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GAME PREVIEW: #18 Auburn vs #2 Georgia

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Game 6: t’s the dadgum Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Do you remember when this used to be a brotherly rivalry? I kind of thought that it was when I was a kid in the 1990s, and even when Georgia got good in the early 2000s under Mark Richt I never really thought there was too much hostility.

Where did things get to sideways?

Was it when Georgia scored the game-winning touchdown and prevented Auburn winning the West with an uncalled offensive pass interference in 2002?

Was it two years later in 2004 when Junior Rosegreen rinsed Reggie Brown during an Auburn blowout?

Certainly didn’t help.

If three years later in 2007 didn’t make you incredibly angry, with the whole world against us, then I don’t think you’re filled with warm, beating blood.

If the indignation for how things transpired in 2010 doesn’t boil your blood, then let this angry Georgia fan take you through how dirty Auburn was. Included below are such classics as Cam Newton “blowing kisses at the defense”, in case you wanted to know how desperate they were for some justification after losing by 18 points.

Was that the moment that things turned sour? Or was it a decade of decay? We’re not even counting back to the Wet Dog Affair of 1986, when Georgia fans got the hoses turned on them as they tried to rip up the turf after a win.

Maybe it was a rotten relationship to begin with. Sure, we’ve been brotherly in ways. We gave them Vince Dooley, and they reciprocated with Pat Dye. That sure was nice of us both. Both schools have a claim to greatest freak athlete tailback of all-time (although ours is better). Are we just members of the same family? Do we just view each other as the annoying cousin that ruins Thanksgiving when they bring up politics? Do we actually understand each other in a weird way?

Perhaps, but thankfully we learned to cut toxic relationships out of our lives long ago. This is 2021. We just went through COVID. We learned that we need to attend to some serious self care and do what makes us feel good. We learned that you can just choose not to talk to someone when they say really stupid things.

“It WASN’T an insurrection!!”

Ah, well. Nevertheless. Let’s focus on this year.

WHEN AUBURN HAS THE BALL: This is probably the matchup that will decide the game. Can Auburn make hay with Bo Nix trying to work out some of the same oopty-oop fun he showed us last week in Baton Rouge? He’ll have to be mobile, alright, because Georgia’s coming after him harder than you can possibly believe. They’d love to crush him and see some extended action from TJ Finley (if you read our Q&A you’d see the conversation). I don’t know how much Auburn can run into the teeth of the Georgia defense, but if we can see some boundary runs and ways to get Jarquez Hunter or Tank Bigsby the ball on the outside, then we may be able to get some actual running lanes.

Auburn needs a wide receiver to step up big time in this game, and I’m not sure who it can be. Demetris Robertson would be the poetic choice, and Caylin Newton would probably give Georgia some real Buckner walking into Shea vibes, but we may just have to rely on Bo matriculating his way down the field like he did last week. The offensive line progressing each week is a positive sign, but they need to make quite the improvement this week to be on somewhat equal footing with the Georgia front.

WHEN GEORGIA HAS THE BALL: Here’s where Auburn might actually have more success. If you watched Georgia last week against Arkansas, you saw that the game was over off the bat when the Hogs couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t get off rollerskates, and then gave up short fields left and right. Even so, Georgia isn’t super efficient on offense, and they’re definitely not explosive. They’re lacking in wide receivers like we are. They’re relying on a guy named Ladd to be a prime threat through the air. Their top receiver now is a freshman tight end.

All that’s to say that the Georgia offense pretty much begins and ends with the running back quintet they boast. We’ll mostly see Zamir White and James Cook, but there are other guys that we can’t sleep on when the main two take a breather. However, if Auburn can somehow put the game in Stetson Bennett’s hands and neutralize the run game, then this could end up being tight.

SERIES HISTORY: Georgia leads the all-time series 61-56-8, winning 7 of the last 8 games in the rivalry. Auburn’s lone win in that span came in the 2017 regular season matchup, when the Bulldogs were ranked #1 in the College Football Playoff rankings.

LAST MEETING: During the thoroughly depressing COVID year of 2020, Georgia beat Auburn 27-6 in Athens. The Bulldogs built a 24-0 lead just before halftime and cruised to an easy win in the second game of the season. Auburn gained only 216 total yards, with only 39 coming on the ground.

LAST WEEK: Both teams earned huge wins last weekend, with Auburn breaking the Baton Rouge streak of futility with a 24-19 victory over LSU on Saturday night. Bo Nix had more than 300 total yards with some magic thrown in for fun, and the Tigers beat the Bayou Bengals for the first time since 1999. Georgia, meanwhile, shut out Arkansas 37-0 in Athens.

KEYS FOR AUBURN:

  1. Find points when the offense isn’t on the field. Auburn absolutely needs to figure out a way to get a gift touchdown, whether it’s a pick six, a punt block, or a kick return. If that happens early, then it juices the crowd and turns into the wildest venue that Georgia’s played in for nearly two seasons. I would say it might be the most hostile place that the Bulldogs have been since Jordan-Hare in 2019, oddly enough. Most of the team that Kirby Smart will trot out didn’t play in that game, and so this will be a shock to get a full road crowd with 87,000 people ready to finally get loud for a big Auburn home game. It’s unlikely that the offense can figure out how to score more than about 17 points on its own against this defense, so any little bit helps.
  2. Win the turnover margin handily. Speaking of finding points when the offense isn’t on the field, Auburn has to come out on top in giving the ball away. If we’re talking about how much the offense can score, they’ll need every possible chance to hit their ceiling. If Bo Nix throws his first interception of the season, Auburn needs to grab two back. The Tigers have to get a +2 margin in this one to have a chance. In Georgia’s last four losses (2 in 2020, and 2 in 2019), they’re -10 in turnover margin. It’s the main thing that throws them off the scent, and turns their talent into just another team.
  3. Use the crowd, get up early, and turn Georgia into the pursuer. Like we mentioned above, Georgia hasn’t played in front of a road crowd this year except for Vanderbilt, and the huge opening weekend win against Clemson doesn’t look quite so great after all. The Bulldog defense looks fantastic, but by most metrics, Auburn’s is right behind, with two huge road games on the schedule already. If the Tigers can figure out how to get up early, maybe even a two-score lead, then you change the way Georgia has to play. The longer you can keep the crowd in the game, the bigger chance you’ve got to spring the upset. Create a storm and get it rolling until it reaches critical mass. Trust in Jordan-Hare and believe that we can rekindle the magic from the last huge Auburn home game (Iron Bowl 2019).

BURNING QUESTIONS:

  1. Do we get the same Bo Nix for two games in a row? We don’t have a chance unless Bo plays like he did in Baton Rouge. We’ll need him to run around the Georgia defense, and we need Mike Bobo to call the best game of his career. Most of the shortcomings on offense have been execution-based this season, but I think the crowd will help our boys put together a much better performance than we’ve seen so far this year.
  2. Which other skill players are able to make an impact? Last week it was John Samuel and Tyler Fromm combining for 140 yards receiving from the tight end spot. Jarquez Hunter had a few huge runs late, with Shaun Shivers converting three giant third downs through the air. Auburn needs receivers to turn in solid performances today, and wouldn’t it be fantastic if Demetris Robertson was the one to return to form against his previous team? Of course, we could just get that 175-yard, 3-touchdown, Heisman-promoting performance from Tank Bigsby and call it a day.
  3. Does Jordan-Hare magic still rein supreme? The last big home game we had in our stadium had the outcome affected immensely by the crowd and the venue when Auburn beat Alabama in the 2019 Iron Bowl. Look back at how many seasons have come to die on the Plains, and think about adding another one to the list. Can we help our guys? Let’s do our best.

Let’s go get it, everyone. War Eagle.