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SEC Football Q&A: Can Auburn's Defense Handle Georgia's Offense?

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 14, 2013

Every Thursday on The SEC Blog, we feature questions from the Bleacher Report inbox, Twitter and email at bsallee@bleacherreport.com.

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off!

@BarrettSallee will the auburn D be able to handle the Murray & Gurley UGA O?

— Danny V (@fiveboroball) November 14, 2013

No, it won't. But the thing is, it might not matter.

Auburn boasts the SEC's fifth-worst total defense (394.4 yards per game), but the SEC's fourth-best scoring defense (20.4 points per game). The Tigers lead the SEC in red zone touchdown percentage (43.75 percent) and are second in scoring percentage (71.88 percent).

They're bending, but they aren't breaking.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley has a tendency to break people.

The sophomore missed three games in the middle of the season after suffering an ankle injury in Georgia's win over LSU on Sept. 28, but has returned with a vengeance—rushing for 175 yards, two touchdowns and catching six passes for 99 yards and a touchdown over the last two games.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

All while clearly feeling the effects of that ankle injury.

“They just have all the energy in there right now. My plan is to go in there and take it out of them," Gurley told Alec Shirkey of the Red & Black.

Gurley establishing the run lets the rest of the offense click, and quarterback Aaron Murray has weapons around him including wide receiver Michael Bennett and tight end Arthur Lynch. Auburn won't be able to handle all those weapons, despite having the luxury of rotating defensive linemen all game long.

But it can—and will, if my picks hold true—get into a win and a shootout, which leads us to the next question.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley
Georgia RB Todd GurleyDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

 

@BarrettSallee How many rushing yards does Nick Marshall get vs UGA?

— Charles Reed (@charles_reedAU) November 14, 2013

I'm going to get conservative, and go with 70 rushing yards.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallWesley Hitt/Getty Images

Don't get me wrong, Marshall is great on the ground, but this will be one of those games where Tre Mason and speedster Corey Grant get the bulk of the carries for the Tigers.

Marshall has been great this year on the ground, but Auburn's reluctance to air it out will be a thing of the past, as head coach Gus Malzahn will make a concerted effort to exploit a Georgia pass defense that's giving up 241 yards per game through the air.

We've seen teams—Missouri, in particular—pick on Bulldog defensive back Damian Swann often this season; and Marshall will do the same.

He'll be a factor on the ground too, but this isn't going to be one of those "run first, run early and run often games." It'll be a more balanced approach from the Tigers this week.

 

@BarrettSallee what bowl do you think UGA will go to?

travis jordan (@dawgs1979) November 11, 2013

Right now, I'm going to go with the Chick-fil-A Bowl, where the Bulldogs will square off with a talented team from the ACC—perhaps Miami or Virginia Tech.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtSam Greenwood/Getty Images

I have the Bulldogs losing a shootout to Auburn this weekend, but winning out the remainder of their games and finishing the season 8-4. That should put the Bulldogs around the sixth spot in the bowl pecking order. Assuming the SEC gets two teams into the BCS, it would place them in Atlanta—especially if another option for the bowl is LSU—a team it hosted last season and in which Georgia beat this year.

If Georgia wins this weekend, it could climb up to the Cotton Bowl or the Outback Bowl depending on what happens around the SEC as we close out the season.

Not bad considering the injuries, but certainly not where the Bulldogs intended to be when toe met leather in Clemson on Aug. 31.

 

Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @BarrettSallee or at bsallee@bleacherreport.com.

 


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