Jeff Dantzler’s Georgia vs. Auburn Preview

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Jeff Dantzler’s Georgia vs. Auburn Preview

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Snapper Nathan Theus (49) makes a special teams tackle during Georgia's game against Auburn on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Auburn, Ala. (Photo by John Kelley
Snapper Nathan Theus (49) makes a special teams tackle during Georgia’s game against Auburn on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Auburn, Ala. (Photo by John Kelley
[su_spacer size=”40″] Preview
[su_spacer size=”20″] Both Georgia and Auburn were preseason consensus top ten selections. The assembled press at the Southeastern Conference’s Media Days picked the Bulldogs to win the East, and though somehow Alabama was the pick to capture the West, Auburn got the most votes to capture the league championship.
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There will be no championships or top ten finishes for these two proud programs this year. A winning record and making a bowl game have replaced those lofty aspirations. The fierce rivalry games of November remain, and no two teams in the deep-south have waged a historical gridiron battle like Georgia and Auburn.
[su_spacer size=”40″] For the Bulldogs October, 2015 goes down as arguably the worst month for Georgia football over the past 15 seasons. With losses in three of four games eliminating the Bulldogs of any chance of a special or even outstanding season, the attention turns to the home stretch. Georgia got November off to a good start with a win over Kentucky on a soggy Saturday between the hedges to improve to 6-3 on the year and 4-3 in SEC play. Now comes the home stretch. The all-time series with Auburn is tied. Then come two crucial contests against in-state foes eyeing signature, ‘program’ victories over the Bulldogs.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Though there were still too many turnovers, bungled plays and malfunctions against the Wildcats, Georgia got the final month of the season off to a winning start. There was imagination on offense, with Terry Godwin taking direct snaps at quarterback. Sony Michel led a powerful running attack, and the Bulldogs utilized the fullback as a lead blocker. Georgia got back to Georgia roots, and that always makes the red and black faithful smile. Meanwhile the defense was tremendous. Following a late second quarter fumble at the Georgia 20, the Dogs held Kentucky to a field goal. Then early in the fourth quarter, the Dogs got a huge fourth down stop. Georgia then scored to go up 17-3 and that created the distance in the 27-3 victory. As for the special teams, both the Bulldogs and Kentucky had several missteps.
[su_spacer size=”40″] But getting back in the win column and clinching bowl eligibility was a much needed feel good injection for the Georgia program.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Bulldogs are hungry for three more. Auburn is in the same boat.
In the “loveliest village,” there are smiles again, as the Tigers posted their most impressive win of the season, smoking Texas A&M 26-10. They can make their season with wins over their two old rivals, plus a gimme in between.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Though the ramifications aren’t the normal championship-level between these two ancient rivals, when Georgia and Auburn meet, there is always a lot on the line, from recruiting to history to bragging rights to a more respectable campaign.
[su_spacer size=”40″] It’s 55-55-8 all-time. for the winner, it is a year of the program being on top, and optimism for the season’s remainder.
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The Match-up

[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia Defensive Front vs. Auburn Offensive Attack
[su_spacer size=”40″] Gus Malzohn developed a reputation as an offensive guru with high octane prep attacks. He came onto the collegiate ranks and famously coordinated Auburn’s offense on the Tigers run to the 2010 national championship. That season Cam Newton accounted for an astounding 51 touchdowns, led the SEC in rushing and passing and joined Pat Sullivan and Bo Jackson as Heisman Trophy winners at Auburn.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Auburn would then go through unprecedented turbulence, and Gene Chizik, just two years removed from the national title, was fired. Malzohn came to Auburn in 2013 as the Tigers head coach and guided the Tigers to the Bowl Championship Series title game. The quarterback of that SEC championship squad was Georgia transfer Nick Marshall. Newton had begun his career at Florida.
[su_spacer size=”40″] An offense that was generated huge points and yardage has hit the skids at times this year. Replacing Marshall has proven difficult as a pair of Auburn signal callers Sean white and Jeremy Johnson have taken the snaps. White has emerged as the primary signal caller the past few games and Auburn’s fast-paced offense has gotten a rhythm going in the running game.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia’s defense will have to be at its best. A year ago, then-first year coordinator Jeremy Pruitt put together a tremendous plan, and the Bulldogs dominated the Tigers, winning 34-7 between the hedges.
[su_spacer size=”40″] It will take that kind of performance once again for the Bulldogs to pull off a victory. The Bulldogs offense has not been good and the kicking game has been wrought with disaster.
[su_spacer size=”40″] That places a huge onus upon the defense.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Auburn is difficult to defend when the offense gets into rhythm. The Tigers aim to wear defenses down with a fast-paced attack that is equally effective running and throwing. Slowing down the run game is the first step to defensive success against the Tigers. If Auburn gets that going, defenses are on their heels.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Tigers also boast a big play threat in Ricardo Louis, one of the SEC’s top wide receivers. He has all the skills and tools and has become doubly important to the Tiger offense since Duke Williams was dismissed from the team. Louis was on the receiving end of the “Prayer at Jordan Hare” in 2013, the Tigers winning play to down Georgia on one of the most (in)famous plays in Southeastern Conference history.
[su_spacer size=”40″] History
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia posted one of its most famous and vital victories ever over the Tigers at Jordan Hare in 2002. The Bulldogs were once-beaten, losing a game the Bulldogs should have won in Jacksonville, but still chasing the program’s first ever SEC Championship Game berth. Auburn was talented at 7-3, and looking for an upset.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The Tigers roared to a 14-3 first half lead, a deficit that could have been much worse for the Bulldogs, were it not for the heroics on defense and special teams from All-American safety Sean Jones. He kept Georgia in the game.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Fellow All-American Jon Stinchcomb recovered a fumble for a touchdown, Musa Smith had a big run to get the Bulldogs out of a deep hole and the defense came through time and time again.
[su_spacer size=”40″] It looked as though the offense wouldn’t be able to convert, but on fourth-and-19, David Greene hit Michael Johnson in the back left corner of the end zone for one of the biggest scores in Bulldog lore.
[su_spacer size=”40″] The defense, which produced three straight three and outs, did give up one first down, but came up with the stop and Georgia had secured the victory.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Georgia would go on to demolish Tech 51-7 and roll past Arkansas 30-3 in Atlanta to capture the program’s first SEC title since 1982. The Bulldogs capped the campaign with a 26-13 victory over Florida State in the Sugar bowl to finish 13-1, No. 3 in the nation.
[su_spacer size=”40″] This season was filled with thrilling victories and incredible performances, but nothing was bigger than what happened that fateful Saturday on the plains. It was the performance, the play and the win that opened the door for one of the most successful seasons in Georgia lore.
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