Georgia faces tough task against Marshall

dshirley@macon.comNovember 15, 2013 

Auburn Tennessee Football

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall (14) runs for yardage as Tennessee defensive lineman Corey Vereen (50) tries to catch him in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

WADE PAYNE — AP

It’s still a little strange seeing Nick Marshall wearing that No. 14 uniform for the Auburn Tigers.

Marshall, as has been well-documented this week, started his college career at Georgia and was kicked off the team by head coach Mark Richt after being caught stealing from a teammate. Marshall, a former standout quarterback at Wilcox County, went the junior college route and then ended up at Auburn for this season.

After playing cornerback at Georgia, he is back at quarterback and is the Tigers’ starter. And he will be back on the same field as the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

That will be strange, for sure, for the Bulldogs. But the players who are tight with Marshall have to put that behind them and focus on the task at hand: slowing down Marshall and the dynamic Auburn running game.

That’s going to be the key to Saturday’s game. If Marshall and Tre Mason are able to run wild like they have been able to for most of the season, Georgia is going to be in trouble. But if Georgia can slow down that rushing attack, the Bulldogs certainly have a chance to pull off the upset.

That adds a couple of strange elements to this game, as well.

First, that it would be an upset in the first place. Before the season, this looked like a guaranteed win for Georgia. The Bulldogs were highly ranked and expected to have one of the nation’s best teams. Auburn was coming off a three-win season and had a new head coach and a new starting quarterback.

The Tigers, with Gus Malzahn running the show and Marshall running the offense, had so many question marks that it was hard to know what to expect. But Auburn has been one of the true surprises in the nation, and that has them sitting at 9-1 and seventh in the BCS standings.

The other surprise is the lack of a strong passing attack for the Tigers. Marshall threw the ball all over the place in high school, and while he was certainly a dual-threat quarterback for the Patriots, he showed off his arm whenever he had the chance.

This season, however, Marshall hasn’t thrown the ball all that well. He is completing just 58.5 percent of his passes (on an average of 15.9 attempts per game) for just 1,301 yards. He has only eight touchdown passes with five interceptions. Auburn has only one player -- Sammie Coates -- with more than 200 yards receiving. Georgia, by comparison, has six, even with all the injuries that have hit its receiving corps.

That might play into Georgia’s hands. The Bulldogs have struggled the entire season with their pass defense, but they have been solid against the run. So it could be strength on strength Saturday.

If the Bulldogs can keep Marshall and Mason contained, they have a real chance to turn things over to Aaron Murray and their offense. Even against an improved Auburn defense, Georgia has to like that matchup.

And it would have to like its chances to get a key win.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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