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Stat Tiger Column: Previewing Georgia at Auburn Football Game

Stuart Carter crunches the numbers to predict at winner in the SEC's oldest rivalry as Georgia visits Auburn.

Coach Mark Richt (above) will bring his Georgia team to Auburn on Saturday.

Georgia (5-4, 4-3 SEC) at Auburn (5-4, 2-4 SEC)

Series Record: 55-55-8

Last Meeting: (2014) Georgia 34-7

About the teams:

  • Coach Mark Richt of Georgia has a record 142-51. Gus Malzahn is 34-14 all-time and 25-11 at Auburn.
  • Auburn is coming off a 26-10 victory over Texas A&M and Georgia defeated Kentucky, 27-10, at home. 
  • Auburn is 11-15-2 vs. Georgia at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
  • Georgia under Mark Richt is 82-37 in conference play.
  • Auburn is 4-9 vs. the Bulldogs during the last 13 meetings.
  • Richt has a 9-5 record vs. Auburn.
  • The Bulldogs returned seven starters on offense and five on defense to start the 2015 season.
  • Georgia has played three different quarterbacks, but Greyson Lambert has been its most productive. Lambert has completed 63 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions.
  • Auburn’s Sean White has completed 59 percent of his passes for 212.6 yards per game. Jeremy Johnson has completed 62 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and six interceptions.
  • Sony Michel is Georgia’s leading rusher for Saturday’s game with 718 yards at 5.7 yards per attempt. Keith Marshall should see extensive action this week and has  255 rushing yards on 49 carries.
  • Peyton Barber leads Auburn in rushing with 828 yards at 4.29 yards per carry. Jovon Robinson has come on strong the past two games with 250 yards on 45 attempts.
  • Senior Malcolm Mitchell leads Georgia’s receivers with 43 catches for 617 yards and four TD receptions. Look for the Bulldogs to make heavy use of their tight ends and running backs in the passing game. Their tight ends and backs have accounted for 51 receptions.
  • Ricardo Louis leads the Tigers in receptions with 36 for 563 yards and two touchdowns. This could be a great opportunity for Melvin Ray to have an impact in the soft areas of the Bulldogs secondary.
  • Georgia has an extremely active linebacker unit with their top three tacklers coming from this group. Jake Ganus leads the team with 63 tackles. Senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins leads the Bulldogs in tackles for lost yardage (8.5).
  • Auburn’s Rudy Ford is second in the SEC with 96 stops and Kris Frost is seventh in the conference with 74 tackles. Cassanova McKinzy is No. 10 in the conference in tackles for loss with nine.
  • Georgia is No. 6 in the conference in tackles for loss and Auburn is No. 13.

How they match up...

The Bulldogs are ranked No. 9 in total offense in conference games and will face off against an Auburn team ranked No. 13 in total defense in conference play.

Auburn is No. 7 in total offense in the SEC and will face a Bulldogs defense ranked No. 3 in total defense in conference play.

Georgia is averaging 23 points in conference play while allowing 21 points per game. Auburn has averaged 25 points in conference play while allowing 25 during regulation.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jovon Robinson has provided a spark to Auburn's running game.

Auburn is No. 36 nationally in third down offense and Georgia is No. 11 in third down defense. Georgia is No. 118 in third down offense and will face an Auburn team ranked No. 119 in third down defense.

Based on scoring margins and averages from conference games only, it projects an Auburn victory of 19-18 and a Georgia victory of 28-18. Average the two scores and Georgia projects as a 23-19 winner.

Georgia is No. 2 in rushing in conference play and will face Auburn’s No. 10 run defense. Auburn is No. 6 in rushing in conference play and will face Georgia’s No. 7 run defense.

Based on rushing averages and margins from conference play only projects Auburn to rush for somewhere in the 158-181-yards range.

Keys to Victory...

  • Since Richt has been at Georgia the team with the most rushing yardage is 13-1 in this series. Auburn is 0-8 when out-rushed by Richt's teams.
  • Success on first down will be essential for the Auburn offense. Georgia is No. 5 nationally in yards per play allowed on first down. Auburn with Malzahn'’s offense is 28-5 when the Tigers average at least six yards per play on first down.
  • During the last 20 meetings between the two programs the winner of the turnover-battle is 14-4. Auburn has turned the ball over only one time during its last five games while forcing 11 on defense.
  • During the last 25 meetings between the two programs the team with the lead at halftime is 17-5-1.
  • During the last 25 meetings against Georgia, Auburn is 1-8-1 when held to six points or less after the first quarter. Malzahn's offense at Auburn is 45-11 when scoring at least seven points during the first quarter.
  • Since 1992 Auburn is 7-3-1 vs. the Bulldogs when scoring touchdowns in at least 66.7 percent on their red zone possessions and 3-9-0 when it doesn’t.

What to watch...

  1. Georgia's offense has struggled on third down all season. It is No. 110 nationally converting third downs with its pass offense. Can Auburn limit Georgia's run offense this Saturday?
  2. Since 1978 Auburn is 13-3-2 against Georgia with a 100-yard rusher. Can Jovon Robinson crack the century mark for the second week in a row?
  3. Georgia’s ground game averaged 244.8 yards per game with Nick Chubb in the lineup and 163.5 yards without Chubb. Can Auburn hold Georgia under 170 yards rushing?
  4. Auburn is more battle-tested than Georgia having faced six FBS teams with winning records to Georgia’s three. Auburn’s average score in regulation in its six 6 games is 22-24 and Georgia has an average score of 15-34. 
  5. Auburn's offense has struggled at times inside the red zone. Malzahn’s offense at Auburn has scored touchdowns 66 percent of the time inside the red zone and the Tigers are 34-5 when they do so with at least two trips to the red zone. 
  6. Regarding yards to point ratio, Malzahn’s offense at Auburn averages 13 yards for every point scored on offense. When the Tigers reach this ratio they are 39-3 and 16-18 when they don't.
  7. How much of impact has Carl Lawson made in 2015? During the three games he was in the lineup Auburn averaged a quarterback hurry every 3.3 pass attempts and an interception every 20 attempts. Without Lawson in the lineup the Tigers have averaged a quarterback hurry every 10.5 attempts and an interception every 42 pass attempts.

Final Word...

Four weeks ago this game did not appear within Auburn's reach, but odds-makers have this game as a toss-up. Breaking down the numbers, it points towards a very close football game unless one of the teams is bitten by the turnover bug. Based on each team’s current schedule, Auburn appears to be more battle-tested coming into the showdown in Jordan-Hare. If Auburn is to win this Saturday, the Tigers must play well early, protect the football and establish the run. Georgia comes into the game with the No. 29 run defense but, its ranking is skewed by the level of competition. Against South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida, the Bulldogs allowed an average of 207 yards rushing per game.

One could make a reasonable argument that Auburn will be the second best run offense Georgia has faced this season. I expect Auburn to be able to run on Georgia, but the Tigers will need an efficient performance in their passing game to balance out their attack. During Auburn’s 10 victories over Georgia from 1992-2014, it averaged 210 yards rushing and only 128 yards during the 13 games the Tigers did not win. More importantly, Auburn had a pass efficiency rating of 152.7 during its victories and a rating of 121.9 in losses. Whether it is Jeremy Johnson or Sean White at the helm, Auburn’s quarterback will be called upon to extend drives in the passing-game.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jeremy Johnson made his fourth start of the season vs. Texas A&M.

Last season Auburn came into the game mentally deflated from a heart-breaking loss to Texas A&M. It was a mental hangover that carried over into Athens and the Tigers were embarrassed 34-7. This year the psyche of the team is higher than for any game this season, except for the season opener against Louisville. The dominating win over Texas A&M should raise the confidence level of the Tigers, but it certainly won't be enough to cash-in for a victory over the Bulldogs. In the end the outcome of will come down to preparation, execution and the will to finish. Tossing out the current records of both teams, I believe the Tigers are closer to expanding on their identity and it will prove to be the difference this Saturday in Jordan-Hare. Auburn 27, Georgia 17

Around the Southeastern Conference:

No. 11 Florida over South Carolina

Tennessee over North Texas

No. 2 Alabama over No. 14 Mississippi State

Kentucky over Vanderbilt

Texas A&M over Western Carolina

Arkansas over No. 9 LSU

BYU over Missouri

Season:?Record: 64-19

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