Photo by Jason Caldwell

Jason Caldwell's Monday Morning QB Column: Huge Road Trip To Athens Up For The Auburn Football Tigers

Auburn is looking to turn things around vs. the Bulldogs when the Tigers travel to Athens to face Georgia on Saturday.

Amen Corner Here For The Tigers

It’s a far cry from the Amen Corner that Pat Dye labeled to describe the Auburn Tigers’s finishing stretch that used to consist of Florida, Georgia and Alabama, but facing the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide in two of the last three regular season games this year makes it no less important.

With Mississippi State’s upset of Texas A&M on Saturday and Auburn holding off a scrappy Vanderbilt squad, the Tigers are now just two wins away from getting back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game for the third time in seven seasons, but both of those wins will be hard to come by.

Never mind Alabama because that’s a different game for a different day. This week it’s all about Georgia and going to Sanford Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Tigers for much of the last 20 years. Since beating Georgia 24-17 in 2001 for the 11th win in 13 games on the road against the Bulldogs, Auburn is just 1-5 in the last six trips between the hedges.

This Georgia team hasn’t played well to this point in the 2016 season, but there is no question the Bulldogs have the talent to win Saturday if Auburn doesn’t play up to its potential. With so much riding on this game and dropping the last two in the series, there’s no reason why the Tigers shouldn’t be fired up and ready to go.

Getting The Job Done

Even though they bend at times, in the end this current edition of the Auburn defense has put up some impressive numbers through nine games this season. Allowing just 144 total points and letting only two teams to score more than 20 points, the Tigers are getting the job done where it counts most--in the red zone.

This season teams have reached the red zone 29 times against Auburn and scored on 21 possessions, but of those 21 just 11 have gone for touchdowns. That’s good for just 37.9 percent and is fourth in the country behind Ohio State, LSU and Alabama.

Those are the kinds of numbers that winning football teams put up, but it’s just one area of massive improvement for the Auburn defense. Another has been the lack of explosive plays allowed, particularly in the running game.

Last season the Tigers ranked 85th in the country allowing explosive run plays, giving up 72 runs of 10 yards or more in 13 games. Through nine games so far that number is down to just 29, good enough for 11th in the nation.

On the flip side of that Auburn’s running attack has been one of the most productive in the country at producing chunk yardage. The Tigers’ 81 runs of 10 yards or more is fourth in the country, trailing only New Mexico, Army and Louisville. Auburn’s 10 runs of 40 or more yards trails only New Mexico in the country this year with the six runs of 50 or more yards also second in the nation.

Running the football and stopping the run has always been a benchmark for playing winning football and if Auburn can continue that production it’s a great sign heading down the home stretch of the 2016 campaign.

Fast Receiver A Name To Remember

A player who has been very high on since seeing him in the spring, four-star speedster Noah Igbinoghene from Hewitt-Trussville High, was at Auburn on Saturday to see the Tigers and left getting an offer from Kodi Burns, Auburn's wide receivers coach. There is always a need for speed at the position and Igbinoghene (Ig-Bin-O-Ginny) fits that bill to perfection.

Duke and Notre Dame have long been considered the two teams to beat for the talented speedster, but Auburn’s offense is one that is very familiar for him because he plays for Gus Malzahn protege Josh Floyd at Hewitt-Trussville. Playing for Malzahn in high school, Floyd is very close with Malzahn and Lashlee and with former Hewitt-Trussville offensive coordinator Austin Tucker now on the staff as an analyst there is even more of a connection between the Huskies and the Tigers.

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