Saturday’s showdown between Georgia and Auburn will feature something of a role reversal from what was expected at the beginning of the season.
Instead of the Bulldogs battling for the opportunity to go to the SEC Championship Game and an outside chance at the national title game, it is the Tigers. And instead of Auburn finding itself mired in SEC mediocrity, it is Georgia that has already lost three times.
Read on for some critical storylines as each team attempts to improve its bowl positioning late in the year.
The Look-Ahead Factor
Auburn’s next game is against archrival Alabama. Regardless of records, the Iron Bowl is as big as it gets in college football, and this year the Tigers and Crimson Tide still control their own destiny for the SEC West.
Furthermore, Alabama still clearly controls its fate in the national title race. But if the Tigers were to upset the Tide, they would throw their own hat into the ring that is the chase for the crystal football.
While we as fans have the luxury of looking forward to that monumental clash, Auburn can’t afford to overlook Georgia. Yes, the Bulldogs have struggled to live up to expectations, but they still have one of the best signal-callers in SEC history in Aaron Murray and an absolute beast in running back Todd Gurley.
If the Tigers are caught looking ahead at all, Georgia will take advantage.
Auburn Rushing Attack vs. Vulnerable Georgia Defense
Between running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall, Auburn has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. In fact, it ranks third in the country in yards per game on the ground.
Marshall himself leads SEC quarterbacks in rushing yards (734) after dashing for 214 yards against Tennessee (which was the highest single-game total in the SEC this year). Mason seemed pedestrian in comparison with his 117 yards, but he ranks in the top five nationally in rushing touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball will be Georgia’s leaky defense, which held an opponent to less than 20 points for the first time all year with Saturday’s 45-6 pasting of lowly Appalachian State. The Bulldogs give up nearly 30 points a contest and allowed 38 to Clemson, 41 to LSU, 41 to Missouri and 31 to Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Look for plenty of lanes for Marshall and Mason Saturday.
Georgia’s Recent Domination
Auburn may be in a better position this year, but Georgia has dominated the head-to-head matchups recently.
The Bulldogs dismantled the Tigers last year 38-0 and have won six of the past seven contests against Auburn. There are plenty of players on the Tigers roster that have never beaten Georgia.
While previous results won’t have a direct impact on Saturday’s game, if the Bulldogs jump out to an early lead memories of recent losses could creep into Auburn’s psyche. If the Tigers want to head into their showdown with Alabama with a spot in the SEC title game still on the line, they must avoid any self doubt against Georgia Saturday.