This is the SEC’s oldest rivalry playing a total of 119 times since the inception of the series. Since 2011, Georgia has won four of the last five games over the Tigers by an average margin of victory of 27 points per game. Last year, Georgia picked up a 20-13 road win on the Plains in Auburn.
The Tigers are coming off of a lackluster home win against Vanderbilt 23-16 in which starting quarterback Sean White did not start due to unspecified reasons. Backup quarterback John Franklin opened the game against the Commodores and had a costly turnover that helped Vanderbilt build momentum early on the ball game.
Auburn is averaging 34 points per game and has been a run heavy offense averaging 299 rushing yards on the ground this season. The Tigers are passing for 194 yards through the air this year and must be able to stretch Georgia’s secondary vertically in this game to get the road win.
Quarterback Sean White has completed 69% of his passes for 1,617 yards with 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. White has played well within the system and will need to play well on the road to give his team an opportunity at the win. The offensive line has allowed 16 sacks through the first nine games and must be able to protect White to give him time to locate his receivers underneath coverage. Auburn has converted 47% of their third down opportunities and cannot afford to get into third down and long situations which will play right into Georgia’s defensive strengths.
Running backs Kamryn Pettaway and Kerryon Johnson are vital to Auburn’s offensive success this weekend. Both players have combined for 1,725 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns. Pettaway is the tough inside runner that pounds opposing defensive fronts, while Johnson is the slasher that can catch the “edge” of opposing defenses.
Auburn will need to run the football effectively to work off of play action with White in the passing game. Auburn must be able to pass on running downs to loosen up the Bulldogs front seven. Wide receiver Tony Stevens leads the team with 24 receptions for 408 yards with 3 receiving touchdowns.
Defensively, the Tigers have done a complete 360 under new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele this year. The unit is allowing 10 points less than a year ago (26 ppg in 2015, 16 ppg in 2016) and is playing more aggressive this year.
The Tigers are allowing 125 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses and are allowing 230 passing yards per game through the air this season.
The unit has recorded 21 total sacks and has already surpassed last year’s total of 19 which ranked 104th of 127 teams in FBS in 2015.
The Tigers are +2 in turnover margin and have held opposing offenses to 33% on third down conversions.
In the Tigers last two games against Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, the defense has allowed over 60% completion percentage and 465 passing yards (Ole Miss) along with 221 passing yards (Vanderbilt) respectively.
The Bulldogs are coming off of a solid 27-24 road win over the Kentucky Wildcats. The offense made plays in the fourth quarter and stepped up on the road to give the team confidence heading into this match-up.
Georgia is averaging 23 points per game and has rushed for 178 yards per game on the ground and has passed for 204 yards through the air this season.
Quarterback Jacob Eason has completed 53% of his passes for 1,754 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. Eason has progressed over the last three games and has completed 59 of 104 passes (56%) for 244 yards per game with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He will be counted on to make plays this weekend and locate his receivers into the holes of the Tigers defense. Eason has been thrown into the fire in his first season and has responded down the stretch. He has become a battle tested signal caller and has grown each and every game under center.
Running back Nick Chubb leads the team with 691 rushing yards averaging 4.7 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. Chubb has not been the same effective runner since last year’s knee injury when he averaged 8.3 yards per carry with 7 rushing touchdowns. However, he is a tough runner that can move the chains and wear down the Tigers defensive front seven in this game.
Wide receiver Isiah McKenzie leads the team with 32 receptions for 459 yards with 6 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are giving up 25 points per game and are excellent in run support allowing 118 rushing yards to opposing offenses. The secondary is giving up 205 yards per game through the air and must be able to force turnovers against Sean White to put their offense in a position to score points.
Georgia enters this game +5 in turnover margin and has recorded 19 sacks this season. However, the unit has recorded 13 of the 19 sacks in the last four games which shows that the team is starting to grasp coach Smart’s defensive philosophy.
The highest total the unit has allowed on the ground came last week against Kentucky (186 rushing yards), but in the team’s last four games, the defense has allowed 94 rushing yards per game to opposing offenses.
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