59F Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA
Georgia looks forward to welcoming Isaiah Crowell back following a one-game suspension. The standout freshman running back's return comes as the 14th-ranked Bulldogs have a chance to earn a spot in the SEC title game.
Crowell is expected to start Saturday's home game against 24th-ranked Auburn as Georgia hopes to stay in the driver's seat in the SEC East and possibly clinch it.
The Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1) easily won their seventh straight last Saturday, defeating New Mexico State 63-16. They also moved to the top of the division by a half-game ahead of South Carolina, which lost to Arkansas and hosts Florida in its conference finale Saturday.
Georgia can clinch the East with wins in its final two SEC games, including a matchup with Kentucky next weekend. If the Gamecocks lose to the Gators, the Bulldogs would clinch by beating Auburn.
"Our guys feel awesome," sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray said. "Everyone's talking about it and not in a cocky way ... Talking about it in a way that if we win these two games, our dreams come true, our goals since January come true."
Murray helped the Bulldogs make up for some key absences last week, throwing a career-high five touchdown passes - all in a 42-point second quarter - against the overmatched Aggies. Georgia played without Crowell and fellow running backs Carlton Thomas (one-game suspension for reportedly failing a drug test) and Richard Samuel (ankle surgery).
Crowell and Thomas are expected back this week. Thomas has rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns this season while Crowell's 689 rushing yards rank sixth in the SEC.
Despite Crowell's disciplinary issues, which include failing to attend a required media session and a first-quarter suspension against Vanderbilt last month for breaking an unspecified team rule, his teammates remain loyal.
"I asked him if he was ready and he just said, 'Give me the ball and let me do my thing,'" Murray said. "He's pumped up. He's excited. He's ready to go. We're not worried. I know when we get the ball in his hands, he's going to make some great plays for us."
Crowell and the Bulldogs will try to take advantage of an Auburn (6-3, 4-2) defense that ranks 85th in the FBS against the rush, giving up 185.7 yards per game.
"A big challenge," said Tigers coach Gene Chizik, whose team has been outscored 134-64 while dropping three of four road games in 2011. "He was recruited very heavily coming out of high school for a reason, and that's because he's very, very good at what he does. He's got great vision. He's got really, really good balance. You can see week by week there's a comfort level in there with him in terms of how effective he is and how comfortable he feels with his reads running the football."
Georgia could also have freshman wideout Malcolm Mitchell back after he missed three games with a strained hamstring. Even after his absence, he leads the team with 438 receiving yards.
The Tigers will take the field for the first time since Oct. 29, when they defeated Mississippi 41-23. Making his second start, sophomore quarterback Clint Moseley threw for 160 yards and four touchdowns.
"I think for Clint, specifically, (the bye week was) invaluable," Chizik said. "It's good to come off a win ... and to be able to build on some of those things that we did not do so well and some things that we did do well."
One of Moseley's TDs went to sophomore Emory Blake, who returned after missing three games with an ankle injury. Blake had five catches for 71 yards despite saying he was far from 100 percent.
Blake leads the receiving corps with five touchdowns, and Moseley should have another target back Saturday. Freshman Trovon Reed is expected to play after missing four of the last five games with a shoulder injury.
Also invaluable for Moseley is a talented running game led by sophomore Michael Dyer, whose 989 rushing yards rank second in the SEC. He ran 27 times for 177 yards and his ninth touchdown of the season against the Rebels.
Auburn snapped a four-game losing streak in this series last season with a 49-31 home victory. Two Tigers players were ejected for throwing punches in the increasingly chippy rivalry game.
"A rivalry is always made up of two teams that usually have something in common and are great competition for and with each other," Chizik said. "I don't think you could go back and do the math and think anything other than that's one of the reasons this has been a great rivalry."
Auburn has lost its last two visits to Athens, where it hasn't won since a 31-30 victory in 2005.