StatTiger: Previewing Auburn at Georgia Game

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers for Saturday's renewal of the SEC's oldest football rivalry.

Auburn 2-7 (0-6) vs. Georgia 8-1 (6-1)

Series Record: 54-53-8 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: 2011, Georgia 45-7

National Statistical Rankings (2012):

Rushing Offense: Georgia (No. 37), Auburn (No. 81)
Pass Efficiency Offense: Georgia (No. 7), Auburn (No. 97)
Total Offense: Georgia (No. 23), Auburn (No. 113)
Scoring Offense: Georgia (No. 24), Auburn (No. 109)
Rushing Defense: Georgia (No. 45), Auburn (No. 96)
Pass Efficiency Defense: Georgia (No. 39), Auburn (No. 95) Total Defense: Georgia (No. 33), Auburn (No. 85)
Scoring Defense: Georgia (No. 25), Auburn (No. 62)
Net Punting: Auburn (No. 23), Georgia (No. 101)
Punt Return Offense: Auburn (No. 77), Georgia (No. 79)
Punt Return Defense: Auburn (No. 2), Georgia (No. 110)
Kick Return Offense: Auburn (No. 20), Georgia (No. 55)
Kick Return Defense: Auburn (No. 6), Georgia (No. 44)
Turnover Margin: Georgia (No. 37), Auburn (No. 106)

Inside the Numbers:

•Georgia's tandem of freshman running backs will be a major challenge for the Auburn defense. Todd Gurley enters the game averaging 95.2 yards per contest at 6.2 yards per rush. Keith Marshall averages 58.0 yards per game at 6.1 yards per rush. They have combined for eight 100-yard games.

Todd Gurley leads Georgia in rushing.

Aaron Murray is the No. 6 rated passer in the nation and is averaging 272.0 yards passing per game and has passed for 21 touchdowns this season.

•Led by Tavarres King, Georgia has three players with 24 receptions or more and at least 345 yards receiving.

•Safety Shawn Williams and linebacker Amarlo Herrera lead the Bulldogs with 61 tackles each.

•Linebacker Jarvis Jones has recorded 59 stops, including a team-leading 15 tackles for lost yardage. He is a player on the Georgia defense who can truly take over a game.

•Georgia is No. 41 nationally in forcing tackles for loss with 6.3 per game, matched up against an Auburn offense that is currently 117th nationally in preventing tackles for lost yards. Look for the Bulldogs to turn up the heat on freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace.

•Georgia possesses a running game that has generated 45 plays of 10 yards or more, including 20 running plays of 20 yards or more. It will be pitted against an Auburn run defense that has surrendered 52 plays of 10 yards or more and 20 run plays of 20 yards or more.

•Auburn's pass defense has allowed 45 plays of 15 yards or more, including 16 of 25 yards or longer. The Tigers will face a pass offense that has 64 plays of 15 yards or more with 28 of 25 yards or longer.

•The Bulldogs have won five of the last six meetings vs. the Tigers, averaging 406 yards and 34 points per game in those contests while allowing 28 yards and 21 points per game.

•Since 1951 Auburn is 14-15-1 vs. ranked Georgia teams and only one of those 14 victories was recorded by an Auburn team with a losing record (1999).

What to watch for...

•Will Auburn attempt to remain in its base 4-3 to take away the Georgia running game or will Georgia dictate Auburn going into a nickel with four wide receiver sets?

•Can Auburn control the Georgia runners? The Bulldogs are averaging 164.7 yards on the ground in conference play and Auburn's defense has allowed 204.2 yards rushing vs. SEC competition.

•Can Auburn establish its running game against the Bulldogs? Auburn has averaged 90.8 yards rushing against conference opponents at 2.6 yards per rush. Georgia has held Auburn to 101.8 yards rushing the last five times they defeated the Tigers.

•Can Auburn keep Wallace out of third and long situations? Though the true freshman has a pass rating of 206.7 on first down and 283.4 on second down, he has struggled on third down with a rating of 57.3.

Aaron Murray is Georgia's junior quarterback.

•Can Auburn's defense put pressure on Murray? The Bulldogs allow a sack every 15.2 pass attempts and the Auburn defense records a sack every 15.6 attempts. Murray has carved up the Auburn secondary during his two prior starts with a combined pass-rating of 204.2, which includes seven touchdown passes and no interceptions.

•Taking Auburn's average SEC score vs. Georgia's SEC scoring margins, it projects a Georgia victory of 40-10. Taking Georgia's SEC scoring averages vs. Auburn's SEC scoring margins, it projects as a Georgia victory of 33-12.

Keys to victory...

•On paper this game is a total mismatch, but Georgia's performances against South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida breathe life into a possible Auburn upset. During that trio of conference games the Bulldogs averaged only 105 yards rushing and struggled in their passing game with five combined TD passes and four interceptions. Auburn must take away the UGA ground game and force Murray into critical mistakes.

•Auburn must be able to run the football to keep the pressure off of Wallace. The Bulldogs' defense has allowed four teams to rush for more than 190 yards this season, but they have allowed only 60.5 yards rushing in their last two games. Since 1992 Auburn is 8-2-1 vs. Georgia when the Tigers rush for at least 150 yards.

•Since 1992 Auburn is 7-2 vs. Georgia when the Tigers win the turnover battle and Georgia is 7-1-1, when the Bulldogs win the turnover battle. That works out to a combined record of 14-3-1 for the team with fewer turnovers, something Auburn must be able to do to take away Georgia's offensive and defensive advantages.

•Can Auburn rush for 100 yards, complete 50 percent of its passes for at least 7.0 yards per pass attempt and hold the Bulldogs to under 150 yards rushing? Over the last 25 years Auburn is 112-3-0 when the Tigers accomplished all four during the same game and the losses were by four points or less.

Final Word....

Fifth-ranked Georgia comes to town knowing a victory over Auburn will clinch a trip to Atlanta to play in the SEC Championship Game. That alone will ensure the Bulldogs will be extremely focused on the task at hand with very little chance of this opponent overlooking Auburn.

Georgia has been the more focused and prepared team in this rivalry over the past six meetings, compiling a 5-1 record vs. the Tigers. If Auburn is going to pull off a big upset it will require the Tigers to take Georgia's best shot to deliver their own. Since 1951 only one Auburn team with a losing record has defeated a Georgia team with a combined record of 1-9 in those games. The lone victory came against a No. 16 ranked squad in 1999 when quarterback Ben Leard had a career-best night against Georgia.

With a true freshman making his second start it makes sense the Tigers will focus on running the football Saturday night. While Wallace has shown potential throwing the football the offensive line has yet to prove it will be able to consistently handle an SEC defensive front, something Auburn's coaches must consider in their game plan.

Breaking down the freshman quarterback's passing numbers through 26 attempts, he has been far more efficient on the early downs rather than third down. Rather than wasting valuable opportunities on first down attempting to establish the run, the wiser decision might be maintaining balance throwing the football on first down this Saturday. Wallace has completed 73 percent of his first down throws making him far more productive than Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley have been.

If Auburn had the luxury of possessing a strong running game and a sound defense, a conservative game plan on offense would have a high probability for success against the Bulldogs. However, Auburn has struggled running the football against conference opponents and the defense is allowing 436 yards and 31 points per game in those contests.

If Auburn is going to make this game competitive the Tigers will need to take their shots on offense, especially with Georgia selling out to stop the run to make Wallace win the game.

Auburn is likely to see man coverage on first down more often than not, which is the most optimum time to throw down field. The Tigers need to allow Wallace the opportunity to make plays when Auburn wants to and not when they have to.

It has been a trying season for all involved in Auburn football to a point where many have lost faith in the team. Losing seasons will always bring out the worst perceptions, but it is important to remember things are never as bad as they may appear and never as good as they might seem.

When Georgia and Auburn meet this Saturday night in the South's oldest rivalry, I'm reminded of something the late Chuck Knoll preached to his players with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Championship teams are not built on making extraordinary plays, but forged from doing the everyday things extraordinarily well," the coach said.

Auburn's miscues, errors and self-destructive tendencies are why they have failed in finishing games this season and the primary reason why an upset over the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs is highly unlikely. Georgia 38. Auburn 17

Around the Southeastern Conference...

Alabama over Texas A&M
LSU over Mississippi State
South Carolina over Arkansas
Tennessee over Missouri
Florida over ULL
Ole Miss over Vanderbilt

Season Record: 71-14

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