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3 Things That Worry Me About Auburn

Samford v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Here is what I’m NOT worried about the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry:

1) The complaints around the “coming off a bye” stuff. The 2019 Georgia Bulldogs are once again facing an opponent that had a bye week immediately prior. It seems 4 other teams had the same scheduling whimsy. My response: so what?

With restrictions on when practice and games can begin and end, there are only so many weeks available for college football. Built in are (usually) 2 bye weeks. Your conference, in our case the braintrust in Birmingham, dictates which conference games you will play and when. The SEC now has requirements on your out of conference opponent choices. With all those factors, schools have limited leeway to choose a bye week. With only 3 or 4 dates to choose from, would you not also plan your rest week to heal at strategic points, wiggling a bit to rest players before you face a stout opponent? Most schools face a similar decision surrounding the Homecoming game selection. I’ll consider it a badge of honor.

2) Rushing touchdowns allowed. So far we’ve blanked all 9 opponents when they try to carry the ball over the goal line without the benefit of the forward pass. The Georgia coaching staff has even changed up the substitutions trying to protect this little nugget. I know the players are proud, and carry this around like a… okay, a badge of honor… and it’s a Bulldog Point of Pride.

This is Guz Malzahn, folks. He of the muddle huddle, halfback pass, quintuple reverse (I made that up), and all manner of trickery. I totally see the Auburn offense flipping and pitching the pigskin all over the place, and keeping a rush out of the end zone is nothing in the grand scheme. The main thing is the main thing, and winning the contest is the only thing. Heck, I’d let them run the ball at will if it runs the clock and helps Georgia secure the victory. It’s like ordering the engine block heater option for your spankin’ new Z71 from your local Chevy dealer in Folkston. Nice to have, but you’re not gonna need it at the end of the day.

3) Keep the pace. At least for this week. And maybe next. If the strength of our team is our defense, we don’t want to burden that squad with more time on the field and facing more plays than necessary. Our offense is pedestrian, and by that I mean that we walk it up to the line of scrimmage and there is little hurry-up between snaps. We might huddle, we might not, but Georgia is going to take it’s sweet time to get aligned, put in a motion or two, let Jake read the apparent coverage and possibly audible. That can take time, and the Georgia M.O. is presumably to do all of those things.

We are who we are, no need to make a drastic change when we have so much on the line and it’s proving successful more often than not. And one of the reasons our defense is highly ranked is that we control the clock on offense and keep the number of drives, and opportunities, to a minimum. Which keeps our defense fresh, and prevents the other team from building rhythm (and many modern offenses use rhythm and pace).

Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I am worried about as we visit the loveliest little privy on the plains:

1) The Auburn D linemen aren’t just good, they’re veteran. They’ve faced Alabama every year, LSU every year, faced the spreads, the power runs, NFL linemen, and very good SEC linemen. They’ve faced mobile quarterbacks, and they’ve faced every type of running back and blocking scheme. They been in big games. They are for real.

Brown and Davidson are the senior anchors, so I took a peek at their stats. I’ve seen just a few Auburn games on TV, but you don’t have to be a genius to concede “they pass the eye test.” Derrick Brown is averaging 4 sacks a year the last 3 season, over 9 tackles for loss, and about 24 solo tackles (you can double that number for his total tackles). Marlon Davidson has almost identical production. Junior Big Kat Bryant isn’t too far behind. Throw in Junior Tyrone Truesdell as the 4th in the mix. Their combined production has helped AU to essentially top 25 defenses the last 3 years: #27 and #20 in tackles for loss; #21, #32, #35 in rush yards per game; and #37, #16, and #25 in defensive sacks. These guys have NFL written all over them.

Surprisingly, the four have combined for 1.5 tackles for loss against UGA the last 3 years, no sacks, and only about 4 tackles per game. They are due. Will our banged-up and duct-taped offensive line keep this trend on the red&black side of the ledger? (Mixed metaphor I know).

2) Bo Knows Nix. But which one will show up? He’s a different quarterback at home, and Auburn does special stuff at home. The kid, and yes, he’s still a kid, doesn’t have much history but here’s what we do know.

In the stadium known as Jordan Hare, Bo Nix spins it for almost 270 a game and a QB rating of 150+. He’s completing almost 66% of his passes and has over 1,000 yards at 8.8 per attempt and zero interceptions. Not bad for a freshman, not bad at all.

Outside the confines of fiends, Bo seems to wear the wrong wristband. He’s completing just over 48%, only getting to about 156 yards through the air, and has thrown 6 picks in 5 games. Maybe those are the games Gus is ghost-negotiating the Chad Morris buyout? I don’t know, but I fear the good Bo is the one Georgia faces Saturday. Auburn ranks 51st in total offense, but that’s higher than any power five conference opponent Georgia has faced this season.

3) Crank ‘dat. Somehow Auburn can crank it up against Georgia. Sure we’re batting over .700 against them the last decade and a half or so. But those losses have been painful, and November 2017 still rankles me. Did it derail our season? I guess not since we made overtime of the National Championship game. Did we get revenge? Sure – first in Atlanta a few weeks later, then in Athens last season.

But we lost to Auburn, when favored, on their field, when we needed to take care of business. We got pantsed. I still have nightmares about Kerryon “My Wayward” Johnson running all over us, and Darius Slayton slipping behind our coverage. Both are gone now, but they have a seriously fast wideout in Anthony Schwartz, and Georgia #1 DB Tyson Campbell has turf toe. We have a 3 game edge in the historical series. I never want to have a losing record to Auburn, and I’d like to build on that buffer if we can.

Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the 124th meeting between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the <<(context, source_url); std: :endl;return Pat_Dye)>> of the University of Auburn.

And as always…