Last week, Auburn broke a decades-long losing streak in Baton Rouge by defeating LSU on the road. Today, the Tigers get a chance to put an end to another rival’s winning streak.
The undefeated Georgia Bulldogs make their way to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on Auburn for the 126th installment of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
Georgia has dominated this rivalry as of late, and Auburn will have to play by far its best game of the season to this point to have a chance of upsetting the visiting Bulldogs.
Ranked second in the nation and already 3-0 in SEC play, Georgia enters the contest having just defeated Arkansas 37-0, its second shut out of an SEC opponent this season.
Auburn must get off to a quick start and ride the momentum of a sure-to-be electric crowd if they hope to be competitive in this game.
Take a look at three things that will determine if Auburn can defeat Georgia today for the first time in the last five matchups between the programs.
Auburn’s offensive line
The Tigers offensive line had a really tough game against Georgia State two weeks ago and came back with an adequate performance against LSU.
Auburn’s line did not allow a quarterback sack against the Bayou Bengals, but those who watched the game know that is because quarterback Bo Nix eluded LSU defenders at an unbelievable rate. It is safe to assume Nix won’t be able to do that against this Bulldog defense.
Here is all you need to know about this Georgia defense: Through the five games played this season, the Bulldogs have allowed one offensive touchdown while scoring three of their own.
This dominance begins with the Bulldogs defensive front that is big, fast, physical and confident. They expect to overwhelm their opponents and have done just that every game this year.
Auburn has no one who can move Georgia’s star defensive lineman Jordan Davis, who checks in at 6’6 and 340 lbs. Davis’ ability to command double teams from opponents starts a chain reaction of opportunities for the Bulldogs defense.
Auburn offensive coordinator (and former Georgia quarterback) Mike Bobo must design and deploy strategies to help the Tigers offensive line find success against the biggest test they will face this season.
Whether or not the offensive line can hold up in pass protection and create space for Auburn ball carriers to get positive yardage on a consistent basis will decide if the Tigers can compete in this game.
Auburn lost to Penn State in large part because they allowed the Nittany Lions to score touchdowns on each of their four trips into the RedZone, while only scoring touchdowns on two of their own four tries from within 20 yards.
Last week against LSU, Auburn won the game when it scored touchdowns on both of its redzone opportunities and held LSU to just one touchdown on four redzone attempts.
So far this season, Georgia has allowed zero touchdowns from opponents who made it to within 20 yards of their goal line. That has to change this week. If Auburn gets opportunities to score touchdowns today, those chances cannot be wasted.
On the other hand, the Auburn defense must force the Bulldogs to kick field goals when they make it deep into Tiger territory.
Auburn has to be incredibly successful in redzone situations to pull off a win today.
Special teams excellence
If there is one play that has been overlooked when reflecting on last week’s win over LSU, it is the kickoff that followed Bo Nix’s incredible scrambling touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Fromm.
On that kickoff, Auburn linebacker Joko Willis absolutely demolished the LSU kick returner. The play seemed to send a message that the game had changed.
That is a bit of speculation, but what is fact is that LSU fair caught every kickoff that happened after that hit. They wanted no part of what was coming.
Today, Auburn’s special teams must make big plays of their own and mitigate Georgia’s to create momentum and help with field position.
If the Tigers’ special teams can create advantages and senior kicker Anders Carlson can make big kicks, then Auburn may put itself in position to win a huge game against Georgia.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers.