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Opponent Preview: Auburn Tigers

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Game 123 of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry

SEC Championship - Auburn v Georgia
A chase is a race y’all!
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Minutiae:

Game Day Location: Sanford Stadium, Athens, GA

2017 Record: 10-4 (7-1, 2nd in SEC West)

Head Coach: Gus Malzahn, 5th season (45-22, .672)

In case you’ve forgotten, the WarEaglePlainsTiglesmen made their way to last year’s SEC Championship Game by beating then No 1. Alabama, and gave our beloved Classic City Canines their only loss for the year two weeks before.

Why This Game Matters: It’s the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry; nearly as old as College Football itself. These two teams have met on the gridiron 122 times. Because it’s 181 miles, stadium to stadium. Because:

Because The Prayer at Jordan Hare. Because we’re only up by 2 games in the all-time series. Most importantly, this game matters because Auburn Delenda Est!

Top Tiger on Offense: Jarrett Stidham was a 4 or 5 star recruit out of high school depending on the service you believe. He committed to Baylor where he was the backup to Seth Russell until Russell was injured in the 7th game. After much of the Baylor Coaching staff was terminated, he transferred to McLennan Community College for one semester before landing at Auburn where he was named starting QB in August 2017. For the 2017 season he completed 246 of 370 passes for 3,158 yards, 18 touch downs and 6 interceptions. He ran for an additional 4 touchdowns. Where he really excels is throwing to the middle of the field with great accuracy. He’s 92.2% accurate throwing from behind the LOS hitting his target 94 times out of 102 attempts for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns without a single interception. Folks that’s dangerous.

The rest of the Offense: The good news is Auburn is not returning their star running back, Kerryon Johnson. Stepping up to fill the void are Junior Kam Martin and Freshman JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow. Last year Kam averaged 6.1 yards per carry in 74 attempts with a long run of 61 yards.

The Auburn Receiving Corp is not so depleted. Expect Ryan Davis to be the go to receiver for Stidham after breaking the Auburn all-time reception record in a single season. Last year he led the SEC with 84 catches averaging 9.7 yards per catch and 5 touch downs. He’s currently on the watch list for best WR in college football. With the loss of Kerryon, I expect to see lots of Stidham sending short passes to Davis up the middle. When they want the long ball, Norcross native, Darius Slayton will be the likely target. Just take a look at this from last year’s regular season game:

Defense: In their preview of this year’s defensive line, College & Magnolia said, “It may be a more appropriate use of everyone’s time if I just posted a bunch of videos of police attack dogs mauling burglars, but for those who don’t enjoy watching such carnage, you can just watch our men up front mauling opposing offenses.” Leading the group are nose tackle Dontavius Russell and defensive tackle Derrick Brown. In last year’s game Jake Fromm was sacked 4 times, these two accounted for 1.5 of those sacks, including Jake’s only fumble of the game. They also accounted for 1.5 of the 2 sacks Jake took in the SECCG.

The best news of the defense, Auburn’s losing 4 in safeties Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts, corner Carlton Davis and Pass Rusher Jeff Holland. We can expect some regression in the pass defense as a result. Russell and Brown will look to pick up the slack in Run Defense.

Season Outlook: Bill Connelly is predicting a 9-3 season for Auburn, expecting Losses to Washington, Alabama and Georgia. However, he only has our game at 55% probable win for us in this rivalry, which is far too close for my personal Southern Comfort. 247 Sports agrees on the 9-3 season and only gives them a 33% chance of winning our game. Athlon has them behind Alabama for the East and heading to the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. In other words, the talking heads think they have a good but not quite great season. Auburn fans won’t be happy if the predicted losses to their two main rivals who go one to play each other in the SECCG are true.

What will happen on November 10? I’m going to just guess Kirby Smart has this game circled on his calendar and has since November 11, 2017. Yes, I know, we beat them 28-7 in the SECCG last year. I still have the paper handout from after the game taped up in my office, just so my Columbus-raised, orange-wearing boss can see it every.single.day. He’s remembering the Sacks, the Fumble, the way they got in our backfield and he’s reminding every player and every coach that we lost 40-17. We absolutely cannot sleep on Auburn.

I’m counting on Coach Smart to have the team ready to fight, scratch, bite and claw their way to the W. Dawgs 21,000, Tigers 7, (maybe.)

Go Dawgs!