Week 11 of the college football season means that “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” will be renewed this Saturday when the Georgia Bulldogs host the Auburn Tigers in Athens. For Georgia this game is about much more than a tussle with the Tigers. The Dawgs are a mere two conference wins away from ensuring that the 2011 campaign comes full circle. If Georgia can tame the Tigers this weekend, the Bulldogs will be one victory away from winning the SEC East for the first time since 2005.
The Dawgs have been victorious in four out of the last five meetings with the Tigers. However, Auburn would love to trim Georgia’s hedges, as well as derail the Bulldogs’ SEC East victory celebration before it even begins. In order for Georgia to take care of business at home they have to be completely focused on grabbing the Tigers by the tail. The line on this match-up was 12 and a half points on Monday morning. The only significance of that is bulletin board material for Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.
Georgia must concentrate on the task at hand in order to get a crucial win in front of a rabid Bulldog Nation this Saturday. The Bulldogs can ill afford to look ahead to the Georgia Dome (or those more fearsome Louisiana Tigers). Georgia must continue to fight and keep playing the way they have been to make sure that their hot streak continues against Auburn.
After a one game suspension, Isaiah Crowell looks to come back and prove himself again. For Crowell, there is no better way to make amends with Bulldog Nation as well as his coaches than for him to have a big day in the most important game of Georgia’s season to date. Quarterback Aaron Murray needs to get in rhythm early to keep the much maligned Tiger defense at bay. After his record tying five touchdown performance against New Mexico State, the sophomore quarterback is poised to write his own chapter in the Georgia record books.
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell is expected to make his anticipated return to the field after a three game absence due to injury. His presence should add to Aaron Murray’s comfort level against the Tigers’ below average defense. Mitchell is still the Bulldogs’ leading pass catcher in terms of yardage.
The defending national champion has not had much success stopping opposing teams from getting in the end zone this season. The Auburn defense has given up a whopping 27.7 points per game on average in 2011 (including 38 points to the visiting Utah State Aggies in the Tigers’ home opener). Georgia is averaging 34.8 points per game, so the Georgia offense is certainly capable of making sure Auburn leaves Sanford Stadium with their tail between their legs. If Aaron Murray can avoid adding to his eight interception total, the Dawgs should have a big day.
The Bulldogs have been phenomenal on defense in year two of the 3-4 under Todd Grantham, and they are a big reason why the Bulldogs find themselves atop the SEC East. The hunting Dawg defense needs to corral Michael Dyer and make the Auburn Tigers one dimensional. Forcing Auburn to throw the ball would give Georgia a big advantage because Auburn is still trying to find the right fit under center after Cam Newton was the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
Auburn’s current crop of quarterbacks has made the Tigers miss last year’s Heisman Trophy winner all the more. Barrett Trotter began the season as the starter. He has completed just 54% of his passes and has recently been benched in favor of sophomore signal caller Clint Moseley. Moseley is making only his third career start this weekend and he has just 44 career pass attempts. The Tigers are ranked 108th in the nation in terms of throwing the football and the big, athletic Georgia Bulldog defense will look to turn up the heat on the young quarterback. Georgia needs to be careful though, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn makes big money to take advantage of over aggression.
Georgia’s mindset for Saturday afternoon should echo the great Al Davis, “Just win baby.” The Dawgs’ special teams need to have a short memory, because both Blair Walsh and Drew Butler are capable of kicking footballs on Sundays when their Georgia careers come to an end. As long as Georgia does not beat themselves Bulldog Nation should have a lot to celebrate on Saturday night.