After a series of disappointing losses during the middle stretch of the season, the Georgia Bulldogs look to hand Auburn a loss and eliminate the Tigers from BCS contention.
Here's what you need to know:
Date: Saturday, Nov. 16
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
Radio: Georgia Bulldog Radio Network
Spread: Auburn by 4, via 5Dimes
With Todd Gurley and Michael Bennett back in the lineup, Georgia's offense is once again one of the more prolific attacks in the country. Arthur Lynch and Chris Conley may also return from injuries this week, and if they do Aaron Murray will have a full arsenal of weapons.
Georgia must maintain offensive momentum by putting together long, meaningful scoring drives and limiting turnovers. There will be opportunities created by a balanced offensive approach, so offensive coordinator Mike Bobo does not need to do anything creative. An even keel will keep this offense moving and scoring.
Stop the Run
Defensively, the Dawgs must stop Auburn's stout running game. Every player in Auburn's backfield, including quarterback Nick Marshall, is capable of making plays on the ground, and the Tigers' production speaks for itself at 320 rushing yards per game.
Georgia is a better team when its offense is on the field, but a dominating Auburn ground game could handcuff that possibility. Georgia must find a way to minimize the effectiveness of the Tigers ground game.
Control the Clock
Georgia's offense is explosive, but it has a tendency to be streaky. The best way to minimize a barrage of points from the Bulldogs (like what Florida allowed in the first half) is to limit opportunities. If Auburn can control the clock while on offense, Aaron Murray, who is a slow starter at times, may never find a rhythm.
Georgia's special teams unit has been exposed time and time again this season. With a lack of consistent success, the Bulldogs seem focused purely on preventing breakdown—not proactively making plays. Accordingly, Auburn should be able to take some chances in kick and punt return scenarios with very little repercussion from a conservative game plan from Georgia.
At home, a big play on special teams could ignite an already primed crowd.
Todd Gurley always plays well, but he dominates in big games. Consider his production in Georgia's biggest games this year:
- 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries against Clemson
- 140 yards of offense and two touchdowns against South Carolina
- 86 yards of offense on just nine carries before being injured in the first half of the LSU game
- 187 yards of offense and two touchdowns on 20 touches against Florida
Look for more of the same from Gurley, especially now that he is healthy.
Herrera is tremendous in run support from his middle linebacker position. He struggles at times defending the pass, but Auburn will rely primarily on the ground game. Nick Marshall has not completed more than 11 passes in a game since September, so Herrera will likely get plenty of shots at stopping the run.
His ability to read gaps and attack them will be vital to Georgia's defensive success.
What more can be said about the emergence of Nick Marshall? Along with Gus Malzahn, he's proven to be the spark plug that an already talented Auburn offense needed to become relevant again. He's a tremendous runner and an underrated passer.
And of course, this game will have a special incentive for him as he takes on his former school. If Marshall accounts for 350 or more yards of total offense, Auburn will likely be victorious.
Mason is a fantastic runner in his own right. Already this season Mason has racked up 1,000 yards on the ground to go with 16 touchdowns, and he will be one of the better backs the Bulldogs have faced this season
His ability to feed off Marshall's reads on offense is a terrifying prospect for Georgia.
Todd Grantham on Auburn's Offense
They’re believing and they’re playing with confidence right now. Their personnel probably fits better to what they do now relative to what they did last year. I think that’s a good example of how it’s important to get the right people into your system.
Nick Marshall's Journey
Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph says that Marshall's high school coach was instrumental in guiding him following his dismissal at Georgia. After riding around with him in the car, Marshall formed a plan of action and plotted his return to big-time collegiate football.
Damian Swann on Marshall's Emergence
Georgia cornerback Damian Swann told Emerson that he is "proud' of Marshall's progression at Auburn, saying, "I love to see when guys get another opportunity and make the best of it."
Georgia has been two different teams this year. One team challenged Clemson on the road in Week 1 with a handful of new starters on defense before rolling through South Carolina and LSU. Another version of the Bulldogs limped through Knoxville and stumbled against Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Right now, Georgia much more closely resembles the first variation. For Auburn, that could spell trouble.
Georgia's defense has quietly improved this year, and Dawg defenders are undoubtedly eager to get after their former teammate Marshall. Furthermore, Georgia's offense can rival the explosiveness of any team Auburn has faced to date. Combine all of that with a tremendous amount of momentum and confidence for Georgia within this rivalry, and it spells upset.
Georgia wins by seven points.