Week four, or week one if you are the SEC, is in the books and with all the craziness that happened, all eyes are on what will happen in week two. This Saturday features the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, as the No. 7 Auburn Tigers face the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs.
Auburn comes into the game 1-0 with a 29-13 win over Kentucky. The Tigers debuted the new offense under Chad Morris, which saw a sluggish start that ended with Bo Nix passing for 233 yards while the offense only rushed for 91 yards.
Georgia comes in 1-0 as well after a 37-10 win over Arkansas. The Bulldogs got off to a very sluggish start as well, with Arkansas leading 7-5 at halftime. Starting quarterback D’Wan Mathis was benched in favor of Stetson Bennett prior to the comeback for the win.
Offense — Protect Bo Nix
The offensive key seems simple, yet it will be no simple task on Saturday. Despite Georgia’s awkward showing against Arkansas, remember that their issues lie on offense. The Bulldogs defensive unit is still elite and if they are allowed to wreak havoc on Nix it will be a dogfight and that is not what Auburn wants.
Georgia was able to beat Auburn last year, in part, because they were able to pressure Nix into some tough decisions. It seems that Auburn’s strength this season will be the pass, and if that is the case Nix will need the time find open receivers or Auburn’s offense will be stymied.
The Tigers need to have the ability to move down the field and not turn the ball over quickly to prevent the defense from being on the field the majority of the time. That did not happen against Kentucky as the Wildcats nearly doubled the amount of plays that Auburn ran. To keep the defense from tiring, the offense needs to be able to move the ball consistently.
Defense — Strengthen the interior and force the pass
The loss of Derrick Brown could be seen last week against Kentucky as the Wildcats had success rushing between the tackles early in the game. As the game progressed, the defensive tackles were able to improve, and that must carry over into the game against Georgia.
Arkansas kept Georgia from establishing a run game and that forced the quarterbacks into passing situations, where they were not comfortable. Auburn must do the same.
Whoever is coming out at quarterback, whether it is Bennett or recently cleared JT Daniels, the Tigers will have the advantage if they stop the run and get pressure on the quarterback in the passing game. Georgia has weapons at wide receiver, but Auburn must be the ones to wreak havoc on the quarterback.
Gus Malzahn enters his seventh year as head coach of the Auburn Tigers. He has led the Tigers to a 54-27 record, two SEC West division championships, one SEC Championship, and a national championship appearance.
Kirby Smart enters his fifth year as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. He is currently 45-12 in his five seasons. He has led the Bulldogs to four straight bowl games, wins at the Liberty, Rose, and Sugar Bowls, one SEC Championship, and a National Championship appearance.
Overall — Win the Battle for the Line of Scrimmage
This game is expected to be close, and that means that whichever team makes the mistake is the team that will more than likely lose the game.
While mistakes are usually pinned on the quarterback or ball-carrier, it all starts on the line of scrimmage. If Auburn can force Georgia’s quarterback to panic, it will be a long day for Georgia fans, but the same goes the other way around for Auburn.
The Tigers' line is young and still figuring things out, so Auburn will most likely find ways to get the ball out of Nix’s hands as quickly as possible.
On defense, the line needs to be able to sack the quarterback in order to help the secondary, and the line-backing corps will need to ensure that Georgia is not able to rely on the run game.
Georgia will host Auburn in Sanford Stadium, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.