Coming off their first win in Baton Rouge since 1999, head coach Bryan Harsin and the Tigers have turned their focus toward a home match-up against No. 2 Georgia in the 126th meeting of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
Georgia is coming off of a dominant win over Arkansas, where they shut out the then-No. 8 Razorbacks 37–0 in Athens.
“They're playing at a high level, so that's gonna be a great challenge for our offense as we put together a plan to go out there and try to score points,” Harsin said.
Since 2017, Auburn is 1–4 in match-ups against the Bulldogs — and the scores haven’t been particularly close. In those losses, the Tigers have been defeated by an average of 16.5 points, including a deflating 28–7 loss in the 2017 SEC Championship that took Auburn out of playoff contention. Auburn’s lone win came earlier in 2017 in a 40–17 blowout against then-No. 1 Georgia.
The Bulldogs will bring a significant level of talent and depth when they roll into town. Defensively, they allow the fewest points per game in the country, giving up 4.6 points per game, with a high of 13 being scored on them by South Carolina. They also have found success in rushing the passer, sacking opposing quarterbacks 18 times through five games. Georgia has allowed 177.8 total yards per game, the fewest total yards allowed in the country. The Bulldogs have also intercepted seven passes.
“They're physical up front,” Harsin said. “Everybody wants to try to run the football, and so you still want to be able to run it. You've got to be able to handle those guys up front. We've got to do a great job at O-line, tight ends, to get to those linebackers as well so you can run it.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs rely on their running game more than their passing game, checking in at 196.8 rushing yards per game. Georgia quarterbacks average 238.8 passing yards per game, ranking seventh in the SEC. Quarterback Stetson Bennet started over the injured J.T. Daniels last week against Arkansas, only throwing the ball 11 times for 72 yards and a score.
“They're very good up front on both sides, and the line of scrimmage is where it's at,” Harsin said. “And so we have to do a better job this week and making sure that we're prepared for what we want to do on the defensive line, what we want to do on the offensive line, and then we'll find out on Saturday where we are.”
Harsin mentioned the importance of getting off to a hot start when the Tigers take on the Bulldogs. Over the previous three games, Auburn has started slow and played from behind, which would be a formidable challenge against a Georgia team that is known for their defense.
“Like every team in America we want to start fast,” Harsin said. “I think that's something that we have got to do a better job of, it just comes down to execution by everybody.”