The oldest rivalry still being regularly played in the southern U.S. has been a very even affair over the years, with the ledger currently sitting at 55-55-8. Recent history has been a bit more in favor of the side east of the Chattahoochee River, with the Dawgs taking all but 2 games from Auburn since 2006. Of course, both of those seasons saw Auburn play for a national title, so it hasn't been all bad for the Tigers.
After last year's Georgia squad beat the War Eagles like they stole something, this year's game on the Plains may have a different feel to it. That's because, well, Auburn doesn't have a QB who was actually accused of theft while in Athens, and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has been replaced by former Georgia S, Florida head coach, and Auburn DC Will Muschamp. For those who are fans of history, the last time the Rome native was running the Plainsmen's defense saw Georgia win both games scoring 37 and 45 points respectively.
In terms of players, the biggest change will be starting QB Jeremy Johnson. Where Marshall was elusive and an expert on the read option, the 6'5 mountain from Montgomery uses a cannon arm and has run for a combined 40 yards and 1 TD in backup duty over the last two seasons. And with targets like Duke Williams providing a potential top WR, combined with speedsters like Ricardo Louis, and former Georgia commitment Darius Slayton, the Malzahn offense will be able to air it out effectively, and arguably more often than we've ever seen from the Gus Bus.
That's in part because they lost almost 2500 rushing yards from last season with Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne graduating. Then again, the Malzahn offense has always found ways to open rushing lanes, returns 60 career starts along the offensive line (split among 3 juniors and a senior), and have a pair of former five star recruits to tote the ball in Roc Thomas and former Georgia Military RB Jovon Robinson. So while the offense should be a bit different than we've come to expect with Cam Newton and Nick Marshall taking snaps, it should still be highly productive and able to run the ball often and effectively.
The biggest problem Auburn had last season was on the defensive side of the ball, and that's what Muschamp has been brought in to correct. And despite poor results as a DC in this game, his defensive units have generally been among the best in the country over the last 10-15 years he's been doing this. And their 4-3 will be led by junior, and former Georgia commit (ht-whynot in the comments) Montravius Adams at DT, and a product of Alpharetta's Milton High School in Carl Lawson at DE. They'll also have another former Georgia commit, redshirt freshman DT Dontavius Russell to rely on next to Adams. If their main two stay healthy to allow the youth to develop, that's the makings of a very effective front 4. If those two get hurt though, then depth will become an issue has a mere 4 players who've taken snaps before for the Tigers.
Their youth up front will be offset some by a trio of senior LBs that played every game last year, led by Cassanova McKinzey and Kris Frost. Add in sophomore Tre' Williams after he got his feet wet last season, as well as safety being occupied by returning starter Johnathan Ford and former Georgia S Tray Matthews to make intermediate and deep middle of the field a strength for Auburn. CB returns senior Jonathan Jones, who had 6 picks last season and was named first team All-SEC by the league's coaches, with Michigan transfer Blake Countess and senior Joshua Holsey battling it out for the spot opposite him.
On special teams, sophomore Daniel Carlson handles all their kicking duties, and did so very well both as a punter and placekicker last year. But they will need to find a new return man with PR (and former Georgia commit) Quan Bray and KR Corey Grant graduated.
As you can guess, this game will ring close to home for a lot of participants. Auburn has a bevy of former Georgia commits on their roster, in addition to several others who played high school ball in Georgia. Auburn has Muschamp, and long time former Georgia DL coach Rodney Garner on their coaching staff. Meanwhile, Georgia's current DL coach is a former All-American for Auburn and one of their all-time greats in Tracey Rocker.
This game is never one for the predictable, so a score prediction won't be made here. But in conclusion, and for our founder, Auburna delenda est!