Another year, another Georgia win over Auburn. If you grew up through the 1980s and 1990s, it seems odd to think that Georgia continually beats Auburn given how back and forth the series was at that time. Since 2005, Auburn has beat Georgia just three times.
Yet another win was added to that tally with Saturday’s 34-10 win in Greater Opelika. Here’s a look back at the three keys to victory.
Out of the gate is key
Much has been made this week about this being Georgia’s first true road environment. In truth, it might be the toughest atmosphere Georgia faces all year. You can say that you’ll be ready for it, but this will be the most hostile environment for the Dawgs since....Auburn in 2019.
For that reason, Georgia cannot get overwhelmed early on. In simple terms, the first three offensive series are crucial. If Georgia fails to score on all three series, it’s time to worry. That’s why moving the ball early and quelling Auburn’s home advantage is key, especially on offense.
Frankly, Auburn shouldn’t have scored on its first drive...but the officials that Bo Nix claim ‘never give Auburn any breaks” absurdly ruled that a fumble was instead an intentional grounding penalty. As a result, the Tigers got a token three points...but didn’t get much else save for a second-half touchdown. The bottom line is that Auburn needed to move up and down the field multiple times early to take advantage of the home crowd and never did that.
Offensively, Georgia may have punted on its first drive, but it quieted the crowd from there, converting a short field into a field goal and driving more than 60 yards on its next two drives to lead 17-3 early in the second quarter, getting the Dawgs well on their way to a win.
Don’t let Nix extend plays
Even a t-shirt has been made about Bo Nix’s nonsensical run-around and find an open man play last week against LSU, and he has a track record of at times, extending a play to make a throw. That’s why wrapping up Nix when chances are there to do so is important. If not - a broken play could turn the game’s momentum.
There’s a school of thought that questions that maybe why Georgia didn’t blitz more. Nix’s ability to roll out, some of which you saw Saturday, is why. Nix was able to have a degree of elusiveness, but when Georgia’s speed, you didn’t see Nix extending plays ending up being too harmful. As a result, Georgia was able to key on what Auburn was doing offensively and limit the Tigers to 46 rushing yards. If you do that you’ll win lots of games in the SEC.
Don’t let special teams beat you
In a game like this, special teams can be a turning point. Auburn has proved that it can do that, being second in the conference in punt return yardage and one of three teams with a punt return for a touchdown. Georgia needs to avoid miscues on special teams, not only by not having a blown coverage on a return, but also needs to avoid the handful of mental miscues on pre-snap penalties. Plus, in a hostile environment, if the game is close, look for the kicking game to be magnified.
Most importantly, Auburn didn’t flip the game with a punt or kickoff return, first and foremost. Jack Podlesny pinned four of seven kickoffs in the end zone, none of the others had a significant return. He also hit two of three field goals, and the first of those was huge in terms of getting early points on the board, paving the way to a win.