From the Eagle’s Nest
Auburn will limp into its match-up with Georgia this weekend having gutted out back-to-back hard-fought victories against Ole Miss in Oxford and Vanderbilt last weekend in Jordan-Hare. The remainder of Auburn’s schedule looks to be a brutal affair, but the Tigers continue to roar onward towards a fateful Iron Bowl clash with cross-state rival Alabama.
Gus Malzahn has not stated definitively one way or the other, but I think Kamryn Pettway’s role this Saturday will be limited. I think the best we can hope for is 10–15 carries throughout the game. However, I do believe Kerryon Johnson (with the proper play calling) can prove to be equally as effective as Pettway.
Auburn has to take advantage of its young and talented receiving corps this weekend. Sean White has proven himself to be extremely productive this season. Saturday, he needs one of his best games of the year in order to take down Georgia. Rhett Lashlee could learn a thing or two from the way Ole Miss and Vanderbilt attacked Auburn’s defense. We have the personnel on offense that give us the ability to substantially mix up our passing game. Much more so than we’ve done to this point. That needs to show up heavily in this game.
One weak spot on offense I think is imperative for the Tigers to improve upon Saturday is the vertical passing game. While Sean White has been extremely efficient with the football this season, in order to really keep the Georgia defense on its heels he has to be able to convert a handful of deep balls and try to take the top off of that defense. The Tigers’ running attack will be somewhat weakened by the absence of Pettway, so the sooner the Tigers can successfully stretch the field vertically, the better.
Defensively, I hope the linebackers have learned a lot from Auburn’s previous two contests with Ole Miss and Vanderbilt that saw both of those teams have tremendous success in the short passing game. Jacob Eason is a very talented, big-arm quarterback. Although he’s young, he will have no problem executing short throws to his receivers if the Tigers continue to fall back into soft coverage and hoping for the defensive line to break through and create turmoil in the backfield. I would like to see Kevin Steele mix up his looks a little better on defense to try and throw the young Georgia quarterback off and get him out of rhythm early. The sooner that happens, the better.
The Tigers have never beaten Georgia in a year that ends in ‘6’ (2006, 1996, 1986, etc.), and Georgia has not lost all of its SEC home games since 1957. For an Auburn team that has defied the odds all season, this sounds like the perfect setup for a little more Georgia disappointment in 2016—there’s a first time for everything.
Why not Auburn? A trip to the SEC Championship Game? Why not Auburn? A two-loss playoff team? Why not Auburn?
All hyperbole and speculation aside, this weekend will yet again be a major hurdle for this football team. It won’t be easy—nor should it be. The Tigers have battled adversity and doubters every step of the way in 2016. Saturday’s challenge is one they will be ready for. They will show up to Athens ready to give Georgia the best 4 quarters they’ve got, and I think that will be enough.