November 12, 2011
Overall Record: 52-54-8
Last 10 Meetings: 6-4
Richt vs. Auburn: 6-4
We will see just how good Auburn will be in 2011. As great a season as 2010 was – no one can deny that winning the BCS National Title means you've had a great year – Auburn was beaten up a ton during the process. Cam Newton, pay-for-play, armed robbery arrests just after the championship – not a good year off the field for the Tigers.
Now you have to wonder if the Tigers will go back to the level they have been for the last few years – sitting around 8-5. Losing Cam Newton will hurt the Tigers more than any other player leaving hurts any other program. You saw what happened to Florida with the departure of Tim Tebow – expect the same sorts of results for Auburn in 2011.
Still, Auburn has come a long way in the world of recruiting since Gene Chizick arrived. The Tigers have fought their way into a struggle with Alabama on that front. That was not the case before Tommy Tubberville departed the Plains. If Auburn is going to continue to be relevant – and that remains to be seen – they are going to have to continue doing a solid job of recruiting. In so many ways Auburn is at a disadvantage. In their own state they are not Alabama; in Georgia they are not Georgia; in the Sunshine State they are none of the big three. But the Tigers have done a solid job of picking their spots in all three states to make the future seem somewhat bright. However, unless Cam Newton walks back through that door, or a Cecil Newton-like father shops his son around to the highest bidder (allegedly) Auburn is going to have a hard time winning the SEC West.
Auburn's yearly fight with Georgia had been one-sided for some time, as the Dawgs had won four in a row over the Tigers before 2010. Momentum seems to be on Georgia's side still – believe it or not – because most observers think Auburn is a one-hit wonder and isn't prepared for the long haul. This year is a pivotal one for Mark Richt, but it is an important one, too, for Chizick. He could prove a lot of doubters wrong by returning the Tigers to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, but that seems like asking an awful lot.
Auburn player to watch:
Any time an Auburn running back is mentioned in the same breath as Bo Jackson, good things must be happening. But what does it mean when an Auburn running back breaks one of Jackson's records? Increased expectations moving forward – that's what Dyer has to anticipate after breaking Jackson's record for rushing yards by a freshman in 2010. Dyer had the luxury of Cam Newton commanding most of the defensive attention last season – something he must overcome as he takes on more responsibility in Newton's absence.
What the Dawgs must do:
Georgia's annual fight with Auburn comes down to the run game – no matter the form of offense either team runs. Georgia will stick with their traditional offensive sets while the Tigers will run the spread. The team that effectively runs the football in this classic SEC rivalry will be the winner. Unlike the Tigers, Georgia isn't replacing the bulk of their offensive line coming into 2011. That's going to be a difficult thing for Auburn to overcome in the fall. This year, it seems, a newcomer could also affect the outcome of this contest – his name is Isaiah Crowell.
Inside the numbers:
The players who won the BCS National Title for Auburn? They are long gone now. The Tigers return only six starters from their 2010 team. Rebuilding could make for a long season on the Plains this fall.
Significant, but not the highest of Georgia's rivals. I have written many, many times that recruiting is a zero-sum game. Two teams can't sign the same player – only one school can. At the same time, Auburn and Alabama can't both be effective in Georgia – only one of them can, and right now that's Bama. I have to add that Auburn is coming along in Georgia, but the Tide is a bigger danger at the moment for Georgia. It might not continue to be that way, but Nick Saban and the Tide have correctly diagnosed that Atlanta is a recruiting hotbed. The focus of Bama on Atlanta makes Auburn's recruiting of the city a little more difficult (it makes Georgia's recruiting of Atlanta more difficult, too). Still, Auburn and Georgia are always going to fight over players from west Georgia.
Last year's prediction:
Auburn has not defeated the Dawgs at home since their undefeated run in 2004 – Georgia is going to have to make sure that Caleb King and Washaun Ealey are as effective as they were in 2009.
Georgia's running backs were not as effective, and Auburn topped Georgia at home in 2010 on the way to an undefeated season and a BCS crown.