September 5, 2012

Dawg in enemy territory

It never occurred to Aron White that home would one day be considered enemy territory.

But as the former Georgia tight end hunkers down in his hometown of Columbia, Mo., Saturday night's game (7:45, ESPN2) between his childhood favorite Missouri Tigers and his beloved Bulldogs is something he's still trying to comprehend.

"It doesn't even seem real that it's about to happen. I grew up my whole life going to Mizzou games hearing Big-12 this and Big-12 that - then I went to Georgia," White said by phone Wednesday afternoon. "I used to think that would be so crazy if we played Missouri in a bowl game, then all of a sudden the year after I leave, they're part of each other's yearly conference play. It doesn't seem real but it's about to happen."

White, who was recently released by the Atlanta Falcons, is back in Columbia while he waits to hear if any NFL team will give him a second opportunity. If not, he'll return to Athens for graduate school.

Meanwhile, the tight end admits he's enjoyed seeing his hometown revel being part of the newly-expanded SEC, and the Tigers' historical game Saturday night against the Bulldogs.

"It's crazy. I told my brother the other day, it's like I've never seen this many Mizzou fans around Columbia wearing Mizzou gear," he said. "Everywhere, there's stuff all over the town. It really does seem like their following has increased since I left Columbia. The buzz is absolutely crazy; their fan base is really top-notch right now."

So what can the Bulldogs expect when the stroll onto Faurot Field in front of what will be a riled up bunch of Tiger fans?

White should know.
As a youngster, White regularly attended Missouri games, witnessing some of the program's bigger recent battles.

"Faurot can get pretty loud. It's bowled in with the hill, all the fans come and sit on the field around the big M … it can get pretty crazy," he said. "It's not as big as some of the bigger stadiums, but it definitely can get pretty rowdy. Nebraska used to be the big rival and they'd bring in extra seats and put them along the edge of the stadium, so I'm sure they'll do something like that. It's going to be a madhouse."

As far as how the atmosphere could affect the Bulldog offense, White believes having a veteran quarterback like three-year starter Aaron Murray should help Georgia's cause.

There are, however, other concerns.

"I think it will work to Georgia's favor having what you consider to be a veteran quarterback, but at the same time having a young offensive line with new starters, I think it might be a little bit of adjustment for them playing on the road dealing with the crowd noise and a big-time environment," White said. "But I think Georgia's tradition since Coach (Mark) Richt has been there, they've been a very good team on the road. It's always been a program that's treated visiting teams a business trip with a purpose in mind."

White will be watching very closely. He just has to get a ticket first.

"I need to hit up one of my friends. I know a bunch of my buddies from back home have a bunch of tickets so I'll try to hit up one of them and sit with their families, probably move around and sit with some friends at Georgia who are coming down," White said. "I'll definitely be glued to my seat though."

So, what's going to happen?

"I feel like this season, I think the offensive line is going to be the thing. If they can play like they're veterans, then Georgia has a chance to do a lot of big things this year," he said. "Our O-line is going to have to be a big factor for the offense."

If that occurs, the better White believes Georgia's chances will be.

"I think they're going to be surprised with the power game that Georgia brings, especially if we can get it done in the trenches because I think we've got a great stable of running backs," added White, who wasn't shy about predicting Saturday's outcome.

"I see Georgia winning by a touchdown," he said. "That's the way I see it."