The “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” is set to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2, as Georgia and Auburn meet for the 116th time. Last year, the Bulldogs blasted Auburn 45-7, and nothing indicates that it won’t happen again this week.
Georgia is on its way to a second straight appearance in the SEC title game this December with a win over Auburn, while the Tigers are limping to a 2-7 record and a likely eight-loss season for 2012.
The Tigers have not had an effective offense all season, and the defense has faced a lot of field time because of it.
When the clock hits zero in Jordan-Hare on Saturday night, Auburn will have faced another beating at the hands of its oldest rival.
The Georgia backfield was expected to take a step back this year after losing two experienced ball carriers in the offseason. Instead, two freshmen have come in and become the most dangerous rushing tandem in the country.
Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley have earned the nickname “Gurshall” for their explosive running styles, and for their No. 3 and No. 4 jersey numbers.
Auburn is fielding the No. 96 rushing defense in the country, allowing 199.22 yards per game on the ground. Georgia is the No. 37 rushing offense in the country, earning 189.78 yards per game from the backfield.
Those numbers should be inflated after this weekend. The Tigers have struggled to find success on the interior line outside of Angelo Blackson and the linebacker play has been suspect without Daren Bates.
These newcomers are set up to have their best games of the season in Auburn this weekend.
Aaron Murray has been very good against Auburn in the past. The Bulldogs quarterback has faced the Tigers twice in his career and has thrown for a combined seven touchdowns and 497 yards. He has never thrown an interception against Auburn.
Murray’s no interception streak will surely continue this weekend—Auburn hasn’t had a defensive back make an interception once this year.
With the running game churning up big yards, the Georgia offense will be able to play very balanced attack and Murray should have a lot of time in the pocket as a result. The more time he has to make throws, the worse off this game will be for Auburn.
The Tigers have struggled all year to produce a solid pass rush with nothing indicating that it gets better this week. Murray may be able to jump into the Heisman discussion after this weekend’s route on the Plains.
Chad Slade gave the Georgia Bulldogs some locker room material earlier this week when he told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that Jarvis Jones is “a good player," but "it’s not that hard” to stop him.
Slade is the starting right guard for the Auburn Tigers offensive line, but he hasn’t shown that he can stop much of anything consistently this fall, so his comments are quite perplexing.
According to Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze holds this Georgia defense in much higher regard than Slade:
Jones is one of the most elite linebackers in the country, bringing a dangerous mix of speed and power to the Georgia defense. He is a masterful pass-rusher and can smash the run at the line with consistency.
So far this season, Jones is ranked No. 9 in sacks and No. 6 in tackles for loss in FBS. He has also snagged an interception this fall.
Auburn will have to put an emphasis on Jones in this game or it will be a long four quarters for the Tigers' freshman quarterback.
Jonathan Wallace came to Auburn as a little known 3-star recruit out of Central-Phenix City High School in Phenix City, Ala. He was expected to redshirt, but after the departure of fellow freshman quarterback Zeke Pike, it became clear that Auburn needed Wallace to add depth to the roster.
Wallace earned his first snaps of the season against LSU in a wildcat situation, rushing three times for 15 yards. He has played in every game for Auburn since.
Over the past few weeks, Kiehl Frazier has fallen victim to a mysterious shoulder injury and Clint Moseley injured his ankle against Texas A&M. Wallace is the last remaining scholarship quarterback and has been thrown to the wolves.
In a part-time starting role against the Aggies and a full start against New Mexico State, Wallace is 16-of-26 for 297 yards and three touchdowns. He has only tossed one interception.
While he has performed well, this week brings a challenge that he may not be ready for. The Georgia defense is the No. 33 unit in the country and will bring all the heat they can against the young signal caller.
Gene Chizik has lost the edge. The Tigers head coach is no longer guiding this team and it is very noticeable. He may be the face of the program for the final three games of this 2012 season, but with the terrible tumble this team has witnessed this fall, change might be coming to Auburn soon.
It is hard to get motivated as a lame duck and Chizik is struggling with getting this team headed in the right direction. A win against New Mexico State was nice, but anything less would have led to an immediate dismissal of Chizik and Co.
This could be a major turnaround game for the Tigers. It would be one of the biggest upset wins in the series history, but an upset win in a rivalry game is nothing unprecedented.
The chances of a Tigers' victory are slim to none however, and Gene Chizik knows it. He will likely walk the sidelines and go through the motions throughout the game, but he clearly has no answer for the sinking ship in Auburn.