be within a game of each other.

So, basically, check back in after today's games to see if it gets cleared up.

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