It’s such a cliché, but you really do learn so much more about a team after a crushing loss than you do a thrilling win. The loss against Texas A&M last week was monumental, considering the fact that Auburn controlled its own destiny in the College Football Playoff race.
However, it’s remarkable that Auburn needs only to win out and have Mississippi State lose their two remaining road games to possibly get to Atlanta and play for an SEC championship.
Even if that doesn’t work out, Auburn has plenty to play for. Games against Georgia and Alabama should provide all the incentive these players need. Make no mistake – both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide will be out for revenge of the highest order. I can’t wait to see how Auburn shows up to play both of those games.
Amen Corner, as it always does, begins with The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. In this game, more than the Iron Bowl, the unexpected often happens. This year’s edition is especially hard to analyze. Both teams need a win to stay alive in the SEC title hunt.
Georgia at times has looked like one of the best teams in the country. The Bulldogs crushed Clemson and looked impressive in road blowouts against Missouri and Arkansas. However, they also got run all over by struggling Florida and lost to South Carolina, even with Todd Gurley. Tennessee also had a shot to beat Georgia in Athens.
As Gurley returns, Georgia has an impressive stable of running backs. Hutson Mason has been steady but unspectacular. The Georgia offense has put up points – more than 34 points in every game outside of Jacksonville.
Their issue, as is Auburn’s, is on the defensive end. Watching Florida’s simplistic offense bulldoze Georgia’s defense certainly was salivating as an Auburn fan.
Auburn’s defense has regressed statistically as the season has progressed, and has really struggled at the beginning of games. Not a good recipe as you travel on the road in a hostile environment. Can Auburn find any type of pass rush? Can the secondary find any level of consistency? Unfortunately, those questions are tied together and the answer has generally been ‘No’ over the last few weeks.
Auburn’s offense has been terrific, unless they turn it over. Seven turnovers in their two losses, only six turnovers in the other seven games. Even in those two losses, Malzahn’s offense has kept the Tigers in each game and provided opportunities to win.
The Tigers haven’t won in Athens since 2005. This is their first road trip there since a beat down in 2011. Georgia will be ready to make amends for the crushing Ricardo Louis catch a season ago. Can Auburn pick up a third great road win on Saturday? Here are my keys to an Auburn victory:
- A Quick Start – Whatever the cause has been, Auburn has to start faster in games especially on the defensive end. They have adjusted well on both sides of the ball as games develop, but you don’t want to dig a deep hole on the road against a quality team like Georgia.
- Linebacker/Safety Play – Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy have been the bright spots on defense this year. This is their kind of game, against the physical rushing attack Georgia presents. Can they stand up to Gurley and company and limit explosive plays? Most of our busts in the secondary have been from the stars and safeties. I hope Jermaine Whitehead is back in the starting lineup this week and provides some relief to the guys who have been playing back there.
- Turnovers – I know this is overly simplistic. But with an offense like ours and a defense like ours, it’s vital that we don’t give away possessions and give the other team easy points or a short field. Take care of the ball, and I’ll take our chances with Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne leading the offense.
How are you feeling after the tough loss entering this rivalry game? War Eagle!