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Friday, November 12, 2010

Who has the edge: Georgia or Auburn?

We interrupt the Cam Newton saga to bring you your regularly scheduled matchups post. Yes apparently there is a game of some magnitude happening this weekend. You should check it out.

McClatchy partner Seth Emerson, the Georgia beat writer for the Macon Telegraph, contributed the Bulldogs portions of these matchups.

One quick note: a lot of this is conditional on whether quarterback Cam Newton's status changes before gametime. So keep that in mind.

Georgia at No. 2 Auburn
  • When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium
  • TV: CBS
  • Records: Georgia 5-5, 3-4 SEC; Auburn 10-0, 6-0 SEC
Georgia passing game vs. Auburn secondary
A.J. Green will get plenty of attention, and deservedly so. Georgia hopes that opens up single-coverage opportunities for tight end Orson Charles and receivers like the speedy Tavarres King and 6-foot-4 Kris Durham. Quarterback Aaron Murray has only thrown six interceptions this year, and lost just one fumble. Odds are he will have to be mistake-free if Georgia is going to have a chance. Auburn hopes the return of cornerback T’Sharvan Bell from a hamstring injury will be a boost to a secondary that has struggled to stop the pass. The Tigers are allowing 241.3 yards per game in the air, 11th in the SEC. Cornerbacks Neiko Thorpe and Demond Washington have played better since the Arkansas debacle, but they haven’t faced a passing game as good as the Bulldogs’ since then. Edge: Georgia.
Georgia running backs vs. Auburn linebackers
Washaun Ealey (589 yards in nine games) and Caleb King (335 yards in six games) will start out in a rotation, with the smaller Carlton Thomas (254 yards in nine games) sprinkled in. Then Georgia will ride the hot hand. The question is whether any of them will get hot. Georgia has had trouble getting any consistency or burst from its tailbacks. Auburn’s linebackers won’t make it easy. Josh Bynes leads the team with 55 tackles. Craig Stevens had arguably his three best games against Arkansas, LSU and Ole Miss (23 tackles, 1 TFL). And Daren Bates appears to be ready to return from a shoulder injury that’s kept him out the last two weeks. Edge: Auburn.
Georgia offensive line vs. Auburn defensive line
Georgia’s front five has been better lately, but still not as consistent as expected from a veteran unit. It’s given up 17 sacks this year, and been blamed for allowing pressure on some of Murray’s interceptions — like the overtime pick against Florida. Center Ben Jones and left guard Cordy Glenn, both juniors, will have their hands full with Nick Fairley, a Lombardi Award finalist who has been unblockable this year. He leads the SEC with 18 tackles for a loss and is second with 7.5 sacks. Fellow tackle Zach Clayton has played at a high level all year, despite minimal attention. The Tigers would like see more production from their ends, especially Antoine Carter, who hasn’t had a sack since the Kentucky game. But Fairley alone pushes the needle in Auburn’s favor here. Edge: Auburn.
Auburn passing game vs. Georgia secondary
Yes, it was against FCS competition, but the Tigers’ receivers looked on their game against Chattanooga last week, making plays nearly every time they had a chance. Terrell Zachery had a career-high seven catches for 148 yards. Darvin Adams caught two touchdowns. Emory Blake was solid as usual. And tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen is expected to be back after sitting out a game with an unknown injury. If Newton is the one throwing them the ball, all the better. The Bulldogs secondary has been the weakness of the defense this year, mainly because of big plays. But they’ve started picking off more passes lately, which would seem to be a necessity if Auburn’s offense is to be stopped. Freshman safety Alec Ogletree is expected to get a second straight start, but the bigger key should be Georgia’s speedy corners, and how close they keep up with Adams and company. Edge: Auburn.
Auburn running backs vs. Georgia linebackers
Mike Dyer has become the go-to running back Auburn envisioned when it signed him last February. The freshman had 356 rushing yards and two touchdowns the last three weeks. He’s averaged 6.5 yards per carry the last five games. Onterio McCalebb remains a speed threat to the outside who has broken long touchdown runs in each of the last three games. But the key remains Newton. If he plays, that’s another huge running threat for the Bulldogs to try to stop, something nobody has done yet. Georgia’s Justin Houston leads the SEC in sacks, but his run defense could be more critical at Auburn. Houston and his fellow edge rushers, Cornelius Washington and Darryl Gamble, will spend a lot of time on the outside, monitoring Newton, Dyer and company. Up the middle, Akeem Dent is third in the SEC in tackles, while the other spot is a rotation of the more physical Marcus Dowtin and the heady Christian Robinson. Edge: Auburn.
Auburn's offensive line vs. Georgia defensive line
To put in perspective how well Auburn’s front five have done, consider this: the last time the Tigers didn’t run for more than 300 yards against an SEC foe was Sept. 9. That’s a streak of five games, the longest in school history. Seniors Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Ryan Pugh and Byron Isom have been on their game ever since head coach Gene Chizik challenged them following the Clemson game. There’s no reason to believe that will change today. The Bulldogs’ front three has had a fairly anonymous season, often getting swallowed up as they sacrifice to allow the linebackers room to make plays. Nose tackle DeAngelo Tyson will be asked to play nearly a full game if backup Kwame Geathers (ankle sprain) is limited or can’t play. Edge: Auburn.
Georgia return units vs. Auburn coverage teams
Georgia’s Brandon Boykin is 22 kickoff yards away from the school record, and has four touchdown returns to his credit — two of them from 100 yards. He should get plenty of chances to break the record, unless Auburn keeps kicking away from him. The Bulldogs’ punt return unit has been solid but inconsistent, mostly due to the injuries to Branden Smith, who will be healthy for this one. Auburn had been solid on kick returns all year until a hiccup last week against Chattanooga, when it allowed a 98-yard return for a touchdown. With Boykin and the Tigers’ punting problems, though, this is an easy one. Edge: Georgia.
Auburn return units vs. Georgia coverage teams
Auburn ranks first in the SEC in kick return yards, but Georgia’s kick return unit ranks first in the SEC. Washington, who returned a kick for a touchdown last year at Georgia, had one two weeks ago against Ole Miss. McCalebb is also a threat. The punt return game is a question mark, though. Quindarius Carr muffed one against Chattanooga, which might open the door for Adams, who has only returned one punt in a game. Georgia punter Drew Butler’s poor start is long forgotten, and he now ranks second in the league at 45.2-yards per attempt. He was named a semifinalist Friday for the Ray Guy award, which he won last year. Edge: Push.
Georgia’s Blair Walsh is both consistent (17-for-20 this year) and long, tying his career-high with a 53-yarder last week. Auburn’s Wes Byrum has similar numbers (15-for-19) and has missed once in the last six weeks. Edge: Push.
Georgia’s Mark Richt is hoping his players kept their heads down and avoided hearing much of the Newton drama. And he has had success in the series, beating Auburn four times in a row. His offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has been criticized by fans, but as Richt pointed out this week, the Bulldogs have set a school record with five straight 30-point games. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will have to decide today to play a bend-but-not-break strategy, or be as attacking and aggressive as he wants in the 3-4. At Auburn, Chizik has spent the week deflecting rumors but has refused to get bogged down by the Newton issue, refusing to answer questions about the matter. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is enjoying one of his best years as a play-caller and seems to have found a comfort level with this group, which has scored 50 or more points five times this year and is sixth nationally in total offense (509.2 ypg). Edge: Push.
So much hangs in the balance for Auburn, and so much rides on if anything happens between now and gametime that would affect Newton’s eligibility. With him, the Tigers’ offense seems unstoppable. Without him, Auburn seems mortal. Georgia, despite its record, is no slouch. The Bulldogs are 5-0 when scoring first in games and 0-5 when they haven’t, so the first quarter could determine the direction of this game. If Newton plays, though, even a fast start isn’t going to do much to slow Auburn down. Prediction: Auburn 38, Georgia 31.


Tar Heel Tiger said...

"The Bulldogs are 5-0 when scoring first in games and 0-5 when they haven’t"

Wow. That's a pretty dependable statistic. I hope AU wins the toss.

brian said...

think au gets pissed off! au 49-ga 17

Anonymous said...

there's a game tomorrow?

MikeP said...

The atmosphere at Jordan-Hare stadium will be the most electric since Bammer came for the first time in 1989.

There is no reason to think Newton won't play. All this disturbance depends on the word of Kenny Rogers, whose statements yesterday were in complete disagreement with what he said last Friday. The NCAA has been on this for months and has NOT advised Auburn to sit Newton out. If they were going to, they would have done that in August.

I believe UGA's scoring first in their five wins has more to do with those opponents having a combined 13-33 record, with none of them being over .500, than any mo-jo about who scores first. You are likely to score first against bad teams.


I wouldn't go to MSU for $180 grand either said...

Interesting side note the the Cam Saga, some Auburn fans may actually cheer for Alabama tomorrow against Miss State! What is the world coming to??

CHB said...

Hey THT, do I know you?

I will not cheer for UAT, ever!

ZebulonDawg said...

Hey Cam! Meet Justin Houston!
Dawgs win 34 - 28!

brian said...

lol you have hit your damn head!

Anonymous said...


Tar Heel Tiger said...

I'm ashamed to admit, the thought of hoping msu lost this weekend did cross my mind for a nanosecond earlier this week. But no, I could never cheer for ua-t. I want them to lose every game they play. And then I want the school to be swallowed into the depths of Sheol from which it came.

Anonymous said...

I like Cam's chances against Justin Houston. I'll bet $200k Cam's faster. Just sayin'.