Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry Preview

The Auburn Realist

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I know, it's 10:32 and I am just now getting to it. Probably because I was wrapping up the Auburn Defense Hate....errr.....the TAMU Review post. But, it's all good. Time to move on to the 2nd biggest Rivalry in College Football. In case you missed it, here are some of my thoughts over two of my fav's.

The Prayer in Jordan-Hare
The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry: 2002 Edition

Honorable mentions go to 2004 UGA game when Auburn dominated the Daaaggggs (that's a "Snatch" reference) except for one play as Reggie Brown caught a deep ball. And then was destroyed by Jr. Rosegreen in the hardest hit I have seen, in person.

Anywho. So, as you may have read, Auburn is coming off the worst loss in the Gus Malzahn era. I guess any loss is a bad loss, but when you are favored at 23.5 points and you lead at precisely ZERO moments in the game...well....

Oh, and there were the two fumbles in the final two minutes including a dooooozzy that puts the Mark Sanchez "butt-fumble" to shame. Other than that, my weekend was great, thanks for asking.

Doing this preview will be tough for me, as I said way back when in our Way Too Early Predictions that I expected Auburn to lose this one. Well, not to surprise any of you too early, but I am holding to that prediction. I mean, I would love to be wrong and all, but the defense continues it's monumental slide......well, more on that.

So, Auburn finished the 2013 rivalry game with what we thought was the best finish in football. And while the Kick 6 happened only 2 weeks later, nothing should diminish the 2013 game.

More importantly, it left the UGA faithful looking forward to repaying the favor. Auburn hasn't beaten UGA in back to back seasons in nearly a decade. Additionally, Auburn hasn't won in Athens since the 2005 game where they won by a single point.

Additionally, with a win, UGA can even the series at 55-55-1. Sounds like providence.

Auburn's Defense vs Georgia's Offense
This one will short. The Dddaaagggss are 7th in the country in points scored at 43 per game. Gurley comes back. Chubb has run over everyone in his absence and Douglass may be one of the best short yardage backs in the conference. Senior QB Mason has had a very impressive season, just not to the standards left behind by Murray. He has 15 TD tosses, 3 INTs and 1500 yards. 6 different receivers have over 10 catches, but Chris Conley and Michael Bennet lead the way with 25 and 30 catches and 5 and 4 TDs, respectively.  It's worth mentioning that they have put up these points against the SEC East, which is as poor as it has been in my lifetime. The only reasonable competition they have faced has come against a common foe in Arkansas, whom they beat 45-32 behind a monstrous 31 point 2nd Quarter. Auburn started the first half of 2014 shutting down the run in serious fashion. In their last performance, Auburn gave up over 5.5 yard averaged to two different backs, who both had over 60 yards. The inability to get a pass rush let the Aggies spread the ball to receivers early, opening up huge running lanes. I expect the senior QB to do the same, though I don't think Mitchell or Conley are as good as the young receiver core that TAMU put on the field. However, the two excel with the deep ball, something Auburn has been able to control at times.

With Auburn bringing constant blitzes and Mitchell/Conley heading down field with the Auburn secondary turned, the most frightening aspect of the UGA offense has to be the backs catching the ball on screens and wheels. Gurley showed just how dangerous he was last year against Auburn as he took several balls from the backfield for chunk plays. Not only will it be open, but UGA is well versed in this game plan. It will be up to the STAR position and the middle linebackers to make the plays in space, something that is tough to do on either of these two backs.

I have little to no faith that Auburn can stop the UGA offense. This may be the most balanced attack they will face, with the exception of Bama in two weeks. With the inability to bulk up against either the pass or the run, the chances are slim that Auburn can stop the Dogs. This one may very well go down to a lucky turnover.

Auburn's Offense vs Georgia's Defense
If it weren't for those pesky first series turnovers, I firmly believe Auburn would be undefeated. Well, that, and actually stopping an opposing team in their 1st drive of the first quarter. Duke Williams is out, and while that would hurt any team that he would play for, Auburn bounced back with Quan Bray, who had his second monster outing of his senior career. He is quietly turning in a stellar senior season for someone who won't be playing in the NFL. The rest of the receiver core looking decent enough against the dreadful TAMU secondary. For awhile, Marshall was able to throw the ball up to almost anyone and they would come down with it. While UGA has played well on defense, the fact remains that it lost several of it's decent players over the last few years and haven't been able to build the depth they would like. Ironic, I guess, that they have been able to stockpile such amazing talent at running back. But I digress. Auburn has done a decent job the last few weeks against the pass rush and keeping defenders from knocking the ball down. Coach Pruitt has certainly been watching the game film and coaching his players on getting into pass lanes to knock down passes. He has certainly seen what happens if you can over power the interior linemen during the zone-read plays. Over all, Auburn has one of the worst percentage of fumbles lost in the country, though it's worth noting that Auburn runs a lot more than most teams. But, it isn't just the handoff mesh and the running backs that are concerning. Auburn's receivers, namely Williams, have been careless with the ball. By all rights, Duke fumbled the ball and the refs gave it back to Auburn on the play that ended his night.

Over all, Auburn's offense has only been stopped by itself, thanks to mistakes and miscues. They will have to be near perfect on Saturday to keep up with the dogs.

Special Teams
I doubt we see much punting in this one. Kick offs? Aplenty. Auburn has not shown the ability to stretch the field or create a short field for itself this year, unlike last year. In fact, Auburn has made some dreadful mistakes in kick returns in 2014. At least Carlson has been spot-on, and if it comes down to a field goal, I will take his chances.

Will this 2014 edition of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry be another epic battle? I do think so, and I don't discount that we could very well see another amazing finish. The problem is, I see UGA having the edge here.
UGA wins 45-34