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SCS.com
BOWL PREVIEW SERIES: SUGAR
January 1, 2006

SCS.com GEORGIA VS WEST VIRGINIA
Monday, January 2 : 7:30 PM CST : ABC

Though neither the Georgia Bulldogs nor the West Virginia Mountaineers were supposed to make BCS appearances this season, each comes in as a conference champion, Mark Richt's squad out of the SEC and Rich Rodriquez's team from the Big East. After starting the season 7-0, UGA lost two straight to Florida and Auburn before ending the season with three consecutive victories, including a SEC title game romp over LSU. WVU has lost just once this season, that a setback on the road at Virginia Tech on the first day of October, and the Mountaineers are riding a six-game winning streak into the Sugar Bowl, which is set to be played in Atlanta's Georgia Dome due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the game's normal host city of New Orleans.

The Bulldogs' offense, ranked second in the SEC and averaging nearly 30 points per game, is led by senior QB D.J. Shockley. After playing sparingly behind David Greene the past three seasons, Shockley completed 55% of his passes for more than 2300 yards and 21 TDs in 2005. The star signal-caller also ran for more than 250 yards and four scores this year. Sophomore RBs Thomas Brown and Danny Ware are a dynamic duo, combining for more than 1100 yards on the campaign. Shockley has completed between 32 and 34 passes to three different pass receivers. Each member of that trio - made of up WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Bryan McClendon and massive TE Leonard Pope - has 450-plus receiving yards and at least two scores in 2005.

The Mountaineers' defense comes into the contest ranked number one in the Big East this season. That unit, led by senior DB Mike Lorello, is allowing just over 16 points per contest. Lorello is tied with junior LB Kevin McLee for the team lead in tackles with 74. Senior DB Dee McCann leads the squad and was second in the Big East with four INTs this year, while Lorello is second in that category with a trio of picks himself. Throw in another senior DB, Jahmile Addae, and you have one of the best defensive backfields in all of America.

SCS.com The Mountaineers' offensive attack, ranked number two in the Big East with an average of nearly 32 points per game, is led by a pair of freshmen. QB Pat White, who made his first start in early November and has since taken over the majority of the signal-calling duties, completed 54% of his passes for seven TDs this season. But where the freshman can really hurt you is with his legs. White ran for nearly 900 yards and an additional seven scores as well this season. The only player who ran farther for WVU this year was fellow freshman RB Steve Slaton. The Pennsylvania native totaled 924 yards and fourteen scores in 2005. On the limited occasions when White puts the ball in the air, he'll most often be looking for either Brandon Myles or Darius Reynaud. Those two wideouts have combined for over 700 yards and seven scores throughout the season.

Trying to slow the WVU attack will be the SEC's second-ranked defense. The Bulldogs, who on average allow just over 14 points per game, are led by senior DBs Greg Blue and Tim Jennings. Blue, a unanimous all-SEC selection, leads the team with 88 tackles, while Jennings tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with four. Juniors Jarvis Jackson, a linebacker, and Tra Battle, lining up at rover, are also key to a defensive unit that did not allow more than fourteen points in four of their last five games.

If the outcome comes down to special teams, it would appear Georgia has the slight edge. The Dawgs' Brandon Coutu nailed 23 of 29 field goals this fall, including 20 of 24 from inside of 50 yards. His longest was from 58. WVU's Pat McAfee was 10 of 17 on the year and did not attempt a field goal from farther than 50 yards. His longest was from 45. Georiga punter Gordon Ely-Kelso averages nearly 43 yards per attempt, while the Mountaineers' Phil Brady's average was just over 40 yards per kick; neither had a punt blocked in 2005. UGA's Thomas Flowers averages almost 14 yards per punt return and took one to the house, that from 54 yards. West Virginia's Antonio Lewis averages almost 20 yards per punt return and also took one the distance, that from 76 yards out. Neither squad has run back a kickoff for points this fall.

Staff Predictions:
Jonathan David Reed Cortney Jeff
Georgia West Virginia Georgia Georgia Georgia

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