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Game Preview and Open Thread - #4 Auburn @ #7 Georgia

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To hell with Georgia.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

While this is being written, the nation has been riddled bemused by the misfortune of our Chief Executive’s recent diagnosis, but that’s going to take a quick and staunch back page to what will transpire ‘tween the hedges once the sun sets this evening.

I’m not even old, and I remember a time wherein the Auburn-Georgia rivalry was... civil. Maybe it wasn’t completely healthy, or polite, but we didn’t seem to get into it the way that we do now. Amen Corner held importance, but we didn’t stir in the true hatred until Thanksgiving arrived. I even enjoyed listening to Larry Munson’s gravelly bourbon drawl.

I also didn’t grow up in Georgia.

Things were fine for most of my adolescence. Georgia was a competitive series, where neither team really threw together a serious winning streak. Georgia’s four-game streak from 2006-2009 was the longest streak by either team in the series since Auburn won six in a row in the mid-to-late 1950s. We had some absolute classics, especially throughout the 90s and 2000s — the First Overtime Game in the SEC, Ronney Daniels going wild, Cadillac’s coming out party, 4th and 15 in Auburn, 4th and 11 in Athens — but I never felt awful after losing to Georgia. It was like losing to a friend who just got the better of you that day and you knew that tomorrow you’d have your revenge.

Then, the strangest thing happened.

It was almost like spiking the ball at the Thanksgiving backyard football game and then pantsing your brother while taking the last slice of pumpkin pie and the best spot to watch Home Alone. I thought we were friends, and then you want to come and gloat like that? I never expected it.

Then again, I didn’t grow up in Georgia. Can’t say I even knew a Georgia fan for the majority of my life. Why all of the sudden rudeness? It was hard to feel bad about what happened three years after the dancing escapades.

In fact, it was nearly impossible. The schadenfreude was even sweeter three years after that when several Georgia coaches hit the deck when a miracle occurred, and even better when we turned their own native son against them in 2017.

Still, this has been Georgia’s rivalry as of late. While we treated Alabama like our Super Bowl, they realized that the Nerds in Atlanta weren’t any sort of real rival, and turned their true attention to us. Mark Richt made a living off of beating Auburn (and lost it in Jacksonville), and Kirby’s somehow managed to end up getting the benefit of some of the worst coaching in Auburn history (and major injuries) to help him beat the Tigers four out of his first five tries.

Today’s pandemic-dampened festivities lead into a blood match tonight. It’s turned petty. It’s turned nasty. It feels like we all grew up in Georgia as of late. We can at least hope that the masks will somewhat silence the effect of a grown man barking at you.

SERIES HISTORY: Georgia leads the series 60-56-8 and has won three straight games in the rivalry including the 2017 SEC Championsip.

LAST MEETING: Georgia beat Auburn 21-14 last season at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn nearly erased a 21-0 deficit, but a critical error on a pass from Bo Nix to Harold Joiner on a late fourth down killed Auburn’s hopes. The Tigers fell by a touchdown at home.

LAST WEEK: Auburn took down Kentucky 29-13, getting three touchdown passes from Bo Nix (both to Seth Williams) and three turnovers from the defense, while limiting Kentucky’s offense to nearly nothing in the second half.

Georgia struggled with Arkansas, trailing 7-5 at halftime before Stetson Bennett IV threw for two touchdowns on the way to a 37-10 victory. The Bulldogs ran for less than three yards per carry and had real trouble getting going overall.

KEY STARTERS:

Auburn

  • Bo Nix: 16-27, 233 yards, 3 TDs
  • Seth Williams: 6 catches, 112 yards, 2 TDs
  • Eli Stove: 4 catches, 55 yards, 1 TD
  • K.J. Britt: 11 tackles, 1 TFL
  • Owen Pappoe: 8 tackles, 1 sack
  • Roger McCreary: 4 tackles, 1 INT

Georgia

  • Stetson Bennett IV: 20-29, 211 yds, 2 TDs
  • Zamir White: 13 carries, 71 yds,1 TD
  • George Pickens: 4 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD
  • Nakobe Dean: 7 tackles
  • Richard Lecount III: 3 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 PD
  • Nolan Smith: 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. Get over the Georgia headache. This team isn’t better than Auburn. They want to be Alabama, but they’re not, and will likely never beat Alabama while Kirby is leading the program. However, for whatever reason, Gus Malzahn has allowed Georgia to become his biggest bugaboo. Auburn had the better team in 2014, but the Texas A&M defeat the week before sent us into Athens on a down note. If Gus realizes that Sean White’s arm is broken in 2016, we just run the ball and win. The SEC Championship is a wash, since Kerryon Johnson’s injury was more than we could handle, but last year never should have seen us go scoreless for three quarters. Gus needs to prove he can go into a road rivalry atmosphere and win. He’s 0-fer in Athens, Tuscaloosa, and Baton Rouge. He gets two opportunities in those places this season. We may never have a better chance in Athens with what we saw from them last week and how little the crowd will be a factor. He absolutely has to win this game, and it could end up as a positive turning point in his career. How do you do that?
  2. Keep Bo Nix upright. Nix wasn’t sacked once last week and only pressured twice. That was Kentucky, this is going to be the best defense we see all year. Bo took some good shots last week looking downfield, but I think we may see the full extent of the Chad Morris offense this week, with plenty of short and intermediate passes mixed in. Let Bo weave in the pocket, and work on settling his happy feet just a little bit so that he can make the necessary pass. He’s not going to leave Athens with a clean jersey, but taking a hit’s the price to pay in this rivalry.
  3. Win the run game on both sides of the ball. Auburn must do a better job of running the ball, even if to give the defense a little bit of a rest. Kentucky sped the game up and reduced the number of possessions last week and Auburn looked like they got a little antsy as a result. If the Tigers can do the same thing, and run for over a hundred yards at a respectable clip (3.8+ ypc), then I think we’ll be in good shape. Defensively, you have to make Stetson Bennett, or J.T. Daniels, or D’Wan Mathis win this game. Rodney Garner’s going to rotate his guys up front, so hopefully we see them get stronger as the game moves along like last week.
  4. Play necessarily rough. They deserve it. With a little bit of this, it may force Georgia into a repeat of the penalty-fest they put on last week.

STRESS-O-METER:

Let’s do this. Plenty of time for dark liquor and aggression before kickoff. War Damn Eagle.