Auburn-Georgia: A Closer Look

Taking a look at the 2008 version of the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

When Georgia Has The Ball:
The key will be running back Knowshon Moreno. Leading the SEC in total rushing yards this season with 1,113 yards on 188 carries with 15 touchdowns, Moreno will be focal point for the Auburn defense as well he should be. Under Mark Richt, the Bulldogs are 68-13 when rushing for more than 100 yards. When they have been held under the century mark the record is just 18-8.

Knowshon Moreno

When Auburn Has The Ball:
Georgia has given up 599 rushing yards in its last three games so it would seem obvious that the key for Auburn's offense will be the running game, but like every other team the Tigers have faced this season expect the Bulldogs to crowd the line of scrimmage to try to take away the run. When that happens quarterback Kodi Burns will have to make plays in the passing game. In 2008 Burns has completed 69-127 passes for 758 yards, but has thrown seven interceptions. His lone touchdown came on a screen pass in the West Virginia game. If the Tigers pull off the upset then Burns' passing numbers must increase.

Something Has To Give:
Auburn ranks last in the SEC in red zone offense, scoring just 60.6 percent of the time this season inside the opponents' 20-yard line. The Tigers have scored just 20 of 33 times in that area with only 13 going for touchdowns. That has led to Auburn averaging just 19.5 points per game, 10th in the SEC and 102nd in the nation.

On the other side of the equation is the Georgia defense. Opponents have scored 81.6 percent of the time against the Bulldogs while in the red zone (31-38). That includes an astounding 26 touchdowns, six more than the next closest team in the Southeastern Conference. Because of those numbers Georgia is 11th in the SEC in scoring defense (24.9 points per game), which is 63rd in the country.

By The Numbers:
Turnovers are always a key in any football game, but they have been particularly important for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. In their first four games of the season the Bulldogs only turned the ball over twice and gave up zero points off those mistakes in winning all four games. Since then Georgia is 4-2 and has turned the ball over 12 times with opponents scoring 49 points. Winning at LSU, the Tigers had three turnovers while Georgia has none. The Bulldogs won 52-38 with 17 of the points coming from LSU mistakes.

UGA quarterback Matthew Stafford

Georgia's passing game under the direction of Matthew Stafford has been nothing short of explosive this season. The Bulldogs average 9.0 yards per pass attempt this season to lead the SEC while Florida is second at 8.9. The next closest team is South Carolina's 7.2. By comparison Auburn averages 5.9 yards per attempt. The number is even bigger when you look at average yards per completion. Georgia's is an amazing 14.6 yards per pass while the Tigers average 10.6. The top two receivers for the Bulldogs (A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi) average 17.5 and 16.3 yards per catch respectively.

Georgia Player to Watch:
The duo of Reshad Jones and C.J. Byrd. Georgia's safeties have accounted for 94 tackles with Jones' 57 stops good enough for second on the team while he leads the Bulldogs with three interceptions. Coordinator Willie Martinez is not afraid to blitz regularly and that includes cornerbacks Asher Allen and Prince Miller. Because of that Georgia's safeties are left in coverage situations regularly. If Auburn can beat them in the open field it could mean huge things for Auburn's offense.

Auburn Player to Watch:
Antonio Coleman. Auburn's most explosive defender has been bothered by an ankle sprain and his health is huge for the Tigers' defense. Even missing Auburn's last game and playing only sparingly in several more Coleman is still sixth on the team with 40 tackles and leads the way with six sacks and 10.5 tackles for losses. Auburn must pressure the quarterback early and often and a healthy or even a close to healthy Coleman could mean the difference.

Analysis:
The visiting team has won eight of the last 13 games in the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry, making Georgia a solid favorite to win this year's addition considering the struggles on both offense and defense for the Auburn Tigers in recent weeks and the penchant for the road team to have success. To avoid that the Tigers must force Matthew Stafford and the Georgia offense into mistakes and capitalize on offense. That means a defensive touchdown or a score set up by the defense. Georgia is going to get its points, scoring more than 24 points in all but two games.

Offensively, the Tigers have been missing the big play score with the longest touchdown reception this season going for just 28 yards. With the Bulldogs expected to pressure the Auburn offense with eight and nine men at times, the Tigers must have several plays of 20 or more yards in the passing game or it could be a long day for the home team. While Auburn will continue to play better I can't see the Tigers scoring enough points to get the win.


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