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Post I have no idea what to expect.

Friday November 14, 2008

Maybe it’s the play of the defense and special teams lately. Maybe it’s the nature of the rivalry. For whatever reason, Georgia fans seem really gun-shy about this weekend’s game. The Dawgs are nearly a ten-point favorite, but good luck finding someone willing to take Georgia and give the points.

No one really knows what to expect. It’s true that Georgia’s offense seems to be the biggest advantage that sticks out, and the Dawgs have put up some points on Auburn for, well, for the last three seasons. If there’s something we can put our finger on, it’s concern over the defense. Georgia should be able to keep the sputtering Tiger offense in check. The only two times Auburn has scored over 20 in SEC play this season they’ve needed a score from the defense or special teams to get there.

Corvey Irvin in particular has been saying all the right things this week about the play of the defense, but it’s Missouri time now. Show me. Nothing Auburn will do is going to be a surprise. Mario Fannin will likely get the start, but we’ll see plenty of Lester and Tate too. Kodi Burns is primarily a running threat, but when he throws it’ll probably be in the direction of Smith or Trott. Auburn’s not a hard scout – it’s all up to execution.

LSU’s Charles Scott had success running against Georgia, and Fannin is the same type of back – 5’11", 220+. Irvin and the others can rant and hold meetings, but their success will come down to their ability to do the basics. Get penetration, contain Burns, play assignments, play with intensity and aggression, and watch how much better the defense looks.

I admit I don’t have a good read on the game either, so I’ll just look at what worked in 2006 and 2007.

The story of 2006 was possession. I had forgotten how lopsided it was. You had Battle’s three interceptions of course, but the memorable thing about Brandon Cox’s line that day was that he threw as many interceptions as completions and incompletions (4 of each). Clock rules or no, Auburn ran an astonishing 37 plays on offense. 12 passes, 25 runs. Georgia ran nearly twice as many plays – 46 runs and 20 passes. Georgia held the ball for over 38 minutes.

The day was also a bit of redemption for Matthew Stafford. He not only took a beating at Kentucky the week earlier, but fans were beginning to question just what we had after another game full of turnovers and a second half meltdown. Stafford hit deep passes to A.J. Bryant (yes, actually A.J. Bryant in case Dave Neal is reading) and Kenneth Harris to set the tone, and Stafford’s lone miscue of the day was a fumble after a decent run. Even with the fumble, Stafford showed off his ability to run the ball and finished the day with 83 yards and a rushing touchdown that put the game away early in the fourth quarter.

The 2007 game followed several of the same themes. Kelin Johnson took over for Tra Battle and picked off Brandon Cox’s first pass, and Georgia was off and running. Stafford again found success on the deep pass with a long touchdown strike to Massaquoi. The Bulldog defense again picked off four of Cox’s passes.

Unlike the 2006 game, Auburn responded and even took the lead in the third quarter. Georgia answered with another long pass from Stafford to Bailey, and then Knowshon and Thomas Brown took over.

Those two Auburn wins showcased every tedious key to victory you’ve ever heard:

  • Get out early
  • Capitalize on turnovers
  • Win the turnover battle
  • Have a 100+ yard rusher
  • Keep the other guy from running (Auburn didn’t have a player go over 60 yards in either game)
  • Hit some deep passes to keep the defense honest

If Georgia can find a way to do all of that again, the result will be just as enjoyable.

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