For a game that has absolutely no ramifications either in the SEC or nationally, this year’s meeting is still a fairly big deal for the two programs. Georgia is chasing bowl eligibility and a loss Saturday night makes the chances for a winning record in 2009 somewhat dicey. Auburn has done better than most people were willing to credit in Chizik’s first season, but a win in either of its last two games would validate the decision to can Tuberville.
Taking an early look at Auburn, let’s do the bullet point thingy, shall we?
- Auburn’s schedule. Auburn is 7-3 at present (3-3 in the conference). The Georgia game makes the eleventh straight week the Tigers have played. Fortunately for them, there’s been a decent sprinkling of cupcakes throughout (Sagarin has the Tigers ranked a decent, but not great, 48th in strength of schedule). What’s more interesting is that Auburn’s only been on the road for three games so far this season – and the Tigers have lost two of those.
- Auburn’s injuries. A thin squad to start with, particularly on defense, Auburn’s struggled with injuries all season. Not having an off week to date doesn’t help.
- Auburn’s offense, statistically speaking. They’re first in the conference in total offense and second in scoring offense, which is obviously light years from where Georgia finds itself. But the split stats tell a very interesting story. Auburn averages 150 yards less per game on the road than at home, a nearly two yards per play difference. The splits for conference vs. non-conference games and games against teams with winning records vs. teams with losing records are even bigger. In short, this is an offense that’s feasted against lousy teams in its home games.
- Auburn’s defense, statistically speaking. When you look at scoring defense and total defense, Auburn is worse than Georgia, which, given the contrast in scheduling, is fairly remarkable. I’ve never been impressed with Ted Roof’s prowess as a defensive coordinator and this season isn’t doing anything to change my mind. The split stats don’t contain any surprises here – Auburn does better against weaker teams at home.
- Special teams. Wes Byrum is having an outstanding season. He’s matched Walsh on PAT percentage and field goal percentage. Other than that, Auburn is inferior in its special teams play to Georgia. If the game comes down to that, you have to like Georgia’s chances.
- Turnover margin. Unfortunately, this is more likely where the balance of the game will hang. And that’s not a good thing for the home team. For the season, Auburn is +4 in this category, but the splits show that it’s plus-nine in its wins and minus-five in its losses. (Georgia, as you might surmise, pretty much sucks equally in TO margin whether it’s winning or losing.) So if the Dawgs choose to play their first game of the year with a positive TO margin Saturday night, it probably couldn’t come at a better time.