Georgia vs. Auburn: 5 Things That Must Happen for Auburn to Upset No. 5 Georgia
The Georgia Bulldogs will march down to Auburn, AL on Saturday with consecutive division titles on its mind.
The only thing standing in the way is the 2-7 Auburn Tigers. It doesn't sound like much of a hurdle, but the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has shown the propensity to produce heartbreaking defeats of the higher-ranked teams.
In 2006, a UGA team that lost to the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt dashed No. 5 Auburn's national title hopes before the Tigers could even wake up that November morning.
Could the Tigers return the favor to the Bulldogs six years later?
It can if these five things happen...
Auburn Must Rush for over 200 Yards
Last week against New Mexico State, Auburn finally committed to the running game for the entire game. The coaching staff has said it numerous times over the last few weeks, but it has not translated to the field. Out of 62 plays last Saturday, Auburn ran the ball 45 times for 319 yards.
Auburn will need that same commitment this weekend against Georgia. One of the ingredients for an Auburn victory is 200 yards rushing.
A lot of that commitment to the running game we saw last weekend had to do with Auburn playing ahead, but even with New Mexico State putting eight guys in the box committed to stopping the run, Auburn remained determined to run the ball.
"At halftime, they were putting eight or nine guys around the line of scrimmage, but we felt like we had to stick with it," head coach Gene Chizik said (via Charles Goldberg, AL.com).
Obviously, this is a much different defense from New Mexico State that Auburn's running game will go against this weekend. That doesn't mean the UGA defense isn't vulnerable, though.
UGA ranks eighth in the conference in rushing defense, allowing an average of 144 yards per game. The Bulldogs have allowed four opponents to top 200 yards rushing in a game this season. Buffalo, Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky all topped that mark against Georgia.
Success in the running game will take some pressure of freshman QB Jonathan Wallace and may open up some play-action opportunities in the passing game.
Tigers Must Win Turnover Battle
Auburn has struggled mightily in the turnover margin department in 2012. It will have to win the battle in that category if Auburn fans are going to roll Toomer's Corner on Saturday night.
The Tigers currently rank 106th in the country in turnover margin.
Auburn has won the turnover battle in each of its last three games, though.
Georgia has had turnover issues in the last couple of games. The Bulldogs committed five turnovers against Ole Miss and Florida.
This weekend would be a great time for the Auburn secondary to get its first interception of the 2012 season.
Before Jonathan Wallace's interception against New Mexico State, Auburn had not turned the ball over since its game against Ole Miss.
Wallace will face a much different animal this Saturday than he did last weekend. Georgia will try to rattle the freshman early and force bad throws and turnovers.
"There's probably six to eight NFL players on that defense," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "They close quickly. I really made an emphasis how important it is to make a decision and get the ball out of your hand because those throw windows will close quite differently than they did last Saturday" (via Aaron Brenner, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer).
If Auburn has an upset of rival Georgia on its mind, winning the turnover battle is something that must happen.
Auburn Defense Cannot Get off to the Usual Slow Start
The Auburn defense has a bad habit of getting off to a slow start, especially on opening drives.
Following the Vanderbilt game, defensive tackle Gabe Wright said, “Our first drive, we’ve been kind of slow, so we’re working on trying to amp each other up. It’s funny: it seems like a score actually makes us play harder, which is very weird" (via Aaron Brenner,Columbus Ledger-Enquirer).
Other than the opening game against Clemson and last week's opening drive against New Mexico State, Auburn opponents have found success on opening drives.
Louisiana-Monroe, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M all scored touchdowns on their initial possession. Others have driven into field goal range at the very least.
A strong start on defense against a powerful Georgia offense can do wonders for the team's confidence and keep the crowd in the game.
Auburn Must Take Chances Downfield
When you are a 2-7 team with the No. 5 team in the country coming in, there isn't much to lose. That's why Auburn and QB Jonathan Wallace will have to take some chances downfield.
Chizik on UGA game: "We've got to have a couple of explosive plays, whether it's some deep throws or big runs. Something has got to break."
— Aaron Brenner (@wareagleextra) November 9, 2012
One play that may define Auburn's season occurred when Sammie Coates dropped a Kiehl Frazier pass on the first drive of the game against LSU in Week 4. Auburn took a chance downfield early and it slipped right through the hands of Coates.
This season may be totally different if Coates catches that ball and runs it in to the end zone.
Just by Auburn taking chances (successful or not), it can loosen up the Georgia defense that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will undoubtedly have playing very aggressive in an effort to stop the Auburn run.
It will take a big offensive play—which Auburn hasn't seen much of—downfield for Auburn to go out winners in the SEC home finale.
A Big Play on Special Teams
A game-changing play on special teams can come in many forms. It can be a kickoff return for a touchdown, a blocked field goal, an onside-kick recovery or a fake punt.
In whatever form or fashion it occurs, Auburn needs a big play out of its most reliable unit. So many times in historic Auburn upsets, special teams has played a big role.
Auburn has had success on special teams in 2012. The Tigers have forced missed field goals and have been able to get a couple of field goal blocks.
Onterio McCalebb scored Auburn's only touchdown against Mississippi State when he ran the opening kickoff of the second half back for a score.
Auburn will need more of that on Saturday along with the other things we have mentioned here if the Tigers want to shake up the BCS standings and send the Bulldogs back to Athens without the SEC East crown.