November 4, 2011

A little more intrigue?

What was supposed to be a game with very little intrigue Saturday against New Mexico State suddenly grew a little more interesting after Tuesday's bombshell that Isaiah Crowell, Ken Malcome and Carlton Thomas were being suspended for the contest by head coach Mark Richt.

Coupled with the fact that the 18th-ranked Bulldogs (6-2) won't have Richard Samuel for the next four weeks after undergoing ankle surgery, there's at least now a sense of wonder regarding what offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is going to come up with. At least he could not have picked a better opponent with which to do it as New Mexico State ranks last in the WAC in total defense, giving up 442.6 yards of offense per game.

Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by CSS.

"There will be certain things that we won't be able to do, but we've got to find out who our best personnel is and get them on the field. That's what we're in the process of doing now," Bobo said. "We're still going to have to do the things we do within our offense at the running back position all year, know what we're doing. There might be some different things we do to get guys the football."

Redshirt sophomore Brandon Harton and freshman Kyle Karempelis will be the running backs thrust into an unfamiliar role as Georgia's main ball-carriers against the Aggies (3-5), although cornerbacks Brandon Boykin, Branden Smith, Nick Marshall and Damian Swann could also get a carry or two.

One of the Bulldogs' biggest spring surprises, Harton (who was awarded a scholarship in August) has only played in one game, picking up 33 yards on 11 carries against Coastal Carolina while. Karempelis, meanwhile, is a true freshman, who this time last week, was working strictly with the Bulldog scout team.

"I think one of them (Harton) knows the plays pretty good and I think the other one's (Karempelis) learning at a very rapid rate," Richt said. "I think we'll be all right. We've just got to block a little better up front, you know, and hopefully make these guys feel as welcomed and comfortable as possible. That's going to be the goal."

The duo should have their opportunities.

Along with ranking last in the WAC in total defense, the Aggies are also the worst team in the league in rush defense, allowing 214 yards per contest.

"I like them (Harton and Karempelis) I always thought they could get the job done. I don't think it will be a big drop off," fullback Bruce Figgins said. "Brandon had a real good spring and summer. He knows the offense. Kyle is new, that's the biggest thing, but I think this is a good game for him. He'll be OK."

Figgins joked that the 18th-ranked Bulldogs (6-2) might have the smallest set of tailbacks of any team in the country Saturday afternoon.

A redshirt sophomore, Harton is 5-foot-6 and is listed at 174 pounds, while the preferred freshman walk-on Karempelis is 5-foot-9 and weighs 180.

"That's the funniest thing," Figgins said. "It's funny to watch them on film, but they can move. They'll squirm out of there some way."

There are few question marks regarding the Georgia defense, whose biggest challenge figures to be an Aggie passing game ranked second in the WAC with 297.2 yards per game.

The biggest will be whether or not linebacker Jarvis Jones is able to play after spraining his MCL during his four-sack performance last week against Florida. Otherwise, the Bulldogs figure to have their full compliment of defense available for Saturday's game.

Georgia comes into play as the conference's third-best team against the run (86.8), fifth against the pass (180.2) and fourth in total defense (267.1 yards per game) while leading the nation in opponent's third-down conversions (25.7).

The Bulldogs are sixth in scoring defense, allowing 20.4 points, but that number is deceiving.

Take away the seven touchdowns Georgia has given up this year via special teams, interception and fumble returns, and the Bulldogs have allowed just 14.25 points per contest.

"We've just got to out and do our thing," Smith said. "Nothing changes as far as we're concerned. We're going to try and shut them out, like we do every team we play. If we can do that, that's going to make it easier on the offense."

New Mexico State coach DeWayne Walker - who coached briefly alongside Georgia inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti while with the Washington Redskins - said his team is going to play the underdog card as much as he can.

He won't have to worry about that.

Las Vegas oddsmakers at sports books like Harrah's have the Bulldogs as a 32-point favorite, despite the suspensions at running back.

"We're going to get our chance to see up front what a good SEC team looks like, so we've got to get our kids ready to go," Walker said during the WAC teleconference early this week. "We play at Fresno State next week after Georgia so this gives us a chance to work on some things we probably will move over when we play them. But no question, this is a huge challenge against a nationally-ranked football team. It's a David versus Goliath, for sure."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]