November 12, 2012
Overall Record: 54-54-8
Last 10 Meetings: 7-3
Richt vs. Auburn: 8-4
Gus Malzahn has stepped into the dumpster fire that is Auburn football currently with a mind to turn the program around.
But a slew of things stand in his way.
Alabama is the king of college football, and Auburn has rarely been good at the same time the Tide is rolling.
Auburn has the NCAA, an organization both lethal and incompetent at the same time, hanging over its head.
Worst of all, the Tigers just aren't as talented as they once were. Recruits who seemed to be high-level haven't played that way.
The likable enough Malzahn will have all of those things to deal with in his first head coaching stint in the SEC. New head coaches in the league always have challenges in front of them, but Malzahn's hurdles seem rather high in 2013.
Still, Auburn is a program that has plenty of shine left to it. The Tigers won't be bad forever, but the sting of the last two years will be difficult to escape. Malzahn has proven that with capable players his offenses can score at record pace. Without skill at the quarterback spot, however, his teams have been blown out in nasty fashion – see Georgia's 2011 win over the Tigers.
Malzahn, like every other coach in the SEC, needs players. Cam Newton isn't walking back through that door.
Auburn player to watch:
Perhaps the one silver lining in Auburn's recent detrimental downturn is its star running back, Tre Mason. Despite starting just six games last year, Mason became the first non-quarterback since Bo Jackson to lead Auburn in total offense with 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns.
Still, Georgia was able to shut Mason down, holding him to just 53 all-purpose yards at Jordan-Hare Stadium last November. With a weak offensive line, the Tigers will be susceptible to another major defeat this time around. As mentioned earlier, however, the Bulldogs won't have the NFL loaded defense they did a year ago, but that doesn't mean they can't stop Mason and company.
Mason doesn't have the receiving ability that perhaps Auburn would hope for, which limits him in some capacity. If he can break the edge, though, he's a threat to score. It is safe to say, however, that Georgia will have a much more potent running game, pending injury, when the two teams meet on Nov. 16.
What the Dawgs must do:
Auburn should still be limping in from a long rebuilding season by November, but Georgia should beware of the Plains. Upsets are not unheard of in this rivalry, and the fact that Georgia is playing at Auburn for two years in a row is an oddity of SEC scheduling that favors the Tigers. Georgia should run the ball on Auburn, and exploit the Tigers' secondary with the deep ball. In other words: play Mike Bobo Georgia offense.
Inside the numbers:
In the wake of Gene Chizik's firing, Auburn has assembled an impressive coaching staff, but it's not too scary for Georgia. Gus Malzahn's offense has only averaged 15.5 points against the Bulldogs in years he did not have Cam Newton as his quarterback, and new Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson surrendered 25.8 points per game to Georgia during four years at South Carolina.
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 Bama focus 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: Georgia's annual fight with Auburn comes down to the run game – no matter the form of offense either team runs. The team that effectively runs the football in this classic SEC rivalry will be the winner – always has been… probably always will be.
Auburn stood no chance against Georgia as the Tigers had given up on the season by November.
12-Year History vs. Auburn
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 24-17 win.
2002 – Georgia defeated Auburn 24-21 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 in 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' 26-7 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 24-6 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 a 31-30 win in Athens. The play was set up by Brandon Cox's 62-yard pass play to Devin Aromashodu on fourth-and-10 from the Auburn 35-yard line.
2006 – Matthew Stafford and Georgia shocked #5 Auburn 37-15 on the Plains in one of the biggest upsets in series history. Tra Battle's multiple interceptions – including one for a touchdown – killed the Tigers that day.
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 magical November afternoon.
2008 – Georgia struggled and needed a late stand from its defense to beat lowly Auburn 17-13 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 31-24 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 beat Georgia 49-31 on the way to the 2010 SEC and BCS titles. Georgia had built a 21-7 lead, but the Tigers, led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, exploded for 49 points on the Dawgs. It was the second-most points allowed by the Dawgs in the Mark Richt Era.
2011 – Baccari Rambo scored a touchdown on an interception return as Georgia routed Auburn 45-7 in Athens. The Bulldogs built up a 35-7 halftime lead before cruising in the second half to win in a blowout. The win was Georgia's most decisive over the Tigers since 1946.
2012 – Georgia held Auburn to 238 yards of offense while Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for 221 yards during the Bulldogs' 38-0 win over the Tigers. The win, which was Georgia's first shutout of Auburn since 1976, clinched the SEC East for Georgia.
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