ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia defensive coaches have not spent time this week watching video from Auburn's 49-31 victory over the Bulldogs last season, and why would they?
Trying to contain Superman isn't the objective this time around.
Quarterback Cam Newton was well on his way to the Heisman Trophy when the 2010 Bulldogs invaded Jordan-Hare Stadium, where they provided little resistance. Newton completed 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed 30 times for 151 yards and two scores.
Auburn converted 10 of 14 third-down opportunities, with all 10 conversions via Newton runs.
"If Cam was still there, I wouldn't be scared to play him," Bulldogs safety Bacarri Rambo said this week, "but luckily he is gone and doing very well in the NFL. I'm proud of him, because you don't see too many black quarterbacks who do that in the NFL."
While Newton is chasing rookie records with the Carolina Panthers, several skill players remain from Auburn's national championship team.
Onterio McCalebb rushed 12 times for 71 yards and three touchdowns in last year's meeting, while Michael Dyer had 13 carries for 60 yards. Emory Blake led Auburn receivers with 64 yards on three catches, and tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen's two receptions each went for scores.
"Cam was like their heart and soul last year, but they had a good surrounding cast," Rambo said. "I consider Dyer one of the best in the conference and the country, and it looks like he is the man on their team this year. They have a good tight end -- I'm not about to pronounce his name -- so we just have to find ways to slow their key players down."
Dyer is indeed Auburn's top threat, as the 5-foot-9, 210-pound sophomore has 989 rushing yards this season and is averaging 109.9 a game. McCalebb, a 5-11, 174-pound junior, has amassed 448 yards, and the two tailbacks are each averaging 5.3 yards a carry.
The Tigers average a healthy 191.1 rushing yards per game, but Georgia is allowing 91.1 rushing yards each week with a defense that Auburn coach Gene Chizik believes has improved dramatically from last year's meeting.
"It is night and day, and there is no question about it," Chizik said. "They are very physical in the run game. Their run fits have improved tremendously, which generally happens under a new coordinator in the second year."
Georgia's defense actually held its own in the early stages last season, with Rambo intercepting Newton to halt Auburn's second possession and the Bulldogs forcing a punt on Auburn's third drive. The Bulldogs built a 21-7 lead, but the Tigers wound up scoring touchdowns on five consecutive possessions to pull away.
"All I remember is being up by two touchdowns, and just like that it was gone," Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings said. "A lot of that had to do with Cam Newton. He was great, and I wish we had an opportunity to play him again. He's gone now, so I guess we've got to take it out on his old team."
Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will match wits with Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn for a second time Saturday in a rare pairing of college football assistants who combined make more than $2 million annually. The Tigers may no longer have Newton, but Malzahn's offenses typically present numerous challenges no matter who is at quarterback.
For starters, the Tigers like to run plays every 20 seconds.
"I just think you've got to pay attention to detail," Grantham said. "You've got to know your calls, because things happen pretty fast. You've got to know your fits, because they will test you with formations. You've got to be able to leverage the ball in the perimeter and make sure it doesn't break out."
Said defensive end Abry Jones: "If we can control the line of scrimmage, it would pretty much limit where they could go."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...