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3 Things That Worry Me About Auburn

The Gus Bus stays home this week as our beloved Georgia Bulldogs travel to the loveliest little shanty on the Plains to face a top 10 Auburn squad who can play spoiler for the College Football Playoffs.  What, me worry? 

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:

1) Red Zone. According to official NCAA statistics, Georgia is not 100% in the red zone this season. The play in which Godwin fumbled last week against South Carolina started right at the 20 yard line, so that is the single blemish against an otherwise perfect record. Now that we have multiple scores out of the Wild Dawg, multiple scores with Fromm and the read-option, fades aplenty, not to mention Chubb, Michel, & Co. in the backfield, we’re practically guaranteed a TD once we smell paint. And with HotRod RecSpectacular booting the ball, we will definitely score. Against the stout Auburn defensive line, touchdowns might be more scarce, but I ike our chances to put points on the scoreboard.

2) Rush Defense. Kerryon Johnson is a load, but we should keep him below average. Sure he has a 5.2 ypc average, leads the SEC in rushing yardage, and like 15 rushing touchdowns. He is also known to have down games. 22 rushes for 75 yards vs. Clemson; 18 rushes for 48 yards vs. Missouri; 21 rushes for 63 yards vs. Arkansas. Even when he gets big yardage, it’s from tons of carries – 4 times this year he’s rushed 28 times or more. Yes he’s big, yes he’s fast, yes he’s patient and explosive. But I think our defensive alignment can neutralize him and the jet sweeps and Wild Tiglesman (of which I know not what they call it, but apparently Johnson will carry it every time).

3) Jake Fromm and The Moment. He’s played multiple sports, has been on big stages in both sports, and his competitive nature combined with being a solid, natural-born leader won’t let this stage affect his game performance. Auburn’s defensive line and secondary will be a bigger contributing factor, as will the Georgia offensive line. Fromm will Fromm, all day long. Some of it is awesome, some of it is freshman. We’ve succeeded because it has been mostly the former. I believe Chaney & Pittman will have worked in silent counts to counter the crowd noise, and even facing the #14 total defense nationally, the schemes employed to date are to make positive yardage against anyone.

Here are the three things that I AM worried about Saturday:

1) Pass Rush. Above I said we I think can handle their running game with a bend but don’t break strategy, though this is probably what Gus Malzahn wants. If you’re filling the running lanes, and keeping contain on the outside, it likely means you’re not getting deep into the passing pocket. And Georgia has only 17 sacks on the season. This means we must defend the pass, and Auburn is uniquely situated to exploit this, and have done so all season.

After the first 3 games (we’ll give them that since QB Jarrett Stidham is brand new to Auburn and the system), they’ve completed passes of 48 yards or longer the last 6 games (longs of 58, 57, 48, 52, 50, and 53 respectively). Stidham has only thrown 3 picks this year, and is pretty effective on the run. He’s not a Nick Fitzgerald with his legs, but he is very athletic and has extended plays all season long, looking to throw first when he scrambles. So without a consistent pressure and containment of the QB, the secondary will be severely tested, and at opportune times.

2) 3rd down defense. Auburn has a balanced offensive attack, very similar to Georgia. They eat up clock, control the ball, use the run to set up the pass, and like to hit the big play. But they do so with more motion, and with more tempo. It’s a dangerous combination for any defense to face.

Grantham jokes aside, we all saw some scary 3rd downs from the Red & Black defense last week. South Carolina converted on a 3rd and 10, a 3rd and 9, and a 3rd and 15 – all in the 1st half, all through the air. And it resulted in a touchdown. I’ll grant you that was their only touchdown, and I think they only converted 1 or 2 more 3rd downs, but 3rd and long should be the best chance of success. And Auburn’s offense is 13th best in the nation on the critical down and distance.

The Georgia defense allows an average of 60 plays per game. You could say the Georgia offense allows opponents 60 plays, but whatever. Auburn is used to running over 72 plays a game. That is almost 2 full possessions. So they play fast, and our defense will likely face the toughest test to date.

3) Leading scorer in SEC history. You know who used to be the SEC all-time leader in points? Georgia’s own Blair Walsh. You know who it is now? Daniel Carlson. The guy is All-American, and money. Heck, he’s 6’4 and 223 lbs. He used to punt as well as kick. Seems like Auburn has this guy every year. And guess who Auburn has in the background? His younger brother, a freshman, who was the nation’s highest rated kicker coming out of high school.

The game is pretty much a coin-flip according to odds makers, and if it comes down to kickers, Auburn might not have the edge, but they definitely have a weapon in Carlson.

What worries you about Saturday’s game between the sprinklers? Leave it in the comments below, and as always…