Auburn is notorious for its up-tempo offense that causes defenses to stay on their toes. It can spread a defense out and expose their weaknesses.
So how does a defense contain such an up-tempo offense? Head coach Kirby Smart explains that it boils down to the kind of team you are. However, he did note that the depth of the team is essential.
“I think it’s a lot about what kind of team you are. If you have depth defensively, and you think you can withstand those drives, the most important thing becomes ‘Can I get off the field on third down?’ And the Auburn teams have been different over the years, too. They’ve had really fast-scoring ones. They’ve had some long, methodical teams that go on long drives. It’s a lot more important what we do than what they do, and we have to go execute regardless of what they do,” Smart said. “They’ve got some up-tempo stuff, and they do a really good job of it, and you have to go out execute them. You have to go out and be able to play fast, and your kids have to be able to line up. It’s what everybody in college football works on now in the offseason to get ready for.”
Another thing Georgia’s defense must do to help the team succeed is win the time of possession battle. In the regular season matchup against the Tigers last year, Auburn held onto the ball almost seven minutes longer than Georgia. The Bulldogs fixed things during the SEC Championship game and won the possession battle 33:02- 26:58. In a matter of three weeks, Georgia was able to take control of the game and beat Auburn with its own medicine.
Jonathan Ledbetter understands that the defense must get the Tiger offense off the field in three downs or less. According to him, its all about how you control the game.
“If you control the ball, you control the game. They’ve got a really fast team and when they get going in the groove, it can hurt a lot of teams, people get tired. They’ve got a lot of defenses that aren’t lined up. You have to be able to stay ready and sustain during times like that,” Ledbetter stated. “[Time of possession] is definitely crucial. If our offense can stay on the field longer, control the ballgame, they have less time with the ball, and we can limit that. If we’re getting three-and-out’s, that means the game is flowing how it needs to be.”
J.R. Reed also notes how much emphasis will be on handling the high-tempo offense on first and second downs. Reed states that the defense needs to understand the different types of things this offense may do and be able to communicate well. If the Bulldogs can do these things and do them well, then victory will be theirs.
“There will be a big emphasis this week to handle the tempo on first and second down because when those guys get third-and-short, that is when they like to go really fast,” Reed said. “It will be very important this week to communicate well and also watch a lot of film to understand what types of movements and shifts that they do and what our checks will be in and out of those shifts.”