Outback Bowl coaches resist speed vs. power stereotypes

Friday, December 31st 2004, 2:16 pm

By: News On 6

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Forget the stereotypes, say Mark Richt and Barry Alvarez. Southeastern Conference football is more than a test of speed, and the Big Ten is about more than pure power.

In Saturday's Outback Bowl, the coaches say the speed vs. power billing is too simplistic.

``It's not just the fast guys against the slow guys,'' Wisconsin's Alvarez said Friday.

Seven years ago, when Wisconsin team fell to Georgia 33-6 in the Outback Bowl, the tags may have been a better fit. Wisconsin attacked straight ahead with massive running back Ron Dayne while Georgia went for the big plays with the speed of Robert Edwards and Hines Ward.

But this year, the Badgers have added speed, making Richt nostalgic for the good old days of the plodding, powerful Big Ten style.

``I was hoping it would be true when I looked at the film, but that's not the case,'' Richt said. ``Wisconsin runs very well and they're still as physical as they've always been. Hopefully we're a little more physical than people want to admit the Southeastern Conference is when they say we're all about speed.''

Instead, No. 8 Georgia and No. 16 Wisconsin bring more similarities than contrasts to the game:

_Each finished the regular season 9-2 and reached the top five of the Top 25 earlier in the season. Georgia was No. 3 on Oct. 3 and Wisconsin was No. 4 on Nov. 7 before losing its last two games.

_Wisconsin, with Erasmus James, and Georgia, with David Pollack, feature two of the nation's top defensive ends. James was the Big Ten defensive player of the year and a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Hendricks awards won by Pollack, the SEC's defensive player of the year.

_Each team ranks among the top 15 in scoring defense and total defense.

_While Wisconsin had top tailback Anthony Davis miss four games with injuries, Georgia running back Danny Ware has struggled with a long list of physical problems. Ware, a freshman who started eight games, will play with a cast on his broken right hand while sharing time with Thomas Brown, another freshman who will make only his third start.

With Davis, who trails only Dayne on the school's all-time rushing list, Wisconsin averages 25.4 points per game. Without the senior, the Badgers scored only 12.5 points per game.

Davis, who broke a bone around his eye and later injured his thigh, will start Saturday. Without Davis, Wisconsin rushed for only 41 yards in a 30-7 loss to Iowa to end the regular season.

``He's as good as any back we've seen in our league,'' Richt said. ``If he was healthy his entire career, who knows what kind of records he would have broken.''

Alvarez is 7-2 in bowl games at Wisconsin. Both losses came to SEC teams, including a 28-14 loss to Auburn in last season's Music City Bowl. Overall, Wisconsin is 0-4 against the SEC in bowl games.

Alvarez seemed to tire of questions this week about the perceived speed advantage enjoyed by Georgia and SEC teams, though he said Georgia probably has more speed on defense than any team Wisconsin has faced.

``They are very athletic,'' Alvarez said. ``Defensively, they can overcome mistakes. Most good defenses can. They have a lot of erasers on that team. They're physical up front. The safeties are physical. Overall, I don't know if we've seen anybody who can run like that.''

Alvarez said his defense should match the speed of Georgia's receivers and backs.

``Our guys run pretty well, too,'' Alvarez said. ``Speed will not be a factor with our linebackers. Our linebackers can run.''

Wisconsin will be trying for its fourth 10-win season _ all under Alvarez. Georgia is looking for its third straight 10-win season and top-10 finish.

Georgia senior quarterback David Greene is 41-10, setting a Division I-A record for wins by a quarterback while starting every game in Richt's four years.

Asked if Greene will be the best quarterback his team has faced this year, Alvarez joked ``He will be the best one we've seen in 2005, for sure.''

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