Auburn Football: Previewing the Georgia Game

Matthew BrennanCorrespondent IINovember 8, 2011

Auburn Football: Previewing the Georgia Game

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    The No. 24 Auburn Tigers hit the road on Saturday to face the No. 14 Georgia Bulldogs.

    The action kicks off from Sanford Stadium at 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will air on CBS.

    Auburn enters the game off of a bye week after defeating Ole Miss, while the Bulldogs easily handled New Mexico State in a non-conference game.  

    Georgia has won seven straight games after starting the season 0-2. The Bulldogs will win the SEC East if they manage to win their last two conference games.

The Opponent: Georgia Bulldogs

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    Many wrote off Mark Richt after the Bulldogs started the season 0-2, but he’s righted the ship with his team ripping off seven straight wins.

    Georgia is led by talented quarterback Aaron Murray, the latest in a long string of talented Bulldogs signal callers. The sophomore can tie Matthew Stafford’s school record of 25 touchdown passes in a season if he finds a target in the end zone on Saturday. Murray is currently the SEC’s active leader with 5,109 yards passing and 47 touchdowns.

    Running back Isaiah Crowell, one of the top freshmen in the nation, returns after missing a game due to suspension. Crowell leads the Bulldogs with 689 yards and four touchdowns.

    The Bulldogs’ defense is led by outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who leads the SEC with eight sacks. Other defensive impact players to watch are cornerback Brandon Boykin and safety Bacarri Rambo. Rambo is second in the nation with six interceptions.

Tigers vs. Bulldogs

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    The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will be playing its 115th edition on Saturday. The Tigers and the Bulldogs have met every year since 1944.

    Georgia has won six of the last 10 meetings, but Auburn leads the overall series by a margin of 54-52-8.

    Surprisingly, Auburn is 18-11 in Athens and has won six of the last 10 games played between the hedges. The Tigers are also 9-4 against ranked teams under Gene Chizik.

SEC East, Bowl Positioning in the Balance

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    South Carolina’s loss last week puts the Bulldogs in charge of their own destiny in the SEC East. A win over Auburn and Kentucky next week will put the Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Georgia can also book a trip to Atlanta no matter Saturday’s outcome if South Carolina loses to Florida.

    Auburn is out of the running for the SEC West crown, but the Tigers are looking to book a bowl trip for the third straight year under Gene Chizik. A win over Georgia will be crucial for bowl positioning, with No. 4 Alabama the only FBS team remaining on the schedule.

    Auburn is the sixth ranked SEC team heading into Saturday, and some likely bowl destinations include the Chick-fil-A, versus an ACC opponent, or the Capital One, Outback, and Gator Bowls against teams from the Big Ten.

Teams Renew Chippy Rivalry

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    These two teams return to the field after last year’s meeting saw some action after the whistle in a 49-31 Auburn victory. Two Auburn players were ejected after taking swings at Georgia players towards the end of the game.

    “Unfortunately, some things happened last year we wish didn’t,” Gene Chizik said in his weekly press conference. “But the bottom line is, we’re always trying to do things the right way. I don’t expect it to be an issue this year.”

    “Everyone kind of thought it was a friendlier rivalry up until last year,” Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said to WarEagleExtra. “We know they remember that from last year, and we remember them kind of coming after us towards the end.”

Clint Moseley Looking for First Road Win

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    The Tigers look to be sticking with Clint Moseley after he threw four touchdown passes in the win over Ole Miss. Moseley is looking for his first win on the road after the offense struggled in his debut at LSU.

    Moseley has gone from backup to team leader in a few short weeks, and seems to have earned his teammates’ respect.

    “The Clint I knew last year, he was laid-back, chilling, never saying nothing,” wide receiver Trovon Reed said to WarEagleExtra. “Now, when you’re not doing something right, Clint’s on you.”

    It will be intriguing to see how Moseley performs this week in a hostile environment. He will be feeling the pressure to prove that his performance against Ole Miss was more than just a result of weak competition.

Aaron Murray Will Test Auburn Defense

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    Auburn might be facing their most talented quarterback yet in Murray, who is rewriting the Georgia record books. He enters on a high note after tossing five touchdowns against New Mexico State.

    The Bulldogs lost standout wide receiver A.J. Green to the NFL, so this year they are getting the job done by committee with nine different players catching touchdown passes. Murray has found tight end Orson Charles and wideout Tavarres King for five touchdowns each.

    “I want to say they have thrown for 25 touchdowns, that’s not by accident. He lives up to the billing…” said Chizik about Murray’s talent.

    Auburn is ranked ahead of only Ole Miss in the SEC in giving up passing yardage, so expect Murray to have a big day barring some major adjustments by the Tigers.

Michael Dyer Moving Up the Ranks

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    Sophomore running back Michael Dyer is having another excellent season, and he will be looking to pass the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year on Saturday. Dyer needs 11 yards to join James Brooks, Stephen Davis, and Cadillac Williams as Auburn players to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

    Dyer also needs 182 yards to move into the top 10 in school history. As usual, he should get a heavy workload against the Bulldogs. Georgia will be a challenge, as they are the only SEC team besides Alabama and LSU that allows less than 100 rushing yards per game with 91.1.

Healthy Blake Ready to Find End Zone

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    A welcome addition to the offense has been senior wide receiver Emory Blake. The passing attack seemed to sputter when Blake went to the sidelines with an ankle injury, but he returned to form against Ole Miss with five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

    The Tigers are 11-1 when Blake scores a touchdown during his career. He is tied for fifth in the SEC this season with five touchdown receptions.

Freeman Stepping Up on Defense

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    The Auburn defense has had it’s issues this year, with the Tigers searching for impact players other than breakout star Corey Lemonier.

    One player who seems to be coming on over the second half of the season is linebacker Eltoro Freeman. The senior has recorded 19 tackles over his last two games after recording 18 to start the season.

    Freeman, who has also recorded 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks over the last two games, will be looking to continue to produce against Georgia.  

Prediction: Georgia 35, Auburn 28

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    I feel that the home-field advantage and a red-hot Aaron Murray will be too much for Auburn on Saturday.

    The Bulldogs will fend off the Tigers and clinch the SEC East with a narrow victory.