vs. Georgia Tech
When: noon, Saturday
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
TV, radio: CBS (WGCL-46), 1240-AM
Web site: www.georgiadogs.com; www.ramblinwreck.com
ATHENS — Matthew Stafford soon will give more thought to leaving Georgia early for the NFL, and he acknowledged on Tuesday that means Saturday’s showdown against Georgia Tech could be his final regular-season game.
Stafford, a junior, is nearing the end of his third season as a starter for No. 13 Georgia, which plays host to No. 18 Georgia Tech on Saturday. The 6-foot-3 Stafford has the size, arm strength and credentials to be a possible high first-round pick if he enters the 2009 NFL draft.
Scouts Inc. currently lists Stafford as the No. 3 pick in its 2009 mock draft, which includes underclassmen.
Stafford said Tuesday he’ll take a closer look at his NFL options after Saturday’s game, which could be his last game at Sanford Stadium.
"Yeah, it has," Stafford said when asked if that thought has crossed his mind. "I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but if it is the last time, hopefully I’m going to leave on top. But there could be another year to come. I’m not sure yet."
Stafford was not among three finalists named Monday for the Davey O’Brien Award given to the nation’s top quarterback.
He may be more likely to be considered a top three quarterback by NFL scouts, thanks to his strong right arm, big frame and demonstrated endurance while making 30 consecutive starts for Georgia.
Georgia coach Mark Richt gave his players a three-day weekend off last week, and Stafford used that break as a chance to make a rare trip home to Dallas. He said he began setting the stage for more discussions about his draft options with his group of advisers in Dallas.
"It’s mostly family and friends," Stafford said.
"I’ve talked to some people. But I didn’t really get into too much detail. I want to save that until probably after this game."
Stafford said he wants to focus on Georgia Tech this week.
"I’ve got to concentrate on trying to win a ballgame," he said. "That’s the biggest thing for me right now. I’ll take the rest of the decisions as they come."
Georgia third-year sophomore tailback Knowshon Moreno also could leave school early for the NFL.
Moreno, one of three finalists named Monday for the Doak Walker Award given to the nation’s top running back, wouldn’t talk about the NFL.
"No, I’m definitely not thinking about that now," Moreno said. "It’s not that time to do that right now. For this one, I’m thinking about the seniors.
"It definitely motivates me to play for the seniors. That’s what I’ve dedicated my whole season on. From high school, I know how it feels to be a senior. You want to go out with a great season. That’s how I’m going to look at it, to play a great game for the seniors."
Moreno is No. 19 on Scouts Inc.’s 2009 NFL mock draft.
Moreno leads the Southeastern Conference with 1,244 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Stafford ranks first in the league in with his 254.7 yards passing per game. The two are the biggest reasons Georgia (9-2) ranks third in the SEC in scoring, with 31.2 points per game, and second in total offense.
Richt spoke Tuesday of extending Georgia’s seven-year winning streak over Georgia Tech and allowing seniors to leave Athens without a loss in the rivalry.
Richt paused when asked about the possibility this could be the last game in the rivalry for Stafford and Moreno.
"I never thought of that," said Richt, forcing a smile.
"Why’d you have to say that? Somebody had to say it. I guess it’s possible but it’s more of a reflective question than what’s important right now."
Of course, the suggestion about Stafford and Moreno is not new. Richt said last week he plans to talk with Stafford and Moreno about their draft options before Georgia’s bowl game.
With a win over Georgia Tech, Georgia could be in line for a Capital One Bowl bid. The Bulldogs could even be considered for the Orlando game if it loses to Georgia Tech.
Stafford said the bowl implications are not important this week.
"Not really. I think we’re still concentrating on Georgia Tech," Stafford said. "We know they’re a good team.
"It’d give us a chance to be 11-2 again, but we’ve got to win this one first. They’re a good team and I think they’re capable of beating any team in the country. It’s a big challenge for us and something we definitely want to win."