Category Archives: Auburn’s Cast of Thousands

One day you’re up, the next you’re down.

It’s cool to see further confirmation of my thoughts yesterday about the two Georgia-Auburn games being mirror images of each other (except for the jerseys, of course).  Check out Brian Fremeau.

And, yeah, that Miami stuff’s a little weird, too.

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Final Auburn-Georgia thoughts

So, Bill Connelly’s latest advanced stat team profiles are out.  Talk about your turnaround:

It’s eerie how much of a mirror image the two games, played a mere three weeks apart, were.  Other than the dam breaking a little earlier on the Plains due to the Hardman dropped punt, everything else went down in almost the same way, except for the uniforms.

This would make for a great question for somebody like Bill:  how often do same-season rematches between ranked opponents play out like that?

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Redemption is more enjoyable than revenge.

Is it cruel for me to watch and savor this clip?

Not after what I went through with the 2012 championship game.

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Another day, another $7 million coach

You get your ass blown out in the SECCG and your reward is this:

Coach Gus Malzahn has agreed to a new deal that will keep him at Auburn, sources told ESPN’s Chris Low.

The deal is for seven years and $49 million, and Malzahn will make more than $7 million in the final year of the deal, sources confirmed.

It’s a shame everyone’s broke.  I can’t imagine what Malzahn might have gotten if times were flush.

No word on whether the rabbit’s foot has been resigned.

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Getting to 40-17, getting from 40-17

Matt Hinton’s SECCG preview is definitely worth a read, but look at these two charts he’s compiled and answer a question for me.

My question is this:  based on those charts, do you see a 23-point differential between the two teams?

Matt doesn’t.  He’s predicting Auburn by two.  As far as the rest of his predictions go, I’ll say one thing.  If Jake Fromm has to throw the ball thirty times today, Georgia is toast.

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Can Kerryon Johnson… um… you know?

What happens if Gus Malzahn’s main guy can’t carry on?

Brandon Marcello reminds us that the Gus Bus doesn’t purr as smoothly when it’s not firing on all pistons.

Injuries to Auburn’s top players do not usually result in positive results in the Gus Malzahn era.

Injuries to Auburn quarterback Sean White and running backs Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson derailed the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The Tigers watched a six-game winning streak evaporate with sluggish offensive performances near the end of the 2016 season, which included two of the four worst offensive outputs of Malzahn’s career — 164 yards against Georgia and 182 yards against Alabama — as White dealt with a shoulder injury and Pettway and Johnson battle various injuries.

Two of the bottom 12 offensive outputs occurred in 2015 as the Tigers dealt with an injury to White late in the season. A hamstring injury kept Johnson on the sideline as a slow-footed Pettway (ankle injury) struggled against Clemson in Week 2 of this season, resulting in the worst offensive performance in Malzahn’s career (117 yards).

No. 2 Auburn (10-2) may face a similar situation Saturday in the SEC Championship against No. 6 Georgia (11-1). Johnson, Auburn’s leading rusher, is questionable for the rematch against the Bulldogs.

Not that the driver isn’t putting a brave face on things.

“The last two years, you’re exactly right,” Malzahn said. “There’s been some injuries to key people at times. This team is different. I think everybody sees it. Any time you’ve got one of the best players in all of college football and you’re not for sure if he’s going to play, as a coach, it concerns you. But our team, I think we’ve got depth. I really think that, if he can’t go, our guys will rise to the occasion.”

I can’t blame him for trying.  It’s not as if he doesn’t have that offensive line and Stidham to fall back on, either.  Still, you don’t lose one of the best tailbacks in the country and not miss a beat.  As far as how strong an assumption you can make of the first part of that sentence, Marcello reports that Johnson hasn’t practiced all week.  If true, that’s not exactly an indication of robust good health.  It’s definitely something to keep an eye on when Auburn goes on offense.

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Making a game of the championship game

One of the perceptions I had from the first meeting with Auburn — one that I think has been fairly widely shared — was that after the first quarter, Georgia’s defensive front had trouble pressuring Jarrett Stidham.

Not so fast, bacon breath.

Wait, wut?  Georgia did a better job pressuring Stidham than any team Auburn faced not named Clemson, including Alabama?  Now I’m confused.  One reason may be because Stidham has handled himself about as well as Fromm has in those situations this season.

But I’m not forgetting the score, man.  Georgia gave up 40 points.  What gives?  Welp, start with this little nugget.

[Checks notes]… um, that’s not good, is it?

Building off that, Bill Connelly notes that Auburn did a terrific job leveraging its intermediate passing attack off Johnson’s solid day running.

2. Auburn’s short passing game broke the Georgia defense

  • On Auburn’s first scoring drive, the Tigers gained 13 yards on a pass to Nate Craig-Myers in the flat and seven on a screen to Ryan Davis.
  • Third scoring drive: Jarrett Stidham completed a screen to Eli Stove for 19 yards and a pass to Chandler Cox in the flat for 17.
  • Fourth scoring drive (and first TD): They completed a screen to Ryan Davis for 11 yards and a screen to Kerryon Johnson for 11 before going deep to Darius Slayton.
  • Up 23-7 in the third quarter, the Tigers put the game away with a 32-yard screen pass to Davis.

Johnson took the headlines with his 32-carry, 167-yard performance against the Dawgs, but Auburn’s masterful creation of space for its receivers was, to me, what won both the Georgia and Alabama games.

Versus UGA, it appeared the Dawgs were very much preoccupied with the run, so Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey constantly used their momentum against them. They are in an incredible play-calling rhythm right now, showing exactly how you can use one advantage (in this case, Johnson’s strong running) to create three more.

Georgia got killed on misdirection as the game progressed.  Bill’s point is that Johnson’s success running the ball made the defense susceptible to that.  Some of that success — hell, a lot of that success — stemmed from poor tackling fundamentals.  Auburn wasn’t making those mistakes very often and that contributed to Georgia’s failure to get its backs untracked.  Obviously, once Georgia’s running game collapsed, there wasn’t a similar problem Auburn’s defense faced.

I mention all this because, as Bill notes, there are opportunities for Georgia to scheme around some of these problems.  Some of it, obviously, calls for more creative playcalling.  Some of it, though, comes down to better effort.

To move the ball, the Dawgs are going to have to get much better on first down. That might be the only way to keep pressure off of him — he was pressured on nearly 40 percent of his attempts.

UGA gained 34 yards in four first-down plays on the opening scoring drives, then gained 33 yards on six first-down snaps in a late garbage-time TD drive. In between: 14 plays, 15 yards. Every drive basically began on second-and-9.

That’s not going to cut it. Be it either with better early-down passing — Fromm was sacked on first downs, too — or, simply, better run blocking, Georgia has to avoid second-and-longs if it wants to avoid its QB running for his life on third-and-long. That might not mean a complete overhaul in tactics, but it will definitely have to involve better execution.

On defense, the discipline that went out the window at Auburn appeared to return against Georgia Tech.  D’Andre Walker, for example, looked like a completely different player in those two games.  If the Dawgs are going to have any chance to slow Auburn’s offense down, they can’t bite on the misdirection and lose contain, which also means they’ll have to do a better job slowing the Tigers’ down on the ground.  The good news is, if they can make progress on that front, it appears they have the ability to pressure Stidham.

Planning and doing are hugely different things, of course.  But I would argue at a minimum there are certainly ways available for Georgia to make the SECCG a much more competitive affair than the first meeting was.  Gotta start somewhere.

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