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Post First thoughts: Auburn

Tuesday November 6, 2007

If you haven’t noticed by now, I tend to emphasize matching an opponent’s strength. Florida can score points in bunches, so I thought that the pressure would be on Georgia’s offense to produce. They did, and we’re all happy.

Auburn’s strength is a top 10 defense. They have been stingy against the run, and they can do some ugly things when the pass rush gets going. Teams aren’t scoring many points on them. With that in mind, my key is for the Georgia defense to match that production and give the Bulldogs a chance to compete in a lower-scoring game.

Before I get to the Georgia defense, we shouldn’t abandon all hope of scoring against Auburn. The Dawgs have put up 30+ against the Tigers in the past two meetings. Stafford played one of his better (and smarter) games of the 2006 season at Auburn. Though much of the scoring was set up by defense, the Dawgs were equally adept at running (227 yards) and passing (219 yards) when they had the ball.

The performance of Georgia’s defense at Auburn last year was astonishing after limping home from Kentucky and a wretched midseason. It started on Auburn’s first snap when Ray Gant sacked and injured Brandon Cox, turning the Auburn quarterback into even more of a potted plant than usual. Tra Battle went to work in the second quarter, and by the end of the day Cox had completed as many passes to Georgia defenders (4) as he had to his own team (4-of-12).

Pressure on Cox, containment of the Auburn running game, and the turnovers were all important. But the biggest defensive stat of all in last year’s win was limiting Auburn to a scant 37 plays of offense. Georgia, by contrast, ran 66 plays and had the ball for over 38 minutes. As another point of reference, Troy ran 84 plays against Georgia last weekend. While plays and time of possession don’t mean much if you’re a quick-strike offense, Auburn is not, and few offenses are going to do much with 37 plays in a game. While holding Auburn to fewer than 40 plays again is too much to ask, they’ve run 70 or fewer plays in their three losses this season.

The offense also has plenty to do with limiting the opponent’s possession, and we saw the offense own the ball starting with the first drive last year much the same way they did against Alabama and Florida this season. While Georgia is 2-2 this year after the opponent scored first, those two wins were over Troy and Ole Miss. With the crowd likely to be as good as it gets at Sanford Stadium, a good start can keep them in the game.


There will be no shortage of motivation or emotion for this game. The crowd will be stoked as usual, there will be the national TV presence, and even a visit from Cowherd on Friday will add to the circus. The challenge in the Florida game was finding the confidence to shed history and stand up to the Gators. Against Auburn the challenge will be to look past the distractions, hype, black shirts, and everything else to focus and maintain a high level of concentration and intensity against a talented and driven opponent. It would be very easy for such a young team to get caught up in the buildup to the game. Can they learn to channel the energy of the big game crowd into their performance? While I recognize the value of a visit from ESPN’s Gameday, I’m kind of glad that they’re headed elsewhere this weekend.


Turnovers are important. Duh. But they’ve played an unusually large role in the past two meetings. In 2005, two second half Georgia turnovers in their own end led immediately to Auburn touchdowns. One of those turnovers came right after Kenny Irons fumbled on the Georgia 11. Of course last season’s second quarter just about determined the outcome of the game thanks to a few interceptions.

If the game does play out to be relatively low-scoring, the importance of a turnover is magnified. Auburn’s struggles earlier this season can, in part, be attributed to carelessness with the ball. The Tigers gave it away nine times in their first three games. They haven’t had more than one turnover since and are 6-1 in those games with a last-second loss at LSU the sole blemish. Georgia has done well in the giveaway department all season, but they increased their season total by 50% with three turnovers against Troy.

2 Responses to 'First thoughts: Auburn'

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  • Muschamp has turned their defence around and the name of the game for the Dawgs will be execution, execution and more but we have the Dawgs to do it. Stafford caught the Tigers by surprise in ’06 and that won’t happen again so our Ga. grad has a choice, stop Moreno or Stafford. He’ll go after Matthew Stafford, problem is, Stafford can and will handle the pressure by putting 31 points on the board by getting the ball to his playmakers, Moreno, MoMass etc. or throwing down field for big gains or TDs. or keeping drives alive with his own two feet…….Dawgs 31-24

  • Why does Auburn make me so nervous? We love to ruin their season, and they love to return the favor. I’m ready to play now. I may die of an ulcer before Saturday gets here.