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Georgia Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers: Preview and Pick
Georgia Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers: Preview and Pick
The biggest game in the SEC for week 12 in the college football season is the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers continued their Cinderella season with a win over the Tennessee Volunteers and they continue to cruise toward the end of the season and a big game with the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl. Before that big game, however they have to stay focused when they host the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers Odds
The college football odds for this game will move around due to heavy betting volume leading up to kickoff. In a very big game it is often the money that cause the point spread in the game to move. Make sure to check with your top rated online sportsbook for the latest line before making a wager on this game.
The Bulldogs had an easy tune up win before heading into this game. Quarterback Aaron Murray threw a pair of touchdown passes to set the SEC career record, and Georgia broke open a close game with a dominant second half to beat Appalachian State and now will focus squarely on Auburn. The last time a Bulldog was the NCAA’s all-time career leader in a major statistical category was nearly a half-century ago. No, not even the great Herschel Walker accomplished as much, finishing his Georgia career in 1982 third in NCAA history in both career rushing yards and career rushing yards per game. Now they will hope to put up points against an Aubrun team that can run the rock.
Nick Marshall’s 214 rushing yards marked just the 25th time an Auburn player has rushed for 200 or more yards, and the first time since Cam Newton rushed for 217 yards against LSU in 2010. Auburn also scored on a kickoff return and a punt return which is the first time the Tigers have ever done both in the same game -- and set an NCAA single-game record by averaging 44.85 yards on seven combined kickoff and punt returns. The Tigers have one only loss this season and that was a road game against the LSU.
If they can carry over the momentum from the Volunteers win and beat the Bulldogs, the Iron Bowl will be the next big hurdle for this team. The Tigers have gone from worst to first and are still hungry.
Georgia Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers Pick
With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.
Balance has been one of the primary goals for the Auburn offense this season. But with dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall and tailback Tre Mason running all over back-to-back SEC foes on the road, the Tigers have all but abandoned the pass game.
No. 7 Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC) ran for 444 yards — a program record in SEC play — in its 55-23 romp of Tennessee on Saturday. The Tigers ran 53 times, including 14 carries for 214 yards by Marshall — the most by any SEC player this season and tied for third-highest by a quarterback in program history.
“Balance is taking what the defense give you; plain and simple,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “Just about every time we called a run, we were getting 8-12 yards a play. … You throw someone off when they’re onto you, or they’re stopping what you’re doing. You achieve balance when they are stopping what you’re doing in the run game, now I’ve got to throw it to stay balanced so now they can back up and we can run it more.
“The way we were running the ball, there was no need to do anything other than run the ball. That’s just that plain and simple.”
Marshall went 3-for-7 for 35 yards with a touchdown in the least productive passing game by a Gus Malzahn coached college team. Auburn has attempted just 16 passes the last two weeks and has run 99 times — more than 86 percent of the time.
“If we throw it seven or nine times the rest of the way, we’re going to be winning games; because what that means is we’re running the football and nobody’s stopping it,” Lashlee said. “It would probably have been poor coaching to start doing something other than what was working. There was no design to running as much as we did other than it was what was working, it’s what we stuck with and we just feel like that’s a good thing.”
As a matter of perspective, Lashlee, who played quarterback for Malzahn for two years at Shiloh Christian (Ark.) said the fewest passes he ever attempted in a game was 12.
The lack of passing as of late is not the least bit concerning to Lashlee or Malzahn, who both pointed to the outrageously strong results.
Marshall has 734 yards rushing, already fourth-highest by a quarterback in program history. He’s a long way from 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton’s record 1,473 yards, but becoming just the third Tigers signal caller to top 1,000 rushing yards is a possibility.
“What we really like to do is we have our core system, but we like to play to the strengths of our players and when we have a guy that is dynamic and can do both, then we’re going to do that,” Lashlee said. “Obviously Cam was that, and Nick has proven he can be that to some degree. I think any time, but definitely right now in the climate we’re in, in football, a dual threat or a quarterback that can hurt the defense with their feet is giving defenses problems.”
Marshall’s career performance, which included a season-long 62-yard run and two touchdowns, and Mason’s 20 carries for 117 yards and three scores helped improve Auburn’s rushing average to 320 yards per game, third nationally. Mason, whose 16 rushing touchdowns lead the SEC, said he and Marshall are a “dynamic duo” in the backfield.
“He’s a great athlete,” Malzahn said of Marshall. “He’s starting to understand the offense, he’s making the right decisions, and when he gets the ball out in space, he can really do some things.”
Marshall has been lethal on zone read plays all season, and Saturday was no different.
“I was able to get out to the edge and make plays with my legs,” he said.
The junior college transfer is averaging 81.6 rushing yards, fifth-highest by a quarterback nationally and the most by any in a power conference.
“We feel like if you can get Nick one-on-one with someone out in space,” Lashlee said, “we’re going to win more of those battles than we lose.”
Georgia is heading back to the Plains for the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to face an Auburn team that has gone from feeble to formidable.
Under first-year Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn, Auburn has flipped the script from 3-9 last year to 9-1 this year. The No. 7 Tigers are doing it by running and running and running.
“When you’re running the football, just keep doing it,” Malzahn said after his team ran the ball on 53 of 60 plays in its 55-23 beatdown at Tennessee on Saturday. “That’s kind of who we’re developing into. I still believe we can throw the football. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can, but when you don’t have to, there’s a pretty good feeling.”
Behind quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason, the Tigers rank third in the nation in rushing at 320 yards per game. Marshall, a former Georgia cornerback who was dismissed in 2012, rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.
Georgia pitched a 38-0 shutout at Auburn last season, and because of the quirks of SEC scheduling after expansion, the Bulldogs are crossing over the border for the second year in a row.
The teams haven’t met at the same site in consecutive years since the game was held annually in Columbus from 1916-58, except for one year. The Bulldogs have won six of the last seven.
Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC) clinched the SEC East last year at Auburn and needs to upset the Tigers to remain alive in the East race this year.
Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC) is off this week but will go to Atlanta for the league title game if it wins at Ole Miss and at home against Texas A&M. The Tigers also would win a three-way tiebreaker with Georgia and South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) based on division record.
Auburn, which is 5-1 in league play, still controls its destiny in the SEC West with a home date against Alabama still remaining.
Its 444 rushing yards Saturday was the 12th largest rushing output this season by an FBS team, and Auburn holds three of the top 15 totals.
The Tigers have gone from 115th last year in total offense to 14th this year (493.3), from 112th in scoring to 17th (38.6) and from 78th in rushing to third (320.0).
“They’re believing and they’re playing with confidence right now,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Their personnel probably fits better to what they do now relative to what they did last year. I think that’s a good example of how it’s important to get the right people into your system.”
Malzahn was offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik from 2009-11, including the national title season in 2010, and replaced Chizik after he was fired following a winless SEC season.
“I recruited probably about half of them specifically for this offense,” Malzahn said. “Even when I came back, anytime you change systems, it still takes a little bit for guys to get back to adjusting to it. It was about halfway through spring when I think it started to click a little bit and the guys seemed more comfortable.”
Georgia has moved up to fifth in the SEC in total defense at 367.0 yards per game and is now tied for ninth in scoring defense at 28.8.
If you’re the Auburn Tigers, you have to be happy with how your season has begun. Coming into the 2013 campaign, no one knew what to expect from the Tigers who had a new coach in place. However, no one could have foreseen the Tigers beginning the season 9-1 and ranking seventh in the nation.
On the other hand, the Georgia Bulldogs had high hopes to begin the season with SEC title expectations on their mind. However, a 4-3 start through seven games dashed those hopes and two straight wins later, this team is fighting for consideration in a BCS bowl.
Auburn has been one of the most pleasantly surprising teams in season, ranking third in the nation in rushing yards per game. Tre Mason leads the way in rushing, racking up 1,038 yards and an unbelievable 16 rushing touchdowns while quarterback Nick Marshall is second on the team, rushing for 734 yards and seven scores. While the run game is one of the best in the nation, the passing attack ranks 108th in the nation behind Marshall’s arm. The quarterback has passed for 1,301 yards and eight touchdowns on the season with Sammie Coates being the main target at wide out, catching 26 passes for 648 yards and five scores.
The Bulldogs excel in the pass game and have been average in the run game. In a season in which the Bulldogs were expected to contend for a conference title behind the strong arm of quarterback Aaron Murray. The senior quarterback has seen a handful of his teammates go down with serious injuries but has still managed to pass for 2,477 yards and 20 touchdowns on the year. While the passing attack ranks 19th in the nation, no one wide receiver has stood out as the No. 1 target of Murray. Todd Gurley leads the rushing attack with 625 yards and six touchdowns while missing three games.
Defensively, the Bulldogs rank 77th in the nation in points allowed per game while also ranking 40th in the country in yards allowed — a drop-off from last season. Auburn ranks 22nd in college football in points allowed as well as 76th in yards allowed per game with over 419.
Few teams in college football are more committed to moving the ball on the ground than Auburn, which suits the members of Georgia's defensive front seven just fine.
The Tigers bring the nation's third-best rushing attack (320 yards per game) into Saturday's game vs. Georgia, but defending the run is what the Bulldogs have done best this season, ranking fourth in the conference and 20th nationally in rushing defense (126 ypg).
Georgia linebacker Amarlo Herrera has 79 tackles and an interception on the season.“We are excited that we have the opportunity to, I guess you could say, flex our muscles, show who we really are,” Georgia defensive end Ray Drew said. “This is going to be one of those tell-tale games. But if we go out and do what we're supposed to, I know that the talent level that we have with myself, Sterling Bailey, Garrison Smith and those guys, the guys up front, I believe we're going to be fine. I'm confident as all get out. I don't see anything that's going to stop us other than ourselves.”
Lineup stability has been one of the key factors in Georgia's mostly solid play against the run, as the defensive line hasn't been hit hard by injuries the way some other position groups have this season. More importantly, inside linebackers Ramik Wilson (10.2 tackles per game) and Amarlo Herrera (8.8) -- two of the SEC's top four tacklers -- have managed to stay healthy enough to play nearly every important down this season, providing veteran presences at positions that otherwise would have been manned by freshmen.
The two junior linebackers denied, however, that they're feeling any ill effects from the heavy workload at this late point in the season.
“I feel good, man,” Herrera said. “I feel good, I love football. This is the only time of year I get to play. I waited all year for this.”
Wilson agreed, adding, “We're always in the cold tub and getting treatment, so we feel pretty good.”
Saturday's game might be the biggest test yet for the starting duo of Herrera-Wilson. Auburn's run-heavy spread offense centers around quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason's ability to break long runs and keep the chains moving even when plays don't break big.
Defending it properly requires disciplined play from the linemen and linebackers entrusted to fill gaps and clean up with a tackle -- much like how they must play sound “assignment football” each down to contain Georgia Tech's option running game.
“Looking at both of the offenses, really they try to cause chaos and confusion,” defensive end Sterling Bailey said. “As a defense, we've got to just play our technique and play our fundamentals.”
For the most part, Georgia has done that against the run. The Bulldogs knew LSU would try to establish the ground game when they met earlier this season and held the Tigers to just 77 rushing yards on 36 carries.
It's defending the pass that has created the most glaring issues for Georgia's defense -- for instance, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger passed for 372 yards even when his running game was faltering -- so Georgia's defenders are perfectly happy to face an Auburn offense that frequently attempts fewer than 10 passes in a game.
“I don't have to run around a lot,” Herrera said. “I get to play football and hit somebody every play. I don't have to cover as much as I do on other weeks because you know they're going to run the ball.”
Surely other Auburn opponents have had similar thoughts prior to facing the Tigers. Yet corralling elusive runners like Marshall and Mason has proven not to be so simple. Aside from a 120-yard rushing effort in their last-minute win against Mississippi State -- they passed for 339 yards in that game -- the Tigers have rushed for at least 200 yards in every game this season.
That includes a 511-yard game on the ground against Western Carolina, 379 yards in an upset of Texas A&M and 444 last Saturday against Tennessee -- with Marshall going for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
To avoid becoming another victim on the Tigers' hit list, the Bulldogs' front seven has to operate quickly -- and provide its most technically sound performance of the season.
“You've just got to know your responsibilities and everybody has to be gap-responsible because if one person's out of position, it can be a big play,” safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said.
A resurgent season for Auburn has been offered as proof that a winless SEC record in 2012 should be attributed to nothing more than a very down year.
That conversation is unlikely to switch gears Saturday when the seventh-ranked Tigers host No. 25 Georgia a season after the Bulldogs came to Jordan-Hare Stadium ranked fifth and dominated in a 38-0 victory.
"From a personal standpoint, I have yet to beat Georgia," junior defensive tackle Gabe Wright told the school's official website. "There are a lot of guys who have yet to beat Georgia. Guys are more focused and locked in."
It was the first time the Tigers had been shut out at home since Aug. 30, 2003, when then-No. 8 USC handed Auburn a 23-0 season-opening loss.
The Bulldogs have won the last two meetings by a combined 83-7. They've won six of seven in the series, the lone exception coming during Auburn's 2010 run to the national championship.
At 9-1 (5-1 SEC), the demeanor on campus is far closer to that season than last year's 3-9 mess.
"The teachers' attitudes are better. The bus drivers' attitudes are better," Wright said. "I guess what I'm trying to get at is that everybody's attitude is better. There's not much bad that can come from winning. It's a new day here. We're blessed to be at this point. We just can't wait for the next opportunity."
Saturday's game will be personal in a different way for an Auburn player who wasn't on the sideline for either of its recent losses to Georgia. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall has played in the series before, though as a defensive back for Georgia in 2011.
He spent last year at Garden City Community College and landed this year at Auburn.
"He's familiar with them, there's no doubt," Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said. "But if he holds true to past experience this year, he doesn't get too high or too low. Not much really rattles him. He stays pretty calm no matter what the moment."
Marshall leads SEC quarterbacks with 734 rushing yards while averaging just 17.7 passing attempts per game in the Tigers' zone-read offense.
He ran for a career-high 214 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in Saturday's 55-23 win at Tennessee. It was the highest individual rushing total in the conference this year and ranks third all-time among Auburn quarterbacks.
Running back Tre Mason added 117 yards and three TDs. He has seven scores in his last two games and is third in the FBS with 16 rushing touchdowns. His 1,050 yards rank 16th.
The Tigers' 33 rushing TDs are third in the country behind Oregon and Baylor. Their 320.0 rushing yards per game are also third but rank first among schools in automatic BCS-qualifying conferences.
With a season-ending matchup against unbeaten Alabama two weeks away, the Tigers need a win this weekend to maintain a shot at appearing in the SEC championship game.
The Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) handed Appalachian State a 45-6 defeat Saturday in Athens.
Quarterback Aaron Murray went 19 of 26 for 281 yards with two scores, despite the absence of leading receiver Chris Conley and starting tight end Arthur Lynch. Murray and backup Hutson Mason connected with 13 different receivers.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Conley (sprained ankle) and Lynch (ribs) have a chance to play this week.
It was the first time this year the Bulldogs held an opponent under 20 points and the first time since last year's win at Auburn that they gave up less than 10.
Stopping the run and forcing Marshall into tougher third-down situations will be key for Georgia's defense.
"It's going to be hard to keep them from reducing the yardage on third down and having that run-pass threat on third down," Richt said.
"That's part of the reason why they're so successful - they have very few third-and-long situations unless there's a penalty. ... It really doesn't matter what we did in the past. It matters what we do Saturday, and hopefully we'll get them on the ground."
The all-time series is tied 54-54-8. In those games, Georgia has outscored Auburn by 114 points, which works out to 0.9 per game.
Both teams are still alive with hopes of reaching the SEC Championship game, so the stakes here will be high. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray, a highly regarded senior, will be pressured by Auburn defensive end Dee Ford (seven sacks), who figures to be a pass-rushing linebacker at the NFL level. One of the SEC's best young left tackles, Auburn's Greg Robinson, will get a nice test from a variety of Georgia pass rushers. Georgia cornerback Damian Swann doesn't figure to be tested much in coverage against an Auburn offense that doesn't throw much, but if his run support skills are less than sharp, the Tigers will expose that all day with a dangerous perimeter rushing attack.
When a football team keeps winning week after week, the games that follow normally keep getting bigger and bigger. That is certainly case with the Tigers, who take a six-game winning streak into this year’s Auburn-Georgia game.
Now 9-1 overall and still very much in the race to win the SEC Championship at 5-1 in the league, there are a lot of impressive things about Coach Gus Malzahn’s team. The most amazing thing to me is that not once in 10 games have these Tigers looked like they weren’t ready to play.
This Auburn team is playing with a lot of poise and that was evident in its win on Saturday in Knoxville. While this hasn’t been a good season for Tennessee, the Vols had played very well at home prior to Auburn coming to Neyland Stadium and I thought it was a dangerous road game for the Tigers.
Although everything didn’t go as planned early in the game, the Tigers didn’t seem to let that bother them. They kept their poise, kept working hard and responded in a positive fashion whenever they were challenged by the Vols. The result was a 55-23 victory, which was a great win for the Tigers, who got big plays from the offense, defense and special teams.
This week's Auburn opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs, were hit hard by injuries earlier in the season and have a 6-3 record, but they are getting some of their players back. Georgia is a very dangerous opponent with senior Aaron Murray at quarterback. He is up there with Manziel, Mettenberger and McCarron in the group of outstanding veteran quarterbacks in the league this year.
Georgia is still a relatively young team on defense, but the Bulldogs have a lot of outstanding athletes who can run. They have been more vulnerable to the pass than the run so it is going to be interesting to see what type of game plan Coach Malzahn and Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee come up with this week. Whatever it is I am confident that Nick Marshall can execute it.
It has been amazing to watch the way the Tigers have run the ball this year. At times they make it look so easy and you wonder how long that can continue. You have to think at some point an opponent is going to force Auburn to throw the football. If the Tigers have to do that to win a game, I believe they can get the job done, and that time may come this Saturday even though they have done very little passing in recent games with defenses unable to stop the run.
In addition to Murray the Bulldogs have another difference-maker on offense with Todd Gurley back from his injury. When healthy Gurley is as good as any running back in the SEC.
It’s no secret the Tigers need to play better against the run than they did in the previous two games vs. Arkansas and Tennessee because this Georgia team is capable of scoring a lot of points.
The Bulldogs have played very well against Auburn in recent years and have a history of playing well at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Combine that with the talent Coach Mark Richt’s team has and this is another dangerous game for the Tigers.