Coming off consecutive shutouts, the #1 defense in the country and it isn’t close, #2 in the country but garnering #1 votes, and doing so with a backup QB and missing All-American talent with injuries. What, me worry? Yes. Because, AUBURN.
Here is what I’m NOT worried about for the SEC on CBS tilt Saturday afternoon:
1) Run the damn ball, Bobo! Auburn started the 2021 season on the ground, racking up almost 700 yards and 8 touchdowns rushing in their first two games. Albeit against Akron and Alabama State. On the road in Happy Valley the following week, they handed off even more, but gained half as many yards.
You’d expect facing Georgia State that the Tigers would return to a successful ground game; and you’d be wrong. They rushed about the same number of times as the previous games, but had the same output as versus the Panthers. Then against LSU, signal caller Bo Nix was the leading rusher and All-SEC running back Tank Bigsby was held to 27 yards on 9 attempts. I don’t think the Auburn offensive line will be effective against Georgia DL Coach Tray Scott and his charges.
2) Much has been made that this is the first full-house hostile crowd that the 2021 Georgia Bulldogs will face. Bank of America Stadium Charlotte was at least half on our side, Vanderbilt was not a full stadium and let’s face it, they were morose rather than raucous.
While that will not be the case this Saturday afternoon, Coach Smart and Coach Monken are purpose-driven to get out of the gates quickly, with fast starts, well-scripted offensive play calls, and they’re putting the game away early. Georgia has a rhythm in the first quarter, and that is very much ingrained in the players – they know what to expect, they’re using instincts driven home by good practice, and they’re executing at high levels. The second quarter? That’s a different story with different variables. But those first 15 plays are a thing of beauty and I expect more of it, no matter the environment.
3) Halftime adjustments. After a not so wonderful interception thrown by JT Daniels coming out in the 3rd quarter against Clemson, Georgia has scored on its first possession of the second half in the last four games (TD, TD, TD, and FG respectively). Monken is doin’ work in the locker room and press box folks – give him some time to prep, and he will white board the hell out of that first drive.
By contrast, Mike Bobo not so much. I love me some Bobo, all of them in fact, but while serving as the QB coach and then OC in Athens, I don’t remember Coach Bobo really making great adjustments during the break. So far this season, Auburn scored touchdowns in the 2nd half against Akron and Alabama State. Against Penn State they promptly fumbled, they punted against Georgia State, and last week was a missed field goal. I like these trends.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about the game versus the WarPlainsTiglesmen:
1) Converting the non-believer. University of Auburn has scored on 22 of 23 red zone trips, successful on 4 of 6 fourth down attempts, and even 100% on their 2 pt attempts. Somehow, Auburn is converting when it matters. Whether it’s done with smoke and mirrors? I don’t know, but I really don’t like that they are successful under pressure or when they need to flip momentum. This is foreshadowing, but I won’t keep you in suspense long. Keep reading.
2) Isn’t that special? No one seems really impressed with Auburn’s offense. Nor their defense. Good, not great. No world-beaters or Heisman trophy finalists in the village to speak of. But somehow they’re near the best in the nation at blocking kicks?!?!?
Auburn has thwarted 3 field goal attempts this season. They’ve even blocked two punts. This is in 5 games – that seems more than Georgia has had the last 5 years. And though I’m sure Matt Luke is part of the punting and place kicking blocking schematics and practice, Will Muschamp better get off his tail and prepare for this kind of game-turner-arounder.
3) Bone X hasn’t thrown a pick this season, and Georgia isn’t really forcing that many turnovers. And the Tigers have only lost 3 fumbles so far. I’ve laid out above how the rushing game has fallen on hard times against better defenses. Auburn isn’t really lighting up the passing stat line either, throwing for only 239 yards a game (and a paltry 6.8 yards/attempt). But as Dawg_Stats showed us, Auburn is more explosive, and has a better Total Offensive EPA than our undefeated Bulldogs. So what the Pat Dye is going on around here?
Something tells me Gus Malzahn left instructions under the newspaper in the bird cage that hangs in the head coach’s office, and Top Tiger Bryan Harsin done gone ahead and sold his soul the same way. And we all know what happens then (still too soon). So while on paper the Georgia defense should smother the Auburn offense, and the Georgia offense should have at least medium success against the Barner defense, I won’t believe it until I see some zeros on that game clock.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the first full stadium road game between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Tigers of Auburn. And as always…