2011 Media Days: Legge's Look at Auburn

BIRMINGHAM - Dean Legge's look at the Auburn Tigers.

Dawg Post's Ten-Year History vs. Auburn

Matthew Stafford signals a touchdown during the Blackout of 2007. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

2001 – The Bulldogs lost a classic to the Tigers on the last play of the game. First-year coach Mark Richt called a running play with only moments remaining in the game, but the Tigers stopped Jasper Sanks near the goal line to preserve the win.

2002 – Georgia defeated Auburn on the Plains after a furious second-half comeback to win the SEC East title for the first time in school history. On fourth and goal from the 19-yard line, David Greene found Michael Johnson for the game-winning score the Auburn student section end zone.

2003 – Georgia's defense dominated the Tigers in Athens on the way to winning the SEC East for the second year in a row. The Dawgs' win was punctuated by Odell Thurman's interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter as the Tigers were nearing a score.

2004 – Auburn's undefeated Tigers dropped Georgia in dominating fashion on the Plains. The Tigers ended Georgia's hopes of winning a third SEC East title in a row with a powerful defense and a run game reminiscent of the Auburn teams of the 1980s. Still, the Tigers were not allowed to play for the BCS National Title that year – having been passed over by USC and Oklahoma. They would be the last undefeated SEC team in the decade to be left out of the BCS Championship Game.

2005 – Auburn's John Vaughn kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers their second win in a row in the series. The play was set up by Brandon Cox's 62-yard pass play to Devin Aromashodu on fourth-and-10 from their own 35-yard line. The Bulldogs could have secured the SEC East title with a win, but wrapped up the division with a win over Kentucky a week later.

2006 – Matthew Stafford and Georgia shocked #5 Auburn on the Plains in one of the biggest upsets in series history. The Bulldogs had been knocked off by Kentucky the week before and few gave them hope of coming away with a win. Tra Battle's multiple interceptions – including one for a touchdown – killed the Tigers that day. Georgia left Auburn fans at Jordan-Hare stunned.

2007 – Georgia wore black uniforms for the first time in school history as the Bulldogs ran past Auburn in Athens. Knowshon Moreno ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns while the Georgia crowd – also decked out in black – cheered wildly as the Dawgs intercepted four Auburn passes and scored the final 28 points of the game that November afternoon.

2008 – Georgia struggled and needed a late stand from its defense to beat lowly Auburn on the Plains. The Bulldogs struggled to score against the Tigers, but found a way to win, albeit unimpressively, on the way to another 10-win season.

2009 – For the first time since the 1940s the Bulldogs won four games in a row against the Tigers with the win in Athens. The Tigers jumped out to a lead, but Georgia rallied behind a strong run game to lead late. That's when the Georgia defense stopped the Tigers on the last possession of the game for the win.

2010 – Auburn rallied past Georgia, which had built a 21-7 lead, on the way to the 2010 SEC and BCS titles. The Tigers, lead by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, exploded for 49 points on the Dawgs – the second-most points allowed by the Dawgs in the Mark Richt Era.

November 12, 2011
Sanford Stadium
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:
Michael Dyer
Running Back
5-9, 215
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.

Recruiting Implications:
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.

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