Category Archives: Auburn’s Cast of Thousands

One of those nights

Helpless.

“I mean, they weren’t really doing anything special — exactly what we knew they were going to do,” Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “Zone, zone seal, split zone, stretch, their main runs. They stuck with their game plan, they stuck with what they’ve been doing all year. We just had some missed fits, some guys not in the right spots. Sometimes, we were in the right spots, and they have some great (running) backs. They bounced it outside and picked up probably about eight yards. I mean, they had their way tonight.”

Things can’t be much worse for a defense than when it knows what’s coming and still can’t do a darned thing to stop it.

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Kirby’s Celebration

The fake field goal call was a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Gus Malzahn and in the mind of his football team.

Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis, a team captain and as honest as they come, had more to say about Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s decision to plunge a dagger into Auburn’s corpse.

“That’s what they do,” Davis said. “I’m not going to give an honest comment, so — Kirby, we’ve got some words, though.”

In what amounted to the final game against Georgia in Davis’ career, he expounded on the call, citing a famous phrase from his head coach.

“I mean, sometimes karma handles things better than you can,” Davis said. “I mean, that’s how they want to be remembered, that’s what they want to be known for, then — it was, in the words of Malzahn, a ‘bullcrap call.’ We shouldn’t be in that situation. I’ll just say that. I’ll revert back to the positives and revert back to us. If we’re not down 17 points, then maybe we don’t see that play. But y’all know the answer to that.”

You’ll revert back to the positives?  What were those, exactly?

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Got his number

So much for being an offensive genius.

Auburn finished the game with 274 yards, the 14th-worst offensive output in Malzahn’s 13 seasons as a college coach. Five of his 15 worst performances have come against Georgia.

More jolting? Auburn has been out-scored 123-3 in the five games against Georgia in the Peach State since 2011.  [Emphasis added.]

123-3 would make an excellent tag number for the Gus Bus, I think.

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Debating the intangibles

Here’s the case for Auburn from Al.com:

When you already know you’re headed to Atlanta to play the team you coulda, shoulda beat, and if you do it this time you’re in the College Football Playoff again, how does that not keep a Bulldog from looking ahead?

Georgia is a lock for Atlanta but Auburn and Tech are not.

Auburn needed a comeback last weekend, a really big comeback to wipe out a 10-point deficit over the final six minutes, to defeat then-No. 16 Texas A&M 28-24.

Who knew the Tigers had a comeback like that in them?

I have a better question than that.  What does Auburn have to play for tomorrow?  The division is gone.  The Tigers are already bowl eligible.  Saving the coach’s job?  The AD has already confirmed what Gus’ absurd buyout makes obvious.  All that’s left is pride, something you’d expect is in short supply from the only SEC team that’s lost to Tennessee in the last two seasons — at home!

I ask this not as a rhetorical device to dismiss Auburn’s chances tomorrow.  (The Tigers’ defensive front is too legit for that, IMO.)  Never underestimate the power of in-game momentum, particularly if it’s fueled by a turnover barrage.  (Keep in mind, though, that cuts both ways, as Auburn has lost every game in which it’s posted a negative turnover margin.) The flip side of that is if Georgia can seize control tomorrow, I really doubt Auburn’s got enough emotion in the tank to respond, Atlanta or no Atlanta.  What do y’all think?

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The pressure of pressure

Remember the fretting going on before last week’s game about the matchup between Kentucky’s experienced defensive front and Georgia’s banged up offensive line?  That turned out not to be as much of a big deal as some of us feared; Georgia schemed to neutralize Josh Allen and ran the hell out of the ball to neuter the ‘Cats pressure.

All well and good.  Problem is this week.  Auburn’s defensive front really is what we worried about that Kentucky’s would be.  Kentucky is seventh in the conference in sacks, with 22.  Auburn has 29, good for second.  Similarly, with 50, UK is tenth in tackles for loss.  Auburn is first, with 78.

Like I said, that’s a problem.  Especially so, because even with all the good things Jake Fromm brings to the table, dealing with defensive pressure isn’t one of them, as this graphic indicates.

If you don’t want to exclaim “yikes!” looking at that, I’ll do it for you.

Now, there are a couple of ameliorating factors in play here.  For one thing, the Dawgs are going to push the run tomorrow, just like they did last week.  If you look at Auburn’s defensive rushing split stats, there are some valid grounds for expecting that to work, as the average yards per carry number has been steadily rising.  Texas A&M ran the ball 47 times against Auburn last week, while Georgia ran it 50 against Kentucky.  No reason to expect much of a difference there, unless the game gets out of control as it did in Baton Rouge.

One other thing to keep in mind is that the screen pass is a valuable tool to use against pass pressure.  It just so happens that Georgia’s screen game has been one of the conference’s best this season, in terms of picking up yardage.

Say what you will about Jim Chaney, but at least he had the sense to toss the LSU game plan in the trash can.  Kevin Steele, Auburn’s defensive coordinator, has been around the block himself and will no doubt be looking to find a way to shut down Georgia’s running game and force Fromm to deal with the pressure he knows Auburn’s defensive front can bring.  Should make for an interesting chess match.

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“Time of possession, as long as you’re scoring points, is not that big a factor.”

Want a weird stat?  Raise your hand if you knew this:

With the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, the team with the highest time of possession is 9-0 this decade, which includes their splitting of two meetings last year.

If that holds up, it’s probably not good news for Gus’ team.

Malzahn’s tempo-oriented Tigers are a wretched 124th nationally with an average possession time of 26 minutes and 31 seconds per game. Auburn had the ball for less than 26 minutes in its 30-24 home loss to Tennessee on Oct. 13 and less than 25 minutes in its 22-21 home loss to LSU on Sept. 15.

In Auburn’s 23-9 loss at Mississippi State on Oct. 6, the Tigers had an embarrassing 18:07 in possession time.

Even in last Saturday’s 28-24 win over Texas A&M, Auburn had the ball for 21:19 but awoke from six consecutive three-and-outs with two late touchdown drives engineered by junior quarterback Jarrett Stidham.

A large part of the reason for that is how poor Auburn’s rushing game has been this season.  Take out Alabama State, and the Tigers are 13th in the conference in average yards per carry.  (That’s even with the benefit of having faced Ole Miss.)  Against D-1 opponents, Georgia averages two yards more per rush than does Auburn.

Georgia, in case you were wondering (and, given those rushing stats, you probably weren’t), sits 75 spots higher than Auburn in time of possession.  I suspect it’s going to be a bigger factor than Gus is hoping it will be.

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The opposite of consistency is consistent, too.

During the Richt era, a common rebuttal to Georgia never having a truly awful season  (2010 was the only year Richt’s Dawgs finished under .500) was hey, look at Auburn.  Sure, everyone acknowledged the occasional season of crap on the Plains, but Marshall!  Cam!  2004!  Yeah, plenty of Georgia fans pronounced themselves happy to trade places and swap results.

Here’s what reality looks like.

The last time the Tigers had consecutive 10-win seasons was under Dye in 1988 and ’89. The last time they finished in the AP top 10 two years running was under Bowden in 1993 and ’94. And the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has pivoted to Georgia. Since the fourth-and-10 Devon Aromashodu catch/run/fumble of 2005, the Tigers are 3-10 against their neighbor.

Sure, we seem to have the best of both worlds now, but I’m curious.  Those of you out there who felt like that — c’mon, don’t be ashamed to admit it — did you really understand what you were asking for?  Do you still stand by it?

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