SEAN WHITE (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Stat Tiger Column: Previewing Auburn at Georgia Football Game

Inside the Auburn Tigers columnist Stuart Carter crunches the number to predict what will happen in the SEC's oldest football rivalry.

Sean White (above) has helped the Tigers win both of their SEC road games this season.

No. 9 Auburn (7-2, 5-1 SEC) at Georgia 5-4 (3-4 SEC)

Series Record: Georgia leads 56-55-8

Last Meeting: (2015) Georgia, 20-13

About the Teams:

•Coach Kirby Smart of Georgia is 5-4 during his collegiate head coaching career. Gus Malzahn is 43-18 all-time and 34-15 at Auburn. 

•The last time out Auburn defeated Vanderbilt 23-16 and Georgia won 27-24 on the road at Kentucky.

•Georgia is 8-2 during its last 10 meetings against Auburn. Auburn’s last victory in Athens came in 2005.

•Freshman Jacob Eason leads the Bulldogs in passing with a QB rating of 117.5. He has averaged 194.9 yards passing per game with 11 touchdown passes and five interceptions on the season.

•Nick Chubb enters the game averaging 76.8 yards per game at 4.7 yards per carry for the Bulldogs. Sony Michel has averaged 60.9 yards per game at 5.1 yards per attempt.

Dean Legge / Dawg Post

Nick Chubb is a junior for the Bulldogs.

•Isaiah McKenzie leads the Bulldogs with 32 receptions for 459 yards and six touchdowns. Georgia’s tight ends have accounted for 29 receptions on the season and could play a major factor in this matchup.

•UGA linebackers Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick each have 55 tackles on the season. Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson leads UGA with five tackles for loss.

•Auburn’s Sean White continues to lead the conference in pass efficiency with a rating of 159.8. He is averaging 180 yards passing per game while completing 69.1 percent of his throws. His leading target has been senior Tony Stevens, who has hauled in 24 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns this season, but has not caught a pass during Auburn's last three games due to injury.

•Kamryn Pettway became the first 1,000-yard rusher in the conference this season, doing so in only eight games. He currently has 1,106 on 173 carries, but his status for Saturday’s game is not certain due to an injury. Kerryon Johnson is Auburn's second-leading rusher with 77.0 yards per game at 4.9 yards per rush and could be the primary back against the Bulldogs.

KAMRYN PETTWAY (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Kamryn Pettway leads the SEC in rushing yards.

•Safety Tray Matthews leads Auburn’s tackers with 57 followed by Rudy Ford with 50. Linebacker Tre Williams, who did not play against Vanderbilt, and has 49 stops on the season. He is expected to be ready this week.

•Carl Lawson leads the Tigers in tackles for lost yardage with 10 and Montravius Adams has six.

•In conference play Auburn's average score is currently 32-17 and Georgia’s is 22-26.

•Auburn is No. 2 in the conference in rushing yards against Power-5 competition (261 yards per game) and will face a Georgia defense ranked No. 2 in the SEC in defending the run against Power-5 opponents (117.4 yards per game).

•Auburn is averaging 436 yards against Power-5 competition while allowing 376 yards. Georgia is averaging 384 yards while allowing 335 yards per game.

•Auburn averages 6.0 tackles for loss per game against Power-5 competition while allowing 6.0 per game. Georgia has averaged 4.5 while allowing 6.8 per game.

•Among SEC starters White is the No. 3 rated passer on first down and Eason of Georgia is No. 8. On third down plays White is No. 4 and Eason is No. 13 in the conference. 

•Malzahn’s offense has averaged 357 yards and 24 points per game during six meetings against the Bulldogs. In those games the Tigers averaged 194 rushing yards.

How They Match Up...

•Georgia is No. 2 in the SEC defending the run against the Power-5 competition. During the two Power-5 games Pettway wasn't Auburn's leading rusher the Tigers averaged only 120.5 rushing yards. 

•Auburn has the most efficient pass offense in the conference and will face an opponent ranked No. 12 in the conference in pass efficiency defense.

•Auburn is +13 in plays of 20 yards or more and Georgia is -5.

•Auburn is No. 3 in the SEC in pass efficiency on third down and Georgia is No. 3 on defense. The Bulldogs are No. 9 on pass efficiency offense and Auburn is No. 5 on defense.

•Auburn is No. 4 in the SEC on third downs against Power-5 opponents as it faces a Georgia defense ranked No. 5. Georgia is No. 5 on offense and will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 3.

Keys to Victory...

*During the last 35 games in this series the team with the most rushing attempts is 25-7-1. The teams split the two games they had the same number of attempts. 

*Since 1981 Auburn is 3-11 against Georgia when held to 150 yards rushing or less. 

*Georgia is 3-1 on the season with 200 or more rushing yards and Auburn is 7-0.

•During the last 55 Auburn-Georgia games Auburn is 17-4 when its quarterback has a passer rating of 130 or better.

•From 1992-2015 the Tigers are 8-2 against the Bulldogs when they don’t lose the turnover battle and 2-12 when they do.

•Avoiding the reset button is important come game time. From 1981-2015 Auburn is 13-8-0 in the series when not trailing after the first quarter and 4-9-1 when losing. Auburn is 15-5-1 when leading at halftime and 2-12-0 when the Tigers trail the Bulldogs at intermission.

What to Watch...

•Look for Georgia to take a page out of the Ole Miss and Vanderbilt game plans on offense to challenge the  Auburn defense. Look for a healthy mix of the run and pass early on will test the AU linebackers.

•Looking at scoring margins and averages in conference play projects two possible scores. The first projection is Auburn 33-13 and the second projection is Auburn 30-15. Average the two scores and Auburn wins 32-14. Auburn’s defense had some injury issues last week and that could shave 10-14 points off the margin of victory if the Tigers again have key players at less than full speed.

•Though the numbers indicate the winner will be the better rushing team, I believe the better quarterback performance wins this game on Saturday. 

•Will Rhett Lashlee, Auburn’s play caller, open the offense early on to establish the run?

RHETT LASHLEE (PHOTO BY JASON CALDWELL)

Rhett Lashlee has been calling the plays during Auburn's winning streak.

•Georgia will likely scheme offensively to utilize all of its skill players to attack the Auburn defense. Will Auburn do the same? Georgia's running backs and tight ends have combined for 60 receptions compared to Auburn’s 24 combined receptions from those positions.

•Because of Auburn's recent injuries its production on first down plays will be magnified. Malzahn’s offense has averaged more than six yards per play on first down against Georgia one time during his six games in this series. AU has run the ball 71.6 percent of the time on first down vs. the Bulldogs in those games. Though Auburn has completed 67 percent of its first down passes vs. Georgia, the Tigers have averaged only 5.6 yards per pass attempt. Auburn has a combined pass rating of 110.4 on first down during six games against Georgia with Malzahn as head coach or offensive coordinator.

Final Word...

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry should be another showdown with the defenses overshadowing the performance of the offenses. This could be a game in which the first team to 20 points likely wins. If Auburn was completely healthy I would expect a comfortable victory for the Tigers, but this won’t be the case this coming Saturday. The Auburn team that has won six in a row didn’t look as sharp in the past two victories as it did earlier in the winning streak. The Bulldogs may be catching the Tigers at the right time with AU’s health questions and QB Jacob Eason trending up. During his last three conference games his pass efficiency has improved by more than 38 percent compared to the three previous conference games.

Saturday’s matchup could be one of the biggest of this season when it comes to coaching and game planning for the Tigers. When healthy Auburn clearly is the better team, but AU’s coaches must now place their personnel in the best position to be successful. Lashlee will need to be more aggressive in his play calling against the Bulldogs. During Auburn’s winning streak the Tigers have run the ball more than 86 percent of the time on first down. If they attempt this early on against the Bulldogs it will play into the hands of the defense. Georgia enters the game No. 20 nationally with only 3.7 yards allowed per rush on first down. White is No. 5 nationally in completions on first down at 78 percent.

All season long Malzahn has stressed improving week to week, and for the most part, Auburn's players have accomplished this goal. This game will test how much the coaches have improved this season. The players are responsible for the execution of the schemes and plays dialed up, but the coaches must utilize their players to their full potential. As the game progresses the coaches must show the ability to adjust to the flow of the contest. This more than anything else will decide the outcome of Saturday’s showdown.

Pettway has produced 16 impact plays this season and if he isn’t available to make them the Tigers have a group of freshmen receivers who have accounted for 15 impact plays. Running backs Stanton Truitt and Kam Martin bring an additional seven impact plays despite playing in limited roles so far.

This game begs for Lashlee to be creative regarding spreading the football around and breaking tendencies. Auburn is No. 16 nationally in generating pass plays of 15 yards or more and No. 16 in plays of 25 yards or more. White and his receivers can provide the boost needed to overcome the lack of Pettway if they need to, but they must be given that opportunity. Auburn 24, Georgia 20.

Around the Southeastern Conference:

Alabama over Mississippi State

South Carolina over Florida

Tennessee over Kentucky

Vanderbilt over Missouri

Arkansas over LSU

Texas A@M over Ole Miss

Season Record: 64-20 (.762)


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