After a seasonal illness sidelined last week’s effort, I am up and running for another edition of the regular compilation in which I interweave a smattering of statistical minutiae with a heaping helping of historical tidbits in a delightful mélange we like to call . . . Too Much Information.
- I don’t know about you, but I’m glad this is a road game. Auburn has an all-time winning record in the Classic City (18-10), Georgia has an all-time winning record in the Loveliest Village (13-9-2), and the ‘Dawgs have gone 5-2-1 on the Plains since 1992. Mark Richt is 29-4 on opponents’ home fields and his teams have a better record against the S.E.C. West on the road (9-2) than they do between the hedges (9-3).
- I, like MaconDawg, have come up with plenty of reasons to worry about our oldest rival, but here is one reassuring datum: Auburn is a much worse team in the second half than in the first two quarters. In fact, the Plainsmen get progressively (or, I guess, regressively) less dominant over the course of the game. The Tigers have outscored opponents 57-13 in the first quarter, but that advantage drops to 68-46 in the second stanza. Auburn has been outscored 50-41 in the third period and 54-29 in the final 15 minutes. All told, Tommy Tuberville’s team scores just over 64 per cent of its points before intermission yet allows just under 64 per cent of its opponents’ points after halftime.
- Last year, you might recall, Georgia won the Sugar Bowl. Historically, how the Bulldogs have fared in New Orleans at the end of one season has been a reliable indicator of how they will fare against the Plainsmen the following season. On the four occasions on which the Red and Black ended the season with a loss in the Big Easy---I’m sticking with New Orleans-based Sugar Bowls here, not the aberrational game in Atlanta---Georgia went 1-3 against Auburn in the ensuing season. However, in each of the three previous instances in which the ‘Dawgs capped off their campaign with a victory in the Sugar Bowl, the Classic City Canines were 3-0 against the Tigers in the season immediately following, by an average final margin of 26-9.
- Will the resistible force meet the movable object in Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend? Auburn ranks tenth in the league in scoring offense with 19.5 points per game. After the last three weeks, Georgia ranks eleventh in the conference in scoring defense with 24.9 points per game allowed. Of course, a Bulldog offense that ranks first in the S.E.C. in yards per game (436.8), first in yards per play (6.8), second in touchdowns scored (37), and second in points per game (32.6) ought to be able to overcome the Red and Black’s defensive deficiencies against a Tiger D that, despite boasting the league’s fourth-best scoring defense (16.3 points per game allowed), still gives up 305 yards per game and ranks ninth in the conference against the run.
- Earlier this autumn, Georgia won in Baton Rouge for the fifth time ever. In the four previous seasons in which the Bulldogs beat one set of S.E.C. Tigers in Death Valley (1948, 1952, 1978, and 1998), the Red and Black were 3-0-1 against the other set of S.E.C. Tigers from the Plains. Georgia held Auburn to 17 or fewer points in three of those four seasons.
- Here is by far my biggest area of concern: Auburn leads the league in kickoff returns, averaging 27.2 yards per runback. The Tigers are the only team in the conference to have returned more than one kickoff for a touchdown. The risk of a momentum-changing play on a return is distressingly high in this game. Hopefully, Georgia will be kicking off a lot, but, if the Plainsmen can be limited in the return game---and, by "limited," I just mean "kept inside the 30 most of the time"---the Auburn offense likely can be stifled. If the Tigers regularly are starting from midfield, though, even their anemic attack can get untracked.
The Feel Good Stat of the Week: Last year, Georgia scored 45 points against Auburn, marking the eighth time in series history that the Bulldogs have hung 37 or more points on the Plainsmen during regulation play. The previous seven times it happened were in 1930 (39 points), 1944 (49), 1946 (41), 1948 (42), 1951 (46), 1991 (37), and 2006 (37).
The last seven times the Red and Black took the field against the Tigers after having scored as many as 37 points against them in a 60-minute game the year before, Georgia posted a 6-0-1 record against Auburn. The Bulldogs held the Plainsmen to ten or fewer points five times in those seven games and never allowed more than 20 points to A.U.
The Bottom Line: None of what I just wrote matters. When these two rivals meet, logic, history, and experience go out the window. It’s Georgia-Auburn. It’s their way of life (or its equivalent) against ours. I hate Auburn.
My Prediction: Georgia 28, Auburn 17.
Go ‘Dawgs! Auburna delenda est!