Category Archives: Auburn’s Cast of Thousands

“… it’s a do-or-die SEC game in November, which is all that really needs to be said.”

Matt Hinton’s preview of the Georgia-Auburn game is both exhaustive and excellent.  I won’t go into much detail, since you ought to read it in its entirety, but there are a few tidbits worth bringing to your attention.

  • Based on a comparison of the two teams national rankings in a variety of statistics, I can see why Georgia should be favored.  When Auburn’s on offense, it doesn’t get a single nod of advantage, while when the situation is reversed, it’s a fairly close match between the two.
  • If you’re wondering what game has the potential to be the year’s quickest to play, “The Bulldogs run more often (on 72.7 percent of all offensive snaps) than any other Power 5 offense except the triple-option attack at Georgia Tech”.
  • This is pretty remarkable:  “An incredible 31 of Nizialek’s 33 punts have either resulted in a fair catch or come down inside the 20-yard line, where they typically roll dead; only six have been returned, for a grand total of nine yards.”

Cutting to the chase, he’s predicting Georgia wins by nine.  Now, go read it.

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#Karma

If there really is any justice in the universe, Auburn deserves to go down tomorrow just for this.

Do it for Aaron, college football gods.

***************************************************************************

UPDATE:  Momma Murray lets loose.

HYPOCRITE moment! I am the person who will post ❤️>H8 (hate), but I dislike Auburn immensely. It’s hard for a mom to forget the day she watched cheap, dirty, illegal shots taken on her son over and over again that amounted to a fractured sternum, 8 stitches under his chin, whip lash (so bad the Dr. said it was worse than patients who are in major car accidents), and lastly, a contusion to the leg that finally brought him down. As Aaron was squirming on the field in pain, surrounded by medical staff, the Auburn fans were on their feet cheering while Fairly strutted around like a peacock getting accolades and cheers from adults, students, parents and coaches. My distain for Auburn has not lessened, I’m still bitter!! So I’m a hypocrite, and like all the good hypocrites, I feel justified.
Dawgs – Go SIc ’em!!!

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Keeping Fromm’s jersey clean

In terms of yards per play, the conference’s second and third ranked defenses face off on the Plains Saturday.  While the results are similar, if I had to point my finger at the biggest difference between the two, it would be in terms of disruptive plays.  Auburn is second in the SEC in sacks; Georgia is eleventh.  Auburn is also a couple of spots ahead of Georgia in tackles for loss.

If we like to think of Georgia as taking a more ensemble approach to playing excellent defense, with Auburn, it starts with Jeff Holland, who is having a remarkable year at outside linebacker.  Holland currently is tied for first in the conference in both sacks and tackles for loss.  You’d better believe the staff is spending plenty of time this week scheming to keep Holland from making Jake Fromm’s life miserable.

The scary thing about Auburn’s sack game is that when the sacks come, they come in waves:  20 of the team’s 26 sacks occurred in four games.  It’ll be a real test for Georgia’s offensive line, particularly for Wynn.  You have to figure Holland is going to merit extra attention in pass protection.  The question is what else Chaney and Pittman will have up their sleeves.

I would expect a heavy dose of RPO plays to neutralize Holland’s speed rush, along with some power running to leverage that he’s a little undersized on the edge.  All of which sounds nice on paper, but he’s been a helluva player this year.  We’ll see who gets the best of whom.

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Today, in stat porn

You’ll notice both of these data points have two things in common…

… Georgia’s presence and Auburn’s absence.

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The same old song: run the ball and stop the run

I made a little fun of Auburn’s defensive tackle the other day for the way he described the task at hand, but at heart, he’s right:  if the Tigers can’t slow Georgia’s running game down, it’s going to be a long day for the home team.

To its credit, Auburn’s done a good job defending the run this season.  Texas A&M averaged 4.21 yards per carry and that’s the best any opponent has managed this season.  By comparison, Georgia’s defense has yielded a higher average in three games.  Common opponents are a mixed bag:  Mississippi State did better against Georgia on the ground, but Missouri was better against the Tigers.

The difference in the game, at least with regard to how successful both teams are running the ball, may be depth.  Georgia is in far better shape, with all five backs healthy and contributing.  Auburn can’t really compare there.

Auburn has worn down its share of opponents the past couple of seasons with Johnson and Pettway, but the two were never at full strength at the same time this year. Pettway, a 6-foot, 235-pounder, led the SEC last season with 124.8 yards a game but missed three contests due to injury, including the 13-7 loss at Georgia.

Pettway already had missed three games this year before the Oct. 21 trip to Arkansas, where he rushed 11 times for 90 yards and three touchdowns before sustaining the season-ending setback.

The 6-foot, 212-pound Johnson has rushed for 868 yards this season, with a whopping 704 coming in the last four games. He is coming off a 29-carry, 145-yard performance in last week’s 42-27 win at Texas A&M, and he also had five receptions for 29 yards.

“KJ is one of our best players, and you can see it in the way he plays,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. “He is a physical runner and a very smart player. In that fourth quarter, he just willed his way, and the special ones have that.

“He’s definitely in that category of the special running backs we’ve had here.”

Johnson has been a touchdown machine this season, reaching the end zone 15 times as a rusher and once as a receiver. Yet his 150 rushes the past six games is more than Chubb’s 140 through nine contests.

Auburn’s backup running back now is sophomore Kam Martin, who has 46 rushes for 310 yards (6.7 per carry) this season. Martin amassed 136 of those yards in the 41-7 opening win over Georgia Southern.

If it’s a slugfest, I know who’s going to have the fresher running backs in the fourth quarter.

Of course, a running game isn’t solely dependent on the backfield.  The offensive line has a definite role to play.  That doesn’t favor Auburn either.  Georgia’s line has been together on the field, with minor exceptions, since the season’s third game.  Auburn’s been juggling starters all season because of injury issues.  Those sound like they’ll likely continue Saturday.

Injured Auburn offensive linemen Mike Horton and Darius James are expected to return to practice Tuesday, but their status for Saturday’s rendition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry remains to be seen.

Horton (ankle) and James (leg) both started against Texas A&M before exiting early in the game due to lingering effects from their injuries, which they sustained weeks earlier.

“Everybody, we’re expecting to practice today,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “We may not know exactly what they means, who’s going to start and all that, until we get to Thursday or Friday. I know the two we had to pull out in the game, I know they’re great competitors. I know they want to play this week.

“They’re going to do everything in their power to do that, but we’ll just see where that goes.”

Not exactly the voice of optimism there.  If those two can’t go, that would make for the sixth different starting lineup Auburn has fielded along the offensive line this season, although to be fair, the line played pretty well against TAMU after they went out.  (Although it’s worth mentioning that the Aggies haven’t been as good stopping the run this season as Georgia has.)

If it’s a race to make the other guy one-dimensional, then, you have to say circumstances favor the Dawgs.  And that’s definitely the goal.

Like any team, Georgia’s primary focus will be to stop the run since that’s what Auburn primarily wants to have success with. And when Georgia can slow the run down and force a team into throwing the ball more than it would like, it has generally fared well with its outcome.

Nationally, Georgia ranks fifth in rush defense by allowing only 89 yards on the ground per game. In games where Georgia held its opponent to less than 100 rushing yards, it forced teams into a completion percentage of only 57.7. Three teams have run for over 100 yards against Georgia this season – Appalachian State (136), Mississippi State (177) and Florida (183). Yet in those games, the opposition has only have completed only 51 percent of its passes for an average of 105.7 yards.

Point is, Georgia has taken at least one aspect away from every offense it has faced.

Inside linebacker Roquan Smith said Georgia will do its part to limit Johnson and the Auburn rushing attack first.

“We just have to make those guys one dimensional,” Smith said. “If we stop the run, we make you one dimensional and you have to put it in the air. I think (Johnson’s) an awesome runner. He runs with his pads down. He’s a great guy, he leads the SEC in rushing (touchdowns). He’ll be a great challenge for our defense.”

I don’t think there are any great secrets about what Georgia needs to do on defense — maintain containment on the edge, force the runs back to the inside and keep Stidham from burning the secondary on deep passes.  That won’t be an easy task, as Auburn is the SEC leader in plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage in conference play.  Georgia’s been excellent at stopping those kinds of gains, though.

It’s gonna be a real test of will imposing.

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Another edge?

Let’s hear it for growing the support staff, which may pay an extra dividend Saturday.

At Auburn, Fountain coached kicker Daniel Carlson, a two-time Groza Award finalist, and had coverage units that led the SEC last season but kickoff returns were near the bottom.

“He did a very solid job in his time here,” Malzhan said.

With the help of Fountain, Georgia has enjoyed “really good special teams,” this season, according to Smart. He said in the preseason it was the No. 1 area of improvement needed and that Fountain had brought “a lot of insight to our coaches.”

Punter Cameron Nizialek said Fountain’s knowledge of the Tigers can help this week..

“He knows their whole system,” Nizialek said. “He’s done a great job helping us implement our punt team and special teams phases. He knows the other returners, their coverage guys, who’s holding us up. I think it ‘s going to be good. It will help us cover well and hopefully we can do that.”

I’m okay with that.

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This one’s on the defense.

I’m sensing a trend here.

43.3/14.5 – Auburn is averaging 43.3 points per game in their seven wins this season. The Tigers are also averaging 14.5 points per game in their two losses this season.

The good news is Georgia’s defense is up to the task.

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