Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Saturday’s home opener against Auburn:
1) You Shall Not Run. You might pass, but I really don’t see a running game from Auburn. We gave up 77 yards on the ground last week, with arguably a better back than Auburn trots out. The Tigers rushed 30 times for 91 yards last week, and the quarterback was the leading rusher. That’s usually not indicative of a strong running game, unless you’re Lynn Bowden, Lamar Jackson, or Michael Vick. Bo Nix hasn’t quite gotten to that level yet. And neither Bo Jackson, Cadillac Williams, nor Kerryon “My Wayward John”-son is in the backfield behind him.
2) Special teams that are special. Arkansas was able to return one kickoff, and that for only 10 yards. Jake Camarda punted 7 times for essentially a 50 yard average, didn’t have any returned, and pinned 4 inside the 10 yard line. But what I really want to highlight is Jack Podlesny. His only missed kick was solid and barely doinked off the right upright – and, thanks to a timely Arkansas timeout, was a breakfast ball. All his other kicks were true, had plenty of leg, and the kid looked good doing it. Watch out, Lou Groza. Auburn has been turning out NFL kickers and punters with regularity too, so I know “Hot Pod” is ready to show his stuff.
3) Field position was good. Doing something with it wasn’t so good. But with those kick coverage teams we saw last week, with those turnovers, with our kick return potential… I like our chances of at least starting our offense with a good chance to score. Our defense and special teams can really let our offense mature, learn the new playbook, and develop some chemistry. We’re going to need it.
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:
1) Playing Auburn earlier than November. I believe this is the first time since 1936 we have faced the Tigers before the 11th calendar month of the year. Just when Georgia seems to have Auburn’s number (we’ve all seen how the series has been trending), things are shaken up and somehow Auburn/Georgia got pulled out of the bottom of the SEC scheduling jar first.
I’ve been unsettled since late February. Things both big and small happen that harken to tradition and normalcy, but then weird s**t occurs out of the blue (and/or orange). So I can’t seem to get settled, to get any mental traction on what’s happening all around. The game last week really put me in a great mood because of the looks, the smells, the sounds, and the win. But having to face Auburn so early in the season? Man, just more weird 2020 juju and I don’t like it.
2) Bend but don’t break. Auburn let Kentucky keep possession of the ball for over 36 minutes last week. The Wildcats racked up almost 400 yards of offense. UK only had to punt 4 times. Auburn let the Kentucky offense manufacture 5 separate drives of 10 plays or more. But only allowed scores on 2 of them. The others ended in turnovers – one on downs, one on a fumble, and one on an interception. Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele might have lost some front 4 talent to the NFL, but he is not letting the opposing offense get behind him. And I don’t think we have the offensive chemistry to play that much long ball, and not enough consistency to finish long drive after long drive. Todd Monken needs to get our playmakers in space, and those playmakers need to get a nose for the end zone.
3) Lookin’ good comin’ off the bus. Let’s face it, we have some good lookin’ home unis. We have some physical specimens – Darnell Washington comes to mind – that will intimidate anyone. The sun will set before kickoff, so the ESPN coverage should be able to catch the light show that Sanford Stadium will surely put on. But just because we look good doesn’t mean that we will play good. I’d like to say that a night game at home against Auburn has produced some good tape for Kirby to show his charges. And UGA has played well on the biggest stages the last few years. So maybe PWG and “because… Georgia” and the like can be put to bed.
Yet no matter who gets named the starter under center will feel some nerves and Auburn will not be a shrinking violet – they will be ready and are hungry for an upset. We simply cannot afford the execution errors and penalties from last week and get away with it against a much better, and much deeper, Tiger team.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about our first season between the Bulldogs of Georgia and the WarPlainsTiglesMen of Auburn.
And as always…