StatTiger: Auburn at Georgia Preview

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) analyzes Auburn at Georgia on Saturday. Kickoff is set for shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST.

Georgia Bulldogs 7-2 Overall, 4-2 SEC

Offensive NumbersYards Per GameNational Rank
Points:31.4 points38th
Defensive NumbersYards Per GameNational Rank
Points:22.4 points42nd

Series Record Against Auburn: 49-53-8
Record Against Auburn With Tuberville: 3-5

Last season the Georgia Bulldogs went through what many considered a rebuilding season. The 2006 Bulldogs began the season with a five-game winning streak but went 1-4 over the next five games before their annual showdown with the Auburn Tigers. Georgia came to Jordan-Hare as the underdog but left with a dominating 37-15 victory. The victory was the springboard for a strong finish for Coach Mark Richt's 2006 squad that concluded with wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

After starting off the 2007 season at 4-2, the Georgia Bulldogs are currently on a three-game winning streak, earning victories over Vanderbilt, Florida and Troy. Because of the wild race in the SEC East, the Bulldogs are still in the hunt for a trip to Atlanta, but they will need some assistance along the way with Tennessee currently holding the tie-breaker edge. Georgia is currently ranked No. 10 in the BCS Poll.

Last time out...

The Georgia Bulldogs are coming off a 44-34 victory over the Trojans of Troy. The Bulldogs led 24-10 at halftime but Troy rallied to make it 24-20 in the third period. The Bulldog offense extended the lead to 44-27 at one point before Troy scored a late touchdown. Running back, Knowshon Moreno rushed for his third-consecutive 100-yard game, gaining 196 yards against the Trojans.

The Auburn Tigers are coming off a tune-up game against Tennessee Tech, defeating the Golden Eagles 35-3. It was a game the Auburn coaching staff wanted to rest the majority of the starters and to provide valuable playing time for the reserves. For the most part the mission was accomplished.

About the Georgia Bulldogs...

Since being humiliated by the Tennessee Volunteers, Georgia has taken on a major transformation on offense. During their first five games, the Bulldogs ran the ball 54 percent of the time for 164 yards rushing per game. In the last three games, the Bulldogs have run the ball 59 percent of the time for 201 yards per game. The running game was always there and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is now utilizing it as a weapon. Despite the increase use of the running game, Georgia is actually gaining more yards passing per game with less pass attempts. Moreno has become the focal point of the Bulldog offense with 1,003 yards through nine games.

Running back Thomas Brown is expected back this week and he had 413 yards on the season before going down with an injury. Georgia is no longer passing to set up the run--they are now running to set up their passing game. The plan has worked and Georgia is now averaging 415 yards per game compared to the 362 they were averaging in their first five games (excluding Western Carolina).

Stafford continues to improve during his second season, improving his TD-INT ratio to 15-6 from 7-13 in 2006. Over the last three games, it's improved from 9-4 to 6-2 as he can now pick and choose his moments rather than forcing the ball into coverage. When Stafford decides to pass, senior wide out Sean Bailey has been his primary target with 27 receptions on the year. Stafford has spread the ball around with six other players in double-digit figures.

Perhaps one of the reasons for an increase in the Georgia running game, is to mask the concerns the Bulldogs have on defense. Georgia is currently No. 34 in total defense and No. 42 in scoring defense nationally. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe leads the Bulldogs with 65 tackles on the season. He's also second on the team in tackles for loss and quarterback sacks. For the season, Georgia has accumulated 59 tackles behind the line, which is fourth in the conference. This includes 21 sacks--third in the conference and 43rd nationally.

Punter Brian Mimbs is currently averaging 42.4 yards per punt and place kicker, Brandon Coutu is 13 of 18 field goals this season.

About Auburn...

After starting the season 1-2, the Tigers have won six of their last seven games. One of the primary reasons for their success has been their improvement of simply taking care of the football. The defense has been very sound this season except for the second half of the LSU game. The offense on the other hand continues to be a work in progress.

During their three-game sluggish start to the season, the Auburn offense averaged 301 yards per game. That has improved to 361 per game over the last seven games. Brandon Cox compiled a quarterback rating of 90.9 during the first three games, but holds an impressive rating of 144.8 over the last seven. The Auburn running game also improved from 134 yards per game to 171. Brad Lester sat out last week to make sure he is as close to 100 percent for Georgia as possible.

Cox has been especially tough on the road throughout his career.

The combination of Lester, Tate and Fannin has given Auburn 1,481 yards on the ground for a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. Brad Lester and Ben Tate will continue to receive the bulk of the carries but coordinator Al Borges has slowly worked Mario Fannin back into the offense through a variation of positions. Rod Smith is having a career season with 43 receptions on the year. Smith is currently on pace to break the school record for receptions in one season. Montez Billings is second on the team with 21 grabs, giving Auburn a much-needed one-two punch in the passing game.

Auburn has six defenders with at least 42 tackles on the season and 10 players with at least 31. Coordinator Will Muschamp has the Auburn defense nationally at No. 8 in total defense and No. 5 in scoring defense. Linebacker Chris Evans leads the team with 58 stops and Antonio Coleman leads the team in tackles for loss and quarterback sacks.

Wes Byrum has connected on 13 of 17 field goals this season despite working through an early-season ankle injury and recent leg injury. Ryan Shoemaker is currently averaging over 44 yards per punt, which is 10th in the nation. Auburn has struggled this season on kick coverage, currently ranked at 45th in the nation. On the brighter side, Georgia is right behind Auburn at 46th in the nation.

Final Thoughts...

LSU all but dashed the hopes of Auburn winning the SEC West when it rallied to defeat Alabama last Saturday night. Mathematically speaking, Auburn is still in the race but this game will not be about winning the West. This is Auburn and Georgia, the South's oldest rivalry. The coaches and players from both universities need no other motivation to compete in this classic for everything else is frosting on the cake.

There is no doubt, Georgia has the better offense, averaging more yards and points per game. Excluding possessions to expire a half, Georgia has scored on 44.4 percent of its offensive possessions, fifth in the conference. Auburn's offense has scored 34.5 percent of the time, eighth in the SEC. This includes the Bulldogs scoring a touchdown 32.4 percent of the time and Auburn scoring a touchdown on 23.5 percent of its offensive possessions.

Defense is where the Auburn Tigers have thrived this season. Auburn is currently No.1 in the conference allowing their opponents to score 22.0 percent of the time. Georgia's defense is No. 7 in the SEC, allowing its opponents to score 34.6 percent of the time. In terms of touchdown percentage, Auburn is No. 1 in the SEC allowing its opponents to score a touchdown on 12.2 percent of their possessions. The Bulldogs are seventh at 21.2 percent.

The scoring margins and averages indicate a very close game, which should be no surprise. Taking out the weaker opponents from both team's schedules, Georgia is +3 on offense and –8 on defense with an average score of 28-22. Auburn is even on offense and –14 on defense with an average score of 22-16. This would give Auburn a one-point victory over the Georgia Bulldogs, 18-17.

Looking at the scoring margins and averages from the three common opponents and the game ends up in over time, 19-19. Georgia is +11 on offense and –6 on defense with an average score of 36-21. Auburn is –1 on offense, -18 on defense with an average score of 24-9. Focusing on conference performance, Auburn wins the game, 19-16, with a scoring margin of –1 on offense and –13 on defense with an average score of 22-15. Georgia is +2 on offense and –6 on defense with an average score of 27-23.

Auburn is 10-2 in the last 12 meetings in Athens, but despite the recent trend of success on the road, Georgia has the advantage playing at home. Auburn might not be as consistent on offense as Georgia but the Tiger defense is superior. Will this be enough to overcome Georgia's big-play ability and sound running game? Last season Georgia had three plays of 30 yards or more against Auburn while rushing for 227 yards. Muschamp will scheme to make the Bulldogs earn every yard and point, with a few calculated blitzes.

With both teams attempting to establish the run, turnovers and big plays could turn a low scoring game into a blowout for either team. Since 1961, both teams have combined for a 1-17-1 record when held under 100-yards rushing. If Auburn is held under 100 yards rushing, it could be a very long afternoon for the Tigers. With Brandon Cox as the starter, Auburn is 4-4 when held under 100-yards rushing, averaging 16 points per game. The Bulldogs have the better chance of survival because of their ability to hit the big play through their passing game.

Coach Tommy Tuberville is 5-3 against Georgia, including a 3-1 record in Athens. If the game goes down to the final period, Auburn is 12-7-1 against Georgia in games decided by seven points or less from 1951-2006. Coach Tuberville is 3-1 against Georgia in games decided by seven points or less. The average score between Auburn and Georgia in the last eight meetings is 24-23 in favor of Auburn. Something about this score sounds just right considering all the heart-pounding games Auburn has battled through in 2007.

Auburn 24, Georgia 23

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