I have mixed feelings about today’s game. Skip past the obvious structural deficiencies — Georgia’s at a disadvantage in special teams and the offensive line’s match up against the Tigers’ defensive line — and I’m still left with some statistical shortcomings that suggest the 10-point spread isn’t a stretch in the slightest.
Check out these conference ranking comparisons to get a flavor of what I’m getting at:
- Scrimmage plays of 30 yards or more: Auburn 3rd; Georgia 12th
- 3rd down conversion rate: Auburn 2nd; Georgia 10th
- Opponent red zone conversion rate: Auburn 3rd; Georgia 14th
- Tackles for loss: Auburn 6th; Georgia 14th
In short, Auburn is more explosive and efficient on offense, much better at defending the red zone and more likely to put opponents in unfavorable down and distance situations. If you think Georgia’s best chance to win lies in controlling the ball and limiting the number of touches Auburn gets on offense, that’s a very bad combination.
Funny thing is, while my head tells me Auburn’s going to grind Georgia down slowly and walk away with a two-touchdown win, my heart wouldn’t be surprised if the Dawgs surprise and spring the upset. Why? Well, history, basically. It’s not as if Gus Malzahn’s been Steve Spurrier, after all. Auburn’s only won two of the last ten games in the series, neither of those in Athens, and it took magical seasons from its quarterbacks to pull those off (plus one of the flukiest plays we’ve ever seen, of course).
The other thing in the back of my head is that we’re at game ten now. It’s about time for things to start coming together. The coaches know their personnel. The players have had time to adjust to what the new staff is doing. We’re starting to see positive development in areas like the defensive line. All of which isn’t to guarantee a win; rather, it’s just to say that an upset wouldn’t be totally out of the question for me.
If you really want a key for the game, keep an eye on first quarter scoring. Auburn is tops in the SEC in that, while Georgia is tenth. If the Dawgs can keep things close early, they might be in store for a good day.